The 2018 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows

Tessa Auberjonois
South Coast Repertory
(Costa Mesa, CA)

"I’m pleased to have this opportunity to sing the praises of Tessa Auberjonois, a long-time member of South Coast Repertory’s artistic family.  Tessa first appeared at SCR in 2000, in the world premiere of Richard Greenberg’s Everett Beekin, and has since made eight more appearances in SCR productions, along with too many readings and workshops to count.  She has shown equal facility in everything from character-driven comedy to out-and-out farce to drama and even theatre for young audiences (to my delight, she played Mrs. Who and Aunt Beast in a production of my own adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time at SCR).  She’s a go-to actor for us, given her intelligence, her great sense of humor, her total commitment to everything she does, and her generous sense of collaboration.  Although she works often in film and television, she is a theatre actor first and foremost.  

A graduate of London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and Yale School of Drama, Tessa is accomplished in both contemporary work and classical drama.  At SCR she has appeared in world premiere productions of plays by such notable writers as Rajiv Joseph and Kenny Lonergan.  As a member of Antaeus, Los Angeles’ premiere classical theatre company, she has played Lady Macbeth, among many other roles, and has also appeared in major roles at a number of Shakespeare theatres across the country.

Playwrights love having her in their new work because she serves the process unselfishly and helps facilitate the final stages of development, in which a sensitive actor’s questions and insights can be so valuable.  Tessa is that kind of actor.

She is a vibrant and important member of the Greater Los Angeles theatre community and an enthusiastic supporter of fellow artists, a quality that will become evident during her time as a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow."

~John Glore, Associate Artistic Director

Jeffrey Bean
Alley Theatre
(Houston, TX)

"It is with personal joy and great pride that I nominate a dear friend who also happens to be one of the most gifted stage actors that I have ever encountered. Jeffery Bean is an exemplary example of the extraordinarily versatile talent that resides and flourishes in our regional theaters.

As a cornerstone of the Alley Theatre’s Resident Company for nearly three decades, Jeffery has delivered to Houston audiences a staggering number of great performances that would be lauded on any stage in the world. He is a pure product of the resident company theater model that eschews typecasting and demands continual artistic growth, refinement of craft and real risk. He is a true team player who remains as hungry to learn now, as the day I first met him in 1989. 

From Shakespeare to Mamet, Cyrano to Larry Shue, I’ve yet to see anything that eluded his artistic grasp.  Jeff’s astonishing versatility has enriched the work and won the admiration of such unique directors as Sir Peter Hall, Robert Wilson, Tina Landau, David Cromer, John Rando and Jose Quintero.  But such talent is hollow without having a full palette to draw from and thankfully Jeff’s gifts as an actor are easily surpassed by his humanity, compassion and intellect.  He’s a devoted father and husband and eloquent champion of the power of the arts. He’s passionate, opinionated, funny and a joy to share rehearsal space with.

He’s everything you want an actor to be, onstage and off.

I can think of no better candidate for your program than my colleague, Jeffery Bean."

~James Black, Interim Artistic Director

Melanye Duschene Finister
The Wilma Theatre
(Philadelphia, PA)

Mauro Hantman
Trinity Repertory Company
(Providence, RI)

"Mauro Hantmann has been a company member at Trinity Rep since 1999, and he is the definition of a company actor, one who is brilliant in a leading role, and equally transfixing as a part of an ensemble.  He has been the center of many of our productions from Jack Burden in All The Kings Men to Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac to John in Middletown to Oberon in A Midsummer Nights Dream.  In each of these cases, he has been a leader of the acting company as well as a powerful stage presence.
But it is Mauro’s work as complicated, morally ambiguous characters that stands out from his over seventy productions at Trinity Rep, whether they are “leading roles” or not:  Steve in Clybourn Park, or Frank/Franz in Appropriate, or Cliff in Cabaret, or most recently as Father in our production of Ragtime.  He gives these characters an ache, a longing for family and home, that separates them from cartoonish simplicity and catapults them into the epic.  In A Christmas Carol, Mauro has played the role of Scrooge beautifully, but I will always remember his Bob Cratchit, at the grave of his young son taken too soon. 
Mauro can bring passion, humor, gravitas and intelligence to any role he plays.  He is also a valued member of our Rhode Island community, a teacher, and a father.  He is one of the main reasons why Trinity Repertory Company and its resident company of actors is so great."

 ~Curt Columbus, Artistic Director

Tim Hopper
Steppenwolf Theatre

“I am proud and honored to nominate Tim Hopper for the Ten Chimneys’ fellowship. Well before I became involved with the company, I remember watching Tim as a member of the storied Steppenwolf ensemble. To then be named a fellow ensemble member, alongside Tim, was an honor in and of itself. I have always been struck by his indelible talent, but it wasn’t until I directed him for the first time that I truly understood the work behind his performances. Time and time again, Tim proves himself to be tireless in his attention to the craft of acting. He uses every moment of every rehearsal process to learn not only about his character and motivations, but about the whole project and the art of theatre. In addition to acting in over 30 Steppenwolf productions, Tim is devoted to his community.  As a teacher at the School at Steppenwolf, he is teaching the next generation of actors the skills that have set him apart among his peers.”

~Ann Shapiro, Artistic Director

Miriam Laube
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
(Ashland, OR)

"In her fifteen seasons in the acting company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and throughout her career, Miriam Laube has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to embody a director’s artistic vision. This vibrant, generous, fiercely intelligent actor has played a dizzying array of roles in OSF’s unique rotating repertory; she is a strikingly original interpreter of Shakespeare and the classical canon with sensitivity and passion in roles such as Cleopatra, Hermione and Paulina (The Winter’s Tale), Olivia (Twelfth Night), Rosalind (As You Like It), Cordelia (King Lear) and Julia (Two Gentlemen of Verona), as well as Euripedes’ Medea and Circe in Mary Zimmerman’s The Odyssey.

 Miriam is an extraordinarily gifted singer and dancer as well as an actor, and has been a key collaborator in my efforts to integrate musicals into our repertory; indeed, she has been involved in almost all of OSF’s musical productions since 2007. As Vasantasena in the ancient Sanskrit drama The Clay Cart, Miriam not only played the leading role, but performed music and choreography inspired by classical Indian dance-drama. She originated the role of Gynecia in Head Over Heels and also played leading roles in Into the Woods, She Loves Me, and the world premiere musicals Tracy’s Tiger, Family Album by Stew, and Party People by Universes.

 Miriam’s skills go beyond her work onstage. As Associate Director, she was an invaluable collaborator with me in my productions of Oklahoma! and The Pirates of Penzance, also assisting in the latter’s tour to Portland Opera. In addition, she regularly hosts high-level donor events and helped lead a donor cruise to Istanbul and Ephesus in 2013. She frequently sits on panels and leads discussions for OSF’s Education and Audience Development departments. As a recipient of a TCG Fox Fellowship, Miriam collaborated with other artists to create a concert performance, entitled Sounds and Sweet Airs, of songs set to or inspired by Shakespeare, five of which she wrote herself.

 And this is only speaking of her work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival! Miriam has had a rich career of varied roles – modern, classical and world premieres – at theatres across the country; including Broadway, the Public Theater, Dallas Theater Center, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Center Stage Baltimore, the Guthrie, and many more.
In short, Miriam Laube is a consummate theatre professional. She has given so much of herself to our field; and I am delighted that Ten Chimneys is now offering her this chance for rejuvenation and inspiration. I can’t wait to see what she will do with all she learns."

~Bill Rauch, Artistic Director

Howard Overshown
Manhattan Theatre Club
(New York, NY)

“If I were asked to describe Howard Overshown in one word, it would be “versatile.”  He first performed at Manhattan Theatre Club during the 2002-2003 season opposite the playwright in Dael Orlandersmith’s two-hander YELLOWMAN. The production was directed by Blanka Ziska, Artistic Director of the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, and had received rave reviews in its runs at the McCarter Theatre, the Wilma, the Long Wharf and ACT before coming to New York. Howard returned to MTC to understudy Victor Williams in our New York premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning COST OF LIVING last season and we are lucky to have him as a part of our fabulous ensemble in SAINT JOAN, playing now at our Friedman theatre on Broadway.   

Hailing from Alexandria, Virginia, Howard trained at University of Virginia and Catholic University’s renowned Drama Department.  He has been working consistently since graduating at most, if not all, of the institutional theatres in New York City as well as many around the country including Baltimore Center Stage, The Guthrie Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre, New York Stage and Film, BAM, CSC, Lincoln Center Theater, Roundabout Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. He has done Shakespeare and Shaw on Broadway and has played small roles, large roles and everything in between off-Broadway and regionally. 

Howard is a consummate company member – generous, supportive, skilled and hard-working – and has worked with highly respected actors and directors including Denzel Washington, George C. Wolfe, and Daniel Sullivan to name just a few. 
It is with great pride that I nominate Howard for this fellowship and I applaud Howard on all of his accomplishments.  If chosen, he will bring with him to Ten Chimneys his talent, his warmth and his complete commitment to the Theatre.  He is one of the most dedicated actors that has worked on the Manhattan Theatre Club stages.”

~Lynn Meadows, Artistic Director

Rachel Warren
Trinity Repertory Company
(Providence, RI)

“Rachael Warren has been a member of Trinity Repertory’s resident acting company since 2002.  She is one of the greatest actor singers working in the American Theater today, and yet, her work is hardly limited to the musical theater canon.  Equally adept at comedy and tragedy, at contemporary texts and classical ones, Rachael is a gift to any production of any piece of theater.
Rachael was introduced to Trinity Rep’s audience as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady in 2000, sang her way through Luisa in The Fantasticks, Sally in Cabaret, Nancy in Oliver!, and she most recently played Mother in Ragtime this spring.  She has played Ophelia and Lady Percy and Nerissa and Puck at Trinity.  What is remarkable about Rachael is how she uses song like Shakespeare, and vice versa.  She interprets musical text like no other performer I have encountered, and she finds the music of Shakespeare in the most natural and comfortable way imaginable.
I could go on at length about Rachael’s playing of any number of leading roles during my time at Trinity, but the real evidence of her amazing capacity as a performer was most on display for me in the role of Warrior One in Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.  This unnamed character might have been a background player in another actor’s hands, and Rachael sang and danced her way through back up of many songs in the show.  But her character has an aria late in the second act that is a showstopper in the right hands.  Rachael did not disappoint, accompanying herself on piano, and bringing the house down every night.
Rachael is also a teacher, a community advocate, and a mother.  She is a great human being and a great artist to have as a part of any company.”

~Curt Columbus, Artistic Director

James Williams
Guthrie Theater
(Minneapolis, MN)

“It is an honor to nominate James A. Williams to be a fellow at Ten Chimneys. JW is an astonishingly talented artist who has performed in more than 20 productions at the Guthrie Theater since 1990. A dedicated actor and director, his roots run deep. He is a founding member of Penumbra Theatre, was part of the Guthrie Theatre Acting Company in the early 90’s, and is a foremost interpreter of August Wilson’s work, including his performance in Radio Golf on Broadway. I have had the recent pleasure of directing him in his exceptional performances as Gloucester in KING LEAR and the Friar in ROMEO AND JULIET.
JW’s deep commitment to the Minnesota theater community is reflected in his work as an artist and mentor, creating and leading programs that serve African American youth in both Minneapolis and St Paul. I am thrilled he has been selected for this award and believe he will be a most valuable contributor to this cohort.”

~Joseph Haj, Artistic Director

Cornell Womack
The Old Globe
(San Diego, CA)

“It’s an honor and a pleasure to nominate Cornell Womack to represent The Old Globe at Ten Chimneys.  He’s an exciting, vivid, daring actor.  Over the many years I’ve known and worked with him I’ve come to see him as a kind of avatar of American classical acting at its best.  In his talent are mixed together a bracing and razor sharp intellect, a vocal instrument of uncommon range and power, an endlessly deep emotional reservoir and a commitment to expressing it with a bold physicality, an imagination that’s full of surprise and flights of fantasy, and a real wit and humor to add fizz to it all. He’s the whole package.

Cornell was a student of mine at the Juilliard School more years ago than I’m sure either of us would wish to recall. Even then it was clear that he was an actor to be reckoned with; even then his extraordinary voice—deep, honeyed, and resonant—could shake the rafters.  And even then, his talent was coupled to a moral center that was truly moving to note.  As clearly as I remember Cornell’s work in Juilliard productions, I also clearly recall his passionate belief in the theatre as an instrument of social change, a place for public debate, a forum for brave consideration of the biggest questions about what it is to be an individual within a society.

Now, these few decades later, I’ve come to see that this promising young actor I once knew has matured into a major American artist.  His skills with text are as good as those of any actor I can name, and Shakespeare in Cornell’s hands has an idiosyncratic and uniquely powerful impact.  His access to a fathomless well of emotion has only increased, and his natural physicality is more essential now, more pure.  Most of all, his convictions about the role and function of the artist in the world have grown even more potent.  Cornell is a thinker, a man who, through the sophistication of his art, reckons with the world as it is and conjures a world that might be.  It’s a thrill to behold him at work.

Our most recent collaboration was when he played Claudius in my production of HAMLET at The Old Globe.  He was superb.  Smiling and supremely confident one moment, wracked with guilt the next, sniveling and scrambling the next, his performance was unforgettable.  Hamlet calls his uncle a “mighty opposite,” and in Cornell’s performance, I could finally see what the Prince meant.  Cornell was also a great company member, an inspiration to the actors around him (and in particular to the actors-in-training who were in the ensemble), and a generous and kind collaborator.

He’s a unique talent and a special man.  I know from my summer teaching at Ten Chimneys just how wonderful it is and just how high the talent level of the actors chosen as Fellows.  Cornell Womack deserves pride of place among them.”

~Barry Edelstein, Artistic Director 

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Ten Chimneys, the estate lovingly created by theatre legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, is open to the public as a world-class house museum with a progressive mission to serve the arts.

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