Journal of the Inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program, 2009


LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Monday, July 13, 11:57 p.m.

This was an exciting day for Ten Chimneys, for the greater Milwaukee community, and for American Theatre. This afternoon, Ten Chimneys reassumed its historic role as “the place” for the nation’s top actors to convene – as we launched the groundbreaking Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program.

After arriving from across the country and settling in at the Delafield Hotel, Lynn Redgrave and the ten inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellows were thrilled to be able to experience Ten Chimneys for themselves. We started in the colorful and rustic Cottage Living Room, with Lynn and the ten Fellows introducing themselves to each other – sharing what theatre each represented, an overview of their work in their home city, kids, family, etc. The Fellows and Lynn repeatedly expressed their enthusiasm for the week to come, and their appreciation for the opportunity at hand.

It was a true pleasure to give this illustrious and inspiring group of actors a private tour of Ten Chimneys. We finished the tour in the Main House Dining Room, where a gourmet dinner was waiting for us, prepared by Scott Shully of Shully’s Cuisine, and drawn entirely from Alfred Lunt’s Cookbook. The menu included: cold vichyssoise soup, succulent beef pot roast, perfect risotto, beautifully-seasoned baked eggplant & tomatoes, a delightful Wisconsin cheese plate including berries picked from the Lunts’ estate, sinful crème brulee, and tasty pecan cookies. Alfred Lunt would have been proud. (We were all, certainly, very, very full.)

The dinner conversation was engaging, exciting, and exceedingly comfortable, including: stories about specific plays actors had created or seen, ideas about collaborative opportunities, anecdotes about performing Hay Fever at the National Theatre with Noël Coward (Lynn Redgrave does a fantastic Noël Coward impersonation), questions about how experiences in different cities/theatres compare with each other, thoughts about how theatres and communities deal with financial difficulties, and conjecture about the importance of clothing selection for men vs. women – and why.

Tomorrow Lynn and the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows dig in to their first master class sessions together. Richard III, Henry VI, and Antony & Cleopatra in the morning. Hamlet and King Lear in the afternoon.

It’s going to be a remarkable week.

Fellows Begin Powerful Theatrical Work During Day Two of the Lunt Fontanne Fellowship Program

LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Tuesday, July 14, 10:37 p.m.

Today, the theatrical work of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship program started, with the first master class sessions with Lynn Redgrave and the ten Fellows selected from across the country. The morning was spent in the Lunt-Fontanne Program Center, where the actors dove right in to two layered and emotional Shakespeare scenes: Jon Gentry (Arizona Theatre Company) and Kim Staunton (Denver Center Theatre) worked with Lynn Redgrave on Richard III; and Mary Beth Fisher (Goodman Theatre), Lee Ernst (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Jack Willis (American Conservatory Theater), and Suzanne Bouchard (Seattle Repertory Theatre) joined Lynn in exploring Henry VI, part 3.

After lunch on the Main House Terrace, prepared and hosted by six dedicated Ten Chimneys Volunteers, the group moved to the Lunts’ mural-filled Drawing Room for their afternoon session. Hamlet was the first scene of the afternoon, with Dan Donohue (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Jack Willis, and Jon Gentry. Next came Antony & Cleopatra, with Naomi Jacobson (Arena Stage), Suzanne Bouchard, and Lee Ernst.

Heartfelt, thoughtful, focused, daring, and powerful – the first day of work together was truly filled with revelation and emotional poignancy. Lynn guided all of the work, actively bringing all of the fellows into the process, encouraging and nurturing the free flow of suggestions and questions, to explore the fullest possibilities of each scene. And the work being done was stunning.

While most of the Fellows and Lynn Redgrave had a delicious dinner back at the Delafield Hotel, Mary Beth Fisher and Jon Gentry volunteered to stay at Ten Chimneys to bake pies for the group – in Alfred Lunt’s oven, directly across from Alfred Lunt’s diploma from the Cordon Bleu. The pies (blueberry and strawberry rhubarb), kicked off a lovely and unexpected evening.

After devouring the pies, the group spent a few hours together back in the Drawing Room. Don Griffin (Alliance Theatre) spontaneously shared a handful of powerful monologues, to everyone’s great delight and appreciation. Don encouraged everyone else to follow suit, and the evening evolved into an engaging and touching collection of stories, monologues, and other pieces, including Lynn sharing a short excerpt from her newest one-woman show – a piece about her mother call Rachel and Juliet.

As the evening came to a close, there was obvious camaraderie, comfort, and respect among the newly formed group – and a sincere enthusiasm for the next day of work together.

LFFP Day Three: Lynn Redgrave Welcomes Milwaukee Actors and Fellows Explore the Estate

LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Wednesday, July 15, 8:19 p.m.

The third day of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program has been truly wonderful. In the morning, the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows – selected as the top regional theatre actors in the country – had the opportunity to study, relax, and rejuvenate as they explored the inspirational Ten Chimneys estate: marking up their Shakespeare scripts by the pool, spending time in the Swedish-style log cabin Studio, learning about the beautiful gardens, journaling in the Library, and enjoying other reflective pursuits.

While the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows were on the historic estate, Lynn Redgrave led a dynamic half-day Shakespearean master class for 11 highly accomplished professional actors from the Milwaukee area. Lynn worked with each of the talented actors on a monologue they had prepared in advance.

Following are the actors who participated, with the role and play of the monologue they brought for Lynn.

Angela Iannone: Rumor from Henry IV, Part I
Jenny Wanasek: Duchess of Gloucester from Richard II
Laura Gordon: Portia from Julius Caesar
Matt Daniels: Brutus from Julius Caesar
Karen Janes Woditsch: Eleanor from Henry VI, Part II
Deborah Staples: Hermione from Winter’s Tale
Jonathan West: Camillo from Winter’s Tale
Nathan Hosner: Prince Hal from Henry IV, Part I
Mark Corkins: Macbeth from Macbeth
Laura DeMoon: Phoebe from As You Like It
Robert Allan Smith: Iago from Othello

The growth in the monologues after each actor had worked with Lynn was astounding, regularly drawing “ooohs” and effusive applause from the observers. The actors expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity to work with a teacher of Lynn Redgrave’s talent and generosity. And Lynn expressed (repeatedly) how impressed she was by the depth of talent in the Milwaukee acting community.

After lunch, Lynn and the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows gathered in the Lunts’ Drawing Room to continue the intensive scene work that had started on Tuesday – with two pieces fromKing Lear. A scene from Act I was explored by Francis Guinan (Steppenwolf Theatre) and Lee Ernst (Milwaukee Repertory Theater) – and a scene from Act IV was undertaken by Naomi Jacobson (Arena Stage), Dan Donohue (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Francis Guinan, Kim Staunton (Denver Center Theater), and Mary Beth Fisher (Goodman Theatre).

After the day’s activities – including a surprise birthday celebration for Fellow Jon Gentry, from Arizona Theatre Company – the Fellows and Ms. Redgrave had a night off, with many accepting our offer to take them to downtown Milwaukee for a night on the town.

Tomorrow will see the Fellows dive into Shakespearean monologues – and perhaps even a little Noël Coward.

Day Four of Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program Inspires and Surprises

LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Thursday, July 16, 11:35 p.m.

The fourth day of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship program was an inspirational experience. Lynn Redgrave and the inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellows (selected as the premier actors in top regional theatre cities across the country) spent all morning and all afternoon together delving into monologues that the Fellows had brought to explore with Lynn. The morning master class was in the Lunt-Fontanne Program Center, the afternoon in the Lunts’ beautiful mural-filled Drawing Room.

Each actor spent about 45 minutes working on the monologue they brought; all of the other Fellows, along with Lynn, shared and discussed insights, questions, and ideas with the actor who was sharing. Honestly, it’s difficult to express in words how moving the experience was to watch these actors work with Lynn and each other. Each of these monologues was deeply engaging and poignant the first time they were shared. Their evolution over such a short period of time was astounding, and completely unexpected. The entire room was brought to tears multiple times (very much including me).

Here’s who did what during the day:

• Suzanne Bouchard from Seattle Repertory Theatre: Rosaline from Love’s Labour’s Lost

• Dan Donohue from Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Richard II

• Lee Ernst from Milwaukee Repertory Theater: Hamlet
• Mary Beth Fisher from the Goodman Theatre: Gertrude from Hamlet
• Jon Gentry from Arizona Theatre Company: Hamlet
• Francis Guinan from Steppenwolf Theatre Company: Hamlet

• Naomi Jacobson from Arena Stage: Cleopatra
• Kim Staunton from Denver Center Theatre Company: Lady Macbeth
• Jack Willis from American Conservatory Theater: Capulet from Romeo and Juliet

Thursday was also a day where the Fellows shared reflections of their experience at Ten Chimneys. A crew from Public Television filmed interviews with each Fellow, Public Radio interviewed Lynn and the Fellows, and American Theatre Magazine and Backstage Magazine both did interviews for national features. (Teresa Eyring, the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for non-profit theatre in America, flew in from New York to observe the program – and also talked with the Fellows about their experiences.)

The reflections that Lynn and the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows shared were so personal and eloquent. In the coming weeks, I’ll find a way to share many of them with you. For now, I thought I would share one quote from Fellow Kim Staunton’s interview for Public Television.

“More than anything, beyond being a magical experience, it’s also been an inspirational experience – just what I needed to come into my life right now. I’m now back to that passionate thing that made everything possible for me when I started doing this 20 years ago. I understand it from the Lunts’ perspective now. I understand it from these brilliant Fellows that I’m working with now – their passion, and their commitment, and their talent. I understand it from Ms. Redgrave now – who is one of the greatest actresses in the world, and comes from one of the greatest acting families. So between that and the Lunts – my God. Inspiration? It’s beyond inspiration.”

After a day of powerful work and insightful reflection, the Fellows were treated to a summer supper party on Pine Lake, at the home of a Ten Chimneys Trustee – for good food, good conversation, a lovely lake view, and even an outdoor showing of The Guardsman, the Lunts’ only movie together. It was a surprising and inspirational day. And tomorrow promises even more.

Lynn Redgrave Delights Public Audience on Day Five of Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program

LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Friday, July 17, actually 12:24 a.m. the next morning

The fifth day of this important and exciting program started with a break from Shakespeare, as Lynn Redgrave and the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows did a “table read” of the entire first act of Noël Coward’s Design for Living.

Noël, Alfred, and Lynn were close lifelong friends. Before any of the three of them had “broken through,” they would spend countless hours together in a modest (very modest) “theatrical boarding house.” Noël wrote the following in his diaries about those times together:

“From these shabby, congenial rooms we projected ourselves into future eminence. We discussed, the three of us, over delicatessen potato salad and dill pickles, our most secret dreams of success. Lynn and Alfred were to be married. That was the first plan. Then they were to become definitely idols of the public. That was the second plan. Then, all this being successfully accomplished, they were to act exclusively together. This was the third plan. It remained for me to supply the fourth, which was that when all three of us had become stars of sufficient magnitude to be able to count upon an individual following irrespective of each other, then, poised serenely upon that enviable plane of achievement, we would meet and act triumphantly together – and the theatre would have a new cosmos.”

The Lunts and Coward achieved each component of their “plan,” culminating in the overwhelming success of Design for Living on Broadway. Ms. Redgrave and the Fellows had great fun connecting with the spirit of Noël and the Lunts by digging into this timeless comedy.

In the afternoon, Lynn and the Fellows continued their intensive work on the Shakespearean monologues each had brought to explore. The group continued to gel into what felt more and more like a “company” of actors. Several times, Fellows would make comments like, “that reminds me of back when so-and-so was working on such-and-such-piece…” only to stop themselves with the realization that the “back when” was barely 24 hours earlier.

After another delicious dinner at Andrew’s, the restaurant at the Delafield Hotel, the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows joined 300 eager audience members for “A Conversation with Lynn Redgrave.” For the first half of the program, Lynn enthralled the audience with excerpts from her critically acclaimed Shakespeare for My Father – which was a smash hit in regional theatres, on Broadway, on a National Tour, and in London’s West End. This was a special treat for all of us, as Lynn does not perform the show anymore – since she finished her triumphant run in London over a decade ago. The excerpts she shared deeply moved the audience, recreating personal remembrances of Lynn’s relationship with her father and family. Lynn played every “character” in her family; as scenes grew in intensity and meaning, Lynn would transition from memoir into Shakespearean text – heightening the language, the emotion, and our (the audience’s) connection to both Lynn and Shakespeare. It was performed beautifully and skillfully and so very generously. Personally, I felt honored and lucky to be brought into Lynn’s family and world. And I know that my fellow audience members felt the same. She was astonishing.

After the intermission, Lynn charmingly answered questions from the audience, delighting everyone with anecdotes and insights about her career and her many co-stars.

I am compelled to mention that Lynn does a pitch perfect impersonation of Noël Coward, which has made me laugh every time she’s done it this week. So I’ll conclude today’s update by quoting Mr. Coward; after hearing Lynn act for the first time, at the first rehearsal of Hay Fever at The National Theatre, Noël shared with artistic director Laurence Olivier, “The little Redgrave girl [pause] is very, very clever.”

Sixth Day of Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program Inspires Public

LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Saturday, July 18, 11:52 p.m.

The sixth day of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program saw the final two master class sessions with Lynn Redgrave and the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows, as they returned to the scenes from the first part of the week and continued their intensive monologue work, both in the Lunts’ mural-filled Drawing Room and in the Lunt-Fontanne Program Center.

Saturday night was the “Concluding Presentation” of the program, with another packed house. In introducing the presentation, I started by thanking all of the volunteers, donors, and friends who have made the program possible, with explicit thanks to the representatives of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for their generous and insightful lead grant; without their support, the program would not have happened. I went on to share a little about why Ten Chimneys Foundation created this program. Many in the room knew that Ten Chimneys was saved by the late Joseph Garton. Even though we have only been open to the public for six years, Joe founded the organization almost exactly 13 years ago this week. Joe started this all with his vision and belief that a restored Ten Chimneys could be a true inspiration and resource for actors and theatre professionals – that it could change the future of American theatre for the better. This past week at Ten Chimneys has been a realization of that vision. Lynn Redgrave expressed it well when she said “This is such a talented group of master actors from around the country. And what Ten Chimneys Foundation is doing with this program is simply astounding. This kind of opportunity simply hasn’t existed before, anywhere. And it’s so important; it’s so meaningful.”

Before offering the audience a glimpse of the work that she and the Fellows were doing all week, Lynn pointed out the one empty chair on the stage, honoring inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellow Donald Griffin (Alliance Theatre). “Don had to return to Atlanta early for health reasons,” Lynn explained, “but he gave us all a wonderful night sharing his talents with us on our second night together. We are all thinking of him, and are pleased to have had the time with him we did.”

Lynn then talked to the audience about the kind of work that she and the Fellows did together, and the Fellows shared a sampling of the scenes and monologues they’d worked on throughout the week. The presentation started with five scenes from Hamlet. Lee Ernst (Milwaukee Rep), Jon Gentry (Arizona Theatre Co.), and Francis Guinan (Steppenwolf) all shared Hamlet monologues; Dan Donohue (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Jack Willis (American Conservatory Theater) shared the “Ghost” scene between Hamlet and his dead father; and Mary Beth Fisher (Goodman) shared Gertrude’s monologue when she tells Laertes about his sister Ophelia’s death.

After the Hamlet pieces, the Fellows lightened things up with two comic monologues – Dan Donohue shared a piece from As You Like It and Naomi Jacobson (Arena Stage) shared a piece from Pericles. Next came two pieces from The War of the Roses: Henry VI, part 3with Mary Beth Fisher, Lee Ernst, Suzanne Bouchard (Seattle Rep), and Jack Willis; andRichard III with Jon Gentry and Kim Staunton (Denver Center). The first half of the presentation concluded with Francis Guinan sharing a Leontes monologue from Winter’s Tale.

The second half of the presentation started with two comic monologues from The Merry Wives of Windsor, with Mary Beth Fisher as Quickly and Jack Willis as Falstaff. Next cameKing Lear: a “Goneril scene” with Naomi Jacobson, Francis Guinan, Dan Donohue, and Kim Staunton; and a monologue with Suzanne Bouchard as Regan. Kim Staunton shared a monologue of Lady Macbeth. And Lee Ernst and Suzanne Bouchard shared a scene fromAntony and Cleopatra. To close the Shakespeare portion of the evening, Lynn Redgrave explained to the audience that she and Naomi Jacobson would give a deeper glimpse of what the week entailed by offering a “live class,” using Cleopatra’s monologue after Antony is dead. Naomi worked through the monologue with a few starts and stops, at one point bringing on Francis Guinan up with her to be Dolabella (the character on stage in the play during Cleopatra’s monologue). Lynn shared a few thoughts and ideas with Naomi, in front of the audience, concluding with the question, “what if Dolabella was trying to take you away from Antony’s body? Naomi did the monologue again, with Francis as Dolabella trying to pull Cleopatra away in her grief – at first gently and then more physically. The transformation of the (already impressive) piece in front of the entire audience was intensely powerful – and truly revelatory.

Following the scene work, Lynn and the Fellows shared a few thoughts about how important this week was to them, and how important this type of program is to American theatre. Many shared that the program has been transformational, that they are leaving Ten Chimneys changed – and inspired. One expressed her feelings by saying that she was looking at her career and her life, now, as “pre Ten Chimneys or post Ten Chimneys.” The rest of the Fellows and Lynn Redgrave voiced their agreement. As the evening came to a close, I was deeply touched when Lynn and the Fellows presented me with a framed copy of the evening’s program – with inscriptions from all of them. They shared that the gift was a symbol of their commitment to passionately “pass on” what they have gained here at Ten Chimneys when they return to their home communities – to embrace their roles as mentors and to embody the spirit of Ten Chimneys and the Lunts. I’ll cherish the memento they gave me. And I’ll cherish their promise even more – because it means that, this week, Ten Chimneys changed American theatre forever.

Lynn closed the evening with a beautiful recitation, reminding us all that:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program Week Concludes

LFFP Photos by Jim Brozek Photography © Ten Chimneys Foundation

Notes from Sean Malone – President, Ten Chimneys Foundation
Sunday, July 19, 1:33 p.m.

Technically speaking, the seventh day of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program began at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning – quite raucously, in the bar of the Delafield Hotel. Lynn Redgrave concluded Saturday night’s public program with “Our revels now are ended…” But, as it happened, the revels carried on.

The Fellows spent several hours sharing stories and ideas, planning trips to see each other in upcoming productions, and reminiscing about their time together at Ten Chimneys. At 2:00 a.m., Steppenwolf’s Francis Guinan, Lynn Redgrave, and yours truly closed the bar. To be honest, I was a tiny bit of proud to be among the last standing – only to find that American Conservatory Theater’s Jack Willis, Milwaukee Rep’s Lee Ernst, and The Goodman’s Mary Beth Fisher were still awake and gathered on the front porch. When I left for my room, there were cigars ablaze (I can’t confirm who partook) and building gales of laughter. I have no idea how long “our revels” finally lasted.

Not too many hours later, Lynn Redgrave and the inaugural Lunt-Fontanne Fellows reconvened aside the Noël Coward piano in the Main House Drawing Room (where they’d gathered all week long), to wrap up their experience together. The group reiterated and expanded on the ideas they’d shared with the public the night before: the transformative nature of the experience, how meaningful the program had been to them personally, how important the program was for American theatre, their renewed commitment to mentorship, and their gratitude for the experience they’d had together.

Lynn and the Fellows all agreed to serve on a National Advisory Board for the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program – to help Ten Chimneys Foundation make subsequent years of the program as successful as this first year has been.

There was much discussion of the fact that being named a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow is a permanent designation, not a one-week honor. And everyone in the group embraced and celebrated this enduring title. They are eager to return to Ten Chimneys for a variety of exciting artistic pursuits (for example, a number of Fellows are interested in developing one-person shows and having early workshop-readings at Ten Chimneys.) They are eager to stay connected with one another, and to continue to support each other’s work. And they are eager to share stories from their inspirational week at Ten Chimneys with colleagues and friends (“civilians” and actors alike) around the country.

Lynn and the Fellows also enjoyed a final walk around the estate – strolling through the gardens, dipping their feet in the pool, admiring the many birch trees (which Alexander Woollcott gave the Lunts as a gift), posing by the clothesline, telling stories in the log-cabin Studio, and recreating a few historic photographs of the Lunts at Ten Chimneys. As the Lunt-Fontanne Fellows parted ways to their home cities across the country, they did so grudgingly and with many tears – but they did so with a strong bond, with a shared purpose, and with the spirit of Alfred, of two Lynns, of Ten Chimneys, and of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program.

What is Ten Chimneys?

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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