The 2016 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows
Arizona Theatre Company
"For over 30 years as a professional actor working non-stop, Mark Anders has proven to be one of the most versatile, bright, emotionally open and technically brilliant actors from the Pacific Northwest and at regional theatres from coast to coast. Mark's work is always characterized by a fierce intelligence: an actor who always comes to rehearsal steeped not only in the play at hand but a depth of historical and social knowledge of any period and culture that the work tackles. His sunny demeanor and ease with his colleagues goes hand-in-hand with a dedication to preparation and sparkling technique. His mastery of language is profound. Equally at home in comedy, drama, musicals, period pieces and new plays, Mark is an actor who relishes a challenge and exploring a new world. He is wonderfully at home in period pieces and classics, and through his work as the Artistic Producer of the "Endangered Species Project" in Seattle he is deeply knowledgeable about the dramaturgy and world of the American Theatre at the time of Lunt and Fontanne. Playwrights love having him in the room when they launch a new project for his keen insight, sheer talent and positive attitude. I have had the great good fortune to work with Mark at least a dozen times at different theatres, on new and old plays, including four times at Arizona Theatre Company. He is a special expert in the dramatic and musical work of Noël Coward, so the opportunity for him to steep deeply in the atmosphere of Ten Chimneys seems truly apt and delicious."
— David Ira Goldstein, Artistic Director
"One of the gifts of making an artistic home in Atlanta has been developing deep relationships with the talent community that extend over time and multiple projects. One of the relationships I treasure the most is with Andrew Benator. We've worked together in four projects so far, and it was his pair of turns this season that convinced me that he's an actor worthy of national attention. Our season opened with an all Atlanta cast of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. While McMurphy and Ratched are thought of as the pivotal roles in the work, the text leans most heavily on the character of Dale Harding to actually reflect back the ward's caution, then optimism, and then pain as an outlier comes into their midst. Andrew's work was subtle, delicate and utterly heart wrenching - leading to a final moment onstage that was devastating. Later this season, he played the wholly brash and cerebrally brutal role of Isaac in our production of Disgraced. I can't think of a further point on the continuum from Harding, and Andrew made the role so indelibly his own that the playwright wondered if he didn't have "seriously more game" than the central character - a complexity in the plot that he'd not seen before and liked enormously. What I like enormously about Andrew's brain - which is sharp, fast and funny - and his capacity to render a physical character who can slip from total vulnerability to total control with invisible ease. He deserves investment, attention, and anything the field can offer."
— Susan V. Booth, Artistic Director
Cleveland Play House
"On behalf of Cleveland Play House and the North East Ohio community that we serve, it is my great pleasure to nominate Donald Carrier for the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship. He is a top-tier performer, collaborator, and teacher. On the CPH stage, Don has proven himself versatile and thoughtful, throwing himself completely into roles classic and contemporary from Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes to Pastor Jay in Rebecca Gilman's Luna Gale. He fully transforms and gives unforgettable performances that have left a deep impression on CPH audiences, staff, and board members alike. Meanwhile, Don is a vital member of CPH's artistic team. He serves on our season planning committee, bringing a deep knowledge of and passion for dramatic literature and a keen analytical eye. And, as the Associate Director of the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program, Don trains-and even performs alongside-the next generation of theatre-makers. He is a boon to CPH onstage and off and we feel very fortunate that he considers CPH his artistic home."
— Laura Kepley, Artistic Director
Milwaukee Repertory Theater
"I first saw Chiké Johnson in action four years ago, in a Milwaukee Rep production, where he gave a stunning, and memorable elegiac performance as Walter, in Ron OJ Parson's terrific production of A Raisin in the Sun. It was his first performance back in the city after returning from a long stint in New York, in part, to raise his young family, and I remember thinking as I watched the play, not only how grateful I was to have him on our stage in this particular role, but also feeling blessed by the fact this 'major' actor was now going to be on our doorstep for a while. Of course, as soon as he returned to Milwaukee, in classic actor fashion, he booked several gigs away from the city in Chicago, and New York, and was unavailable to us for a while. Since that time though, he has worked virtually non stop, in Milwaukee for the Rep, and other companies in and outside the area, including the title role in Othello, at APT last summer. Regardless of the style of the piece, he always seems to put an appropriately memorable, and indelible, imprint on the production, where audiences just want to see him again in something else, and directors want to find another project for him to work on. Most recently, I got to direct him in the role of Crooks, in Of Mice and Men, in a co-production with Milwaukee Rep and Arizona Theatre Company. His character only has one real scene throughout the piece, in order to make itself heard, but he would always deliver something quite wonderful, but just very slightly different, every night, with his immense power to make every moment, and all the words count. We tend to use the word "Brilliant" somewhat liberally these days when referring to artists, but in the case of Chiké Johnson, I feel this description is more than justified. His significant body of work to date has had such a strong impact on audiences and artists alike, and now at mid career point, I feel we still have the very best to come from him. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of Milwaukee Repertory Theater, nominate Chiké Johnson for the 2016 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program."
— Mark Clements, Artistic Director
Paper Mill Playhouse
"Beth Leavel's talent is indisputable. She burst onto the scene hoofing in the original 42nd Street, starred in eight more Broadway productions, and is the recipient of the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and L.A Drama Critics Circle Awards for her performance as the title character in The Drowsy Chaperone. Her range is extraordinary as she has demonstrated in a multitude of roles in New York and at regional theaters across the country. I would venture to say that Beth is probably the funniest actress working in musical theater today. But don't let her razor-sharp comedic gifts fool you - she will easily break your heart with the dramatic depth of her performance. Paper Mill has been fortunate to have Beth in integral roles in two of our productions, Boeing-Boeing and the Broadway-bound world-premiere musical The Bandstand. On both occasions she was not only a consummate ensemble member, but a valuable company leader whose professionalism and dedication served as an example to everyone involved in those projects. Beth is also an extraordinary human being. She mentors and nurtures young artists; she gives back to the community by participating in numerous events for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS among others; and she gives back to the industry by constantly lending her considerale talents to readings and workshops of new works. And did I mention that she somehow found the time to raise two wonderful sons? Beth is an inspiration to all of us in the theater community. She is a bundle of warmth, humor and empathy and you would be fortunate to spend time with her in any capacity. I repeat, her talent is indisputable, as is her stature in our industry - Beth Leavel is beloved."
— Mark Hoebee, Artistic Director
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
"Elizabeth Ledo has grown into a regional theater actress of the first rank over many years in the Midwest, primarily in the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee. In Chicago she has been in demand at theaters throughout the city. At Chicago Shakespeare she has appeared as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Phoebe in As You Like It, Costanze in Amadeus (all directed by Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin) and in Barbara Gaines' upcoming Tug Of War: Civil Strife where she will portray characters from Somerset to Lady Anne to one of the young princes in the Tower. Her versatility and comic point-of-view was also evident in the Q Brothers' hip-hop adaptation of Much Ado called Funk It Up About Nothin'. Her range is evident in the roles she has played: Dorine in Tartuffe, Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, Sonya in Uncle Vanya, Irene Malloy in the Goodman's upcoming production of The Matchmaker...Elizabeth has also made her mark addressing LGBT issues in contemporary premieres of plays such as Le Switch and The Homosexuals at AboutFace Theatre. Elizabeth is known for her spark and kindness and great advocacy for other performing artists, and admired for her daring in all of the roles she takes on, dramatic and comedic. She would be a wonderful addition to the exemplary list of Lunt-Fontanne Fellows."
— Barbara Gaines, Artistic Director
American Conservatory Theater
(San Francisco, CA)
"Sharon Lockwood has been a treasured and invaluable member of the Bay Area acting community for many decades, and sets a standard of collaboration, transformation and theatrical invention for all who work with her. I first knew of Sharon as a great clown, and cast her in my inaugural season at A.C.T. as the lead in Dario Fo's wildly absurdist The Pope and the Witch, in which her wide-eyed comic timing, fierce concentration and wit were absolutely mesmerizing. But Sharon is equally at home in drama, both classical and contemporary. Two examples stand out to me. The first production at A.C.T.'s new Strand Theater was Caryl Churchill's Love and Information. Sharon created the silent but crucial character of a chronically depressed woman who couldn't summon the will to get on with her life. The way in which Sharon accessed that kind of deep despair gave the whole production a weight and heart it would never have had otherwise. I also remember her brilliant work as the Nurse in Tis Pity She's a Whore, letting the audience slowly into her mind as she discovered the truth about her beloved ward Anabelle's transgressive love for her brother Giovanni. Sharon is so specific, so truthful, so alive, as comfortable with heightened realism and broad comedy as she is with American naturalism, embodying everything from the perpetually delighted and dizzy Mrs. Dilbert in A.C.T.'s A Christmas Carol to working class tenacity in Nickel and Dimed. Every role for Sharon is a new invention, a free exploration. She is a joy to work with, and a gift to any company of actors."
— Carey Perloff, Artistic Director
"In a theater town literally teeming with outstanding actors, Steve Pickering has been one of Chicago's most essential performing artists for over three decades. There's literally nothing he can't do—from O'Neill and Miller to Shakespeare, from the darkest tragedy to wacky farce—and even a musical or two. His Goodman Theatre resume reads like a "who's who" of the greatest roles in dramatic literature: a memorable Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a tragically charming Jamie in Long Day's Journey into Night, Howard in Death of a Salesman (for which he received kudos in Chicago, Los Angeles, on Broadway, and in London's West End), Shamrayev in The Seagull, Oscar Hubbard in The Little Foxes...and that list doesn't include all of the outstanding work he's done in other Chicago theaters, and in venues around the country. Most actors of his caliber have long since abandoned the regional theater world for the more lucrative climbs of film and TV, but Steve is first and foremost a man of the theater: a brilliant leading man, an outstanding ensemble player (in a town that values the ensemble above all else), a kind and giving and supportive anchor for any cast in any play at any theater lucky enough to have engaged his services. We have no resident acting company at the Goodman, but if we did, Steve would be the first person I'd put in it; I am proud to have had him as one of my most frequent colleagues for the past thirty years, and I'm looking forward to the next collaboration we have together. There is no one in our city—or our country—more deserving of this esteemed Fellowship; he is quite simply the "best of the best"—and I'm thrilled that he continues to call our city his home."
— Robert Falls, Artistic Director
Huntington Theatre Company
"Bobbie Steinbach is not only one of the most gifted actors in the Boston area, but one of the most spirited and generous. Over her long and distinguished career she has invested herself in the support of young performers and their aspirations, both as an actor and as a director. Bobbie recently gave a rousing performance of Madame Armfeldt in my production of A Little Night Music at the Huntington that was filled with both emotional heft and exacting precision. I was particularly impressed by her text-based but collaborative approach to character. She understands that there is more than one way to get a note across and is always willing to experiment. She is exacting in her pursuit of perfection, and fills even the smallest roles with emotional life that radiates out to an 890 seat house. Despite her many years of experience she is always looking for the next thing to challenge herself. Bobbie has received several Elliott Norton Awards for Outstanding Actress, her work has been recognized in Boston Magazine's Best of Boston, and she recently was awarded a prestigious two-year Resident Actor Fox Fellowship for Distinguished Achievement. No aspiring actor could ask for a finer role model and I'm thrilled that Bobbie has been chosen as a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow."
— Peter DuBois, Artistic Director
Sylvia M'Lafi Thompson
The Old Globe
(San Diego, CA)
"For years Sylvia M'Lafi Thompson has been a beloved and revered member of the San Diego theater community. Her indelible performances on our city's stages continue to move us, and her work as a teaching artist and champion for diversity and inclusion in our field leads and inspires us. I first met her when she gave a forceful and humane performance as Toni in The Old Globe's production of Bethany, and I was swept away by her passion, insight, and commitment to this art form. San Diego audiences cherish her award-winning work as Rose in August Wilson's Fences (Craig Noel Award and Patte Award); Mrs. Dickson in Intimate Apparel (NAACP Hollywood Theatre Excellence Award for Best Supporting Actress); Teiresias in Antigone (San Diego Playbill and Billie Awards: Best Supporting Actor); and Ivy in The Story About the Old Days (Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award for Best Actress). Her advocacy work includes her stints as both a cultural affairs officer at the Educational Cultural Complex and also as a commissioner on the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. M'Lafi is a creature of the theater: an artist who etches her characters with laser-sharp details, a leading lady who mentors those going up the ranks in the industry, a giving ensemble member devoted to the collaborative process, and a kind and giving soul that any theater would be lucky to have in its company. We are honored that M'Lafi will represent the Globe in this year's Lunt-Fontanne Fellows class and we can think of no one who better embodies the values of our great city's theatre culture - values also at the heart of the wonderful Ten Chimneys."
— Barry Edelstein, Artistic Director