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GLENN LONEY'S SHOW NOTES
By Glenn Loney, June 16, 2002
 American Theatre Critics in Chicago
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
 Restored Loop Theate District
 Multi-Million Goodman Theatre
 Philip Glass "Galileo" Opera
 Stavis/Bush Galileo Opera
 Steppenwolf Revives "Royal Family"
 Zimmerman & Terkel at Lookingglass
 Victory Garden Victories & Defeats
 "Critical Mass" at Chicago's Court Theatre
 "Damn Yankees" in Lincolnshire
 Saving Lunt & Fontanne's Ten Chimneys
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POST-MODERNIST FOYER--The Goodman Theatre Complex is designed for audience ease & comfort.
American Theatre CriticsEvery year members of ATCA-the American Theatre Critics Association-make a pilgrimage to a different center of Performing Arts around the United States. Last summer, they flew off to Ashland and the Tony-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was their second visit!
Fly into The Windy City
Other recent Destinations have included Philadelphia and the Humana Festival in Louisville.
A long time ago, this band of theatre experts had visited Chicago. But much had changed over the years, so Jonathan Abarbanel-an energetic organizer in ATCA-worked wonders to provide his colleagues with an in-depth look at new developments. Including new plays, new ensembles, and some multi-million-dollar new Theatre Complexes!
Here is a report on some of what we saw in and out of the fabled Loop!
Chicago Saves Old Movie-Palaces:
NEW GOODMAN THEATRE--In the heart of Chicago's Downtown Loop.
The Downtown Loop's New Theatre District!In recent years, Chicago's Downtown has experienced the same malaise afflicting many major American cities. Even if corporate offices have not removed to the suburbs, few executives, office-workers, or middle-class families actually reside in the inner city.
Thus, after five pm-and especially on weekends-the broad boulevards of the Loop look like a Deserted City. Nonetheless, this was once the Windy City's theatre-center, when an audience was close at hand-and everyone went to plays and the movies.
Rather than demolish such fantastical Between-the-Wars Picture-Palaces as the Ford Center Oriental, the Chicago, the Cadillac Palace, and the always legit Shubert Theatre, they have all been magnificently restored. They now form the core of Chicago's Theatre District-with the regional not-for-profit Goodman Theatre added to the cultural mix.
Mayor Richard A. Daley has been a prime-mover and supporter in this Chicago Theatre Renaissance. Not only are he and his wife enthusiastic patrons of theatre, opera, and the arts, but he understands the vital importance of the city's cultural institutions to Quality of Life. Not to neglect the economic importance of Performing Arts to the Tourist Industry!
Under the rubric of Broadway in Chicago, pre- and post-Broadway shows now fill these historic houses. As well as specials like the Winans Family at the Chicago Theatre. A week later, the Winans were in Manhattan at Radio City Music Hall!
Among the shows current or promised for the coming season: Movin' Out, Riverdance, Bring in Da' Noise/Bring in Da' Funk, 42nd Street, Seussical the Musical, Allergist's Wife, Aida, Blast!, Stomp, and, of course, The Lion King.
ELIZABETHAN ECHOES--Courtyard stage of Owen Bruner Goodman Theatre also resembles London's Cottesloe.
The Goodman Theatre In The Loop:
Sweet Smell of Expanding Success?
Formerly confined to a basement area under the Chicago Institute of Art-where it often imaginatively mounted new American dramas, as well as modern classics-Chicago's longtime regional theatre, the Goodman, has been transparently translated to the Heart of the Loop and The Theatre District.
It is now the proud parent of a handsome Post-Modernist theatre-complex. The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre is a large proscenium-stage auditorium, seating some 856 spectators. The smaller studio-theatre-dubbed the Owen Bruner Goodman Theatre-is another of those currently popular flexible-seating venues, with capacity ranging from 467 to 335.
LIKE STRATFORD'S SWAN--The stunning new cockpit stage of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Photo: ©Ron Solomon, 2002.
The latter, in a quasi-courtyard/cockpit conformation, has been compared to both the Swan and the Cottesloe in Britain. The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, however, is a far more attractive candidate for such comparisons.
Nonetheless, it made a very good ATCA conference-venue for A Conversation With Jerry Herman. This was sponsored by the concurrent Chicago Humanities Festival.
This distinguished American musical composer-whom I'd just seen in Houston at the Hobby Center, where he was given the first American Musical Award-told the assembled theatre-critics about the tremendous response he's been getting from young Americans who know almost nothing about our Musical Theatre Heritage.
Herman talks about the American Musical and-as he so often generously does on social occasions-he illustrates his points with lyrics and music. So successful-and in-demand-have such sessions been that Herman is enlising other composer/lyricist members of ASCAP to introduce Young America to the Broadway Musical.
We had just missed the Goodman's Hal Prince-directed main-stage production of Hollywood Arms, by Carol Burnett and her daughter, the late Carrie Hamilton. But this is surely Broadway Bound.
Galileo Galilei: Through a Glass Darkly-Although it was still in previews, composer Philip Glass and director Mary Zimmerman were unable to prevent those critics actually willing to pay for tickets from having a peek at their new opera, Galileo Galilei.
This is also a main-stage production. With monumental arcaded Italian Renaissance Palazzi flanking center-stage, Galileo's artful scenic-splendors seemed almost worthy of the Metropolitan Opera.
This is a far cry from the modest, but often inventive, Goodman Theatre productions formerly mounted under the Art Institute. Having no fly-gallery and virtually no wing-space in that venue encouraged designers to devise daring design-solutions which encouraged viewer-imagination, rather than stifling it.
That the new Goodman main-stage also has state-of-the-art tech equipment is more likely to foster handsome and costly productions. Rather than to inspire stunning stagings in which Less Necessarily Has To Be More.
I had the distinct impression that the Palladian Excesses of designer Daniel Ostling had been vetted to lend this back-to-front saga of Galileo's confrontation with the Holy Office more weight and import than it actually can muster.
That this production is also destined for the Brooklyn Academy of Music and London may have impacted on the elegance of the stage-design as well. But there's no question that it is lovely to look at, thanks also to Mara Blumenfeld's costumes and T.J. Gerckens' lighting-design.
[This past season, BAM had a big success with the Chicago Opera Theatre's handsomely Post Modernist production of Monteverdi's Orfeo. This adventurous ensemble is not to be confused with the already prestigious Lyric Opera, so the Goodman's hosting Galileo suggests the public for Music-Theatre is growing in Chicago!]
It was Philip Glass's unusual initial dramaturgical-concept to reconstruct Galileo's story with scenes running backwards in time. In execution and in performance, this proves to be counter-productive to the impact of the great astronomer/physicist's ultimate tragedy.
Mary Zimmerman-the Director-of-the-Hour-notes in the program that this Renaissance scientist's father, Vincenzio Galilei, was a musician/composer-possibly the father of opera-though that is open to debate. Jacopo Peri has already been given that honor, inscribed on a stone in one of Florence's greatest churches.
Nonetheless, this factoid inspired the super-talented director-devisor of the Tony-winning Metamorphoses-plus Arabian Nights and Journey To the West-to invent a metaphoric Orion-Myth mini-opera to mirror Galileo's torments. In that long lost time, these were actually called Intermezzi.
Unfortunately, as a composer, Philip Glass is neither Monteverdi nor Puccini.
Given the Power of the Renaissance Papacy, its Holy War Against Heretics, the convoluted court intrigues of Medician Florence, and the broad, questing Humanism of Galileo, this epic conflict over the Discorsi demands a really powerful, exciting, even Italianate, score.
Which, alas, it does not receive. This was not something that could have been worked out in previews, however…
The once-distinctive Glass Line is less and less transparent and more and more repetitive. What once had hypnotic power in Einstein on the Beach has dwindled almost into mere accompaniments…
As for the dramatic effectiveness of the Glass, Zimmerman, and Arnold Weinstein libretto, the trio would have done better to have plagiarized Bertolt Brecht's Epic Theatre masterpiece on the same topic.
As it is, Zimmerman credits a number of reputable sources for their backward-looking text. None of them Brecht's, which of course demonstrates strong dramatic license.
This Galileo Galilei could certainly have used some of Brecht's dramaturgical effects. But then, Weinstein is better known as the librettist of Dynamite Tonight, much admired by Robert Brustein.
Surprise! There's An Even Earlier Galileo Opera!Oddly enough, there is already a Galileo opera, based on a powerful play about this great man, greatly humiliated, abused, tried, and imprisoned by the Vicar of Christ.
Sad to say, it seems to have sunk without a trace in the Post Cold War West. This is Barrie Stavis' opera, based on his memorable drama, Lamp At Midnight-with a score by the British composer, Alan Bush.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was premiered in major opera houses in East Germany. It was even given a concert performance in Huntsville, Alabama, where that latter-day European scientist, Prof. Wernher Von Braun, was improving on his V-2 Rockets for the American Space Program.
What subsequently irked Stavis-as he attempted to get some American productions of his opera-was that Brecht's Galileo had become The Last Word, theatrically speaking.
Stavis often recalled that his prize-winning Lamp At Midnight and Brecht's Galileo Galilei opened in New York almost within a week of each other.
At that time, critics heaped praise on Stavis and scorn on Brecht. But Theatre History turned the tables. What opera history will do to these two Galileo Operas remains to be seen.
Fortunately, the Glass/Zimmerman/Weinstein Version has great sets and costumes!
It's to be hoped that the Goodman's good fortune in its handsome new theatres and rich corporate sponsors will not undermine its former dedication to the essences of dramas and performances.
Lavish-or even strikingly spartan-production-values may give audiences something astonishing to look at. But the visual values aren't the whole show. The Play's The Thing… Or did we already know that?
The Goodman Theatre Complex cost many millions. Its annual operating-budget is also right up there in the millions! The present and constant Artistic Danger is that management will have to Play It Safe.
The coming season offers the Goodman some excellent opportunities to see what it can now create. Among the projects is the premiere of Gold! , the new musical by Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman-who gave us Pacific Overtures, also staged by Hal Prince.
Marion McClinton will be staging August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean, with Chuck Smith directing By the Music of the Spheres.
Also on offer: Williams' The Rose Tattoo, Ken Lonergan's Lobby Hero, and Amy Freed's The Beard of Avon.
From Humble Avant-Garde Stage
To Real-Estate Tycoon: Steppenwolf!
Pungent Smell of Empire-Building?Speaking of spartan, Chicago's most famed of alternative avant-garde theatres, Steppenwolf, now seems to have forgotten what Alternative or Avant-Garde mean. Or how powerfully these ideas once helped its founders to create some of America's most unforgettable and troubling theatre-experiences.
Steppenwolf now has even more real-estate than the Goodman, in separate buildings, but fortunately not in the mainstream Theatre District. It now also has a budget in the millions.
Steppenwolf always prided itself on being Out of the Loop. Physically, it still is, located in an attractive and quiet neighborhood, untroubled by high-rises.
BARRYMORES LIVE AGAIN--Chicago's avant-garde Steppenwolf ensemble revives "The Royal Family" as a period-piece. Lois Smith is center as family matriarch, Fanny Cavendish. Photo: ©Michael Brosilow, 2002.
But if the recent production of The Royal Family is to be typical of mountings on its new main-stage, audiences can forget about those previously searing stagings of Grapes of Wrath or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next.
Kaufman & Ferber's riotous evocation of the tempestuous Barrymore Theatre Dynasty seems hardly the kind of American Classic Comedy the old Steppenwolf ensemble would have thought worth exhuming. Or re-examining…
Nonetheless, Frank Galati-a veteran of the company-has staged the recent revival. But there's no evidence that he found anything disturbingly new or subversively sub-textual in the script.
Instead, thanks to the lavishly decorated set of James Schuette and the stunning Art Deco costumes of Mara Blumenfeld, the visual production values almost upstage the frenetic performers.
Indeed, the two-level setting-with its grand staircase for Jack Barrymore's athletic theatrics-looks almost too grand, even too costly, for a Broadway revival.
The wonderful and even venerable Lois Smith is the Barrymore-like Matriarch, Fanny Cavendish. She is surrounded by a fine cast, galvanized by David New as the handsomeJohn Barrymore stand-in, Antony Cavendish.
This cast could easily enjoy a successful National Tour, were the set not so over-dressed, cumbersome, and complicated to strike and set-up. Whether they'd find a welcome on the Great White Way is another matter: Not enough Star Power, perhaps?
The physical production is of Broadway quality-though it's not an ingenious New Look at the styles and tastes of the 1930s.
Even in Chicago, one might have expected a company like Steppenwolf to have explored an amusing visual critique of the Cavendish Life-Style. Seen from our perspective, not as a Period Piece, under glass.
Other dramas of the 2001-2002 Steppenwolf season included Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Elsa Bernstein's Maria Arndt, and Bruce Norris' Purple Heart.
Out-the-Loop, Even Off the Cuff:
Chicago's Alternative Theatres-
A Glance in the Glass:Mary Zimmerman's home-base, the Lookingglass Theatre, will have a new home this coming season in the historic Water Tower Water Works. Post-Industrial venues are now all the rage in Europe, so why should Chicago be far behind?
Zimmerman's new theatre-work, The Secret in the Wings, will be based on her inventive adaptations of five classic fairy-tales, including Beauty and the Beast. This fable has long been in the Public Domain, so Disney has no proprietary claims on it.
Also scheduled is a world premiere of Joy Gregory's stage-version of Studs Terkel's Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession. David Schwimmer is to direct. The award-winning Lookingglass adaptation of Charles Dickens' Hard Times is to be revived.
Victory Gardens Theatre:
Victories and Defeats In Stride-Almost as well known and highly regarded as Steppenwolf, Chicago's Victory Gardens now also has a handsome new theatre-complex.
Fortunately, there are always adventurous new ensembles to fill the well-worn former premises, abandoned by "arrived"
companies-which once prided themselves on their avant-garde cutting-edges.
Victory Gardens prides itself on its role as a Playwrights Theatre. It has long been a home-base for that transplanted Chicagoan, the Middle American playwright Jeffrey Sweet, former editor of the Best Plays Series and a fellow-critic in New York.
The coming season will feature both world and Chicago premieres. Among Victory Gardens playwrights to be represented are Ann Noble, with Ariadne's Thread; Pearl Cleage, with Bourbon at the Border; Claudia Allen, with Unspoken Prayers; Joel Drake Johnson, with The End of the Tour, Lonnie Carter, with Concerto Ring-O-Levio, and Douglas Post, with God and Country Music, a new musical, based on Sophocles' Antigone. Go figure!
What many American Theatre Critics witnessed at Victory Gardens at the close of this past season demonstrated Victory Garden's firm commitment to developing its stable of playwrights.
SERVING THE AUTHOR AT VICTORY GARDENS--Scene from "The Old Man's Friend," a new drama by James Sherman, a member of its Playwrights Ensemble.
The Old Man's Friend, by James Sherman, confronted a selfish, thankless, irascible, aged, semi-handicapped, father with his physically mature but emotionally immature daughter, who is trapped into looking after him. She believes-not without cause-that he never loved her, as his only love seems to be baseball on the TV.
This desperate daughter may be Sherman's own stand-in. If so, one hopes he has purged his private demons with Playwriting Therapy. But it made for a fairly obvious, predictable, and labored evening.
Courting the Court Theatre:
Critical Mass: a League of Chicago Theatres Showcase-Beginning in 1955, in the Hutchinson Courtyard of the University of Chicago, the Court Theatre has expanded into the Abelson Auditorium, with award-winning productions of the classics.
Two of these have moved to Off-Broadway, in fact: The Iphigenia Cycle and In the Penal Colony.
Dedicated to such greats as Shakespeare, Molière, and Shaw, the Court's recent and much admired production of My Fair Lady-based on Shaw, at least-had to move to another theatre for an extended run.
The Court's coming season includes Racine's Phèdre, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis; Molière's Scapin, staged by Andrei Belgrader, and the Richard Nelson/Shaun Davey musicalization of James Joyce's The Dead.
Building on the success of its previous Iphigenia Cycle, the Court will offer Artistic Director Charles Newell's The Romance Cycle: Parts 1 and 2. This will be a reworking of Shakespeare's Cymbeline and Pericles, two notoriously difficult Late Plays.
Because the assembled American Theatre Critics could not hope to check out the many smaller-scale productions on offer in Chicago, the Court made its space available for a showcase of brief scenes from representative stagings.
Hosted by Newell and MC'd by WGN's Steve Bertrand, some very impressive-if virtually unknown-actors animated extracts from new plays like Mia McCullough's prize-winning Chagrin Falls and such fare as William Finn's A New Brain, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , and Chas. L. Mee's Summertime.
Among the companies on view: Porchlight Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Famous Door Theatre Company, Prop Theatre, Collaboraction [sic] Theatre, Naked Eye Theatre, Congo Square, Shattered Globe Theatre, and Plasticene Physical Theatre.
One of my favorites was Baby Milk Wagon Productions, with their hilarious spoof, The Roof Is on the Fiddler. Jerry Robbins would just die…
We were informed that Chicago has more Off and Off-Off productions per season than any other American city. Over two-thousand was the rough estimate.
Obviously, this is a bit of Windy City wind. New York still has them beat: check a year's run of the Village Voice for listings…
One of Chicago's most famous ensembles, The Second City, is still in good shape. Its current show is called All the Stage Is a World. The Noble Fool Theatre is offering The Complete History of America (Abridged) , which has also played the Edinburgh Festival and the Criterion in London's West End.
From the Edinburgh Festival for its American Premiere in Chicago, Scott Capuro's gay romp, Fucking Our Fathers, was at the Bailiwick Repertory-which was also showing Naked Boys Singing. For their Muscle-Daddy fathers, no doubt…
I missed all these without a qualm, but I do regret not joining my Bulgarian friend, Prof. Kalina Stefanova-she's VP of our International Theatre Critics org-for the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre. She assured me it was something quite special. Not the kind of theatre-event you'd expect in Sofia or Varna, both of which I've sampled, thanks to Kalina.
But this Southeast Asian troupe sounded sooo much like an ensemble-name I made up years ago-to the delight of New York's Jerry Talmer, who quoted it in the NY Daily News: The Latvian Frozen Puppet Theatre. Just the kind of unusual international import you'd expect at Ellen Stewart's famed LaMaMa!
Sexy Baseball and Hot Buffet:
BASEBALL IN LINCOLNSHIRE--Fred Zimmerman & Sean Allan Krill in "Damn Yankees," staged at the Marriott Theatre outside Chicago.
Photo: ©Maday Photography, 2002.
Damn Yankees at the Marriott in Lincolnshire-No ATCA Annual Conference would be complete without a foray into the countryside, beyond the boundaries of America's Great Theatre Cities. We were offered two such excursions. I took them both with pleasure.
For the record, I have absolutely no interest in baseball, partly because I could never hit the ball. Nonetheless, Damn Yankees has its attractions even for sports-foes and couch-potatoes.
The large handsome arena theatre at the Marriott Resort & Conference Center outside Chicago in distant Lincolnshire certainly offers a welcome respite from a hard day of conferencing or lounging about its luxury suites so very far from the Big City.
There was a hot hors d'oeuvres buffet before, of course, but the Main Course was provided by Sean Allan Krill as the Yankees' virile Joe Hardy, backed by a devious Devil and vamped by a sultry Lola.
Dirk Lumbard was a sleekly satanic and elegantly effete Mr. Applegate. Much better than Jerry Lewis was in the Broadway revival. But then, even Macaulay Culkin would have been an improvement on Lewis, no?
Oddly enough, the last time I saw Damn Yankees was not on Broadway. Instead, it was at the Boulder Dinner Theatre, when the American Theatre Critics had their annual confab at the Denver Theatre Center several summers ago!
Next Stop! Genesee Depot!
TEN CHIMNEYS MAIN HOUSE--Restored home of Broadway stars Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne. Photo: ©Zane Williams, 2002.
At Home With Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne:My other ATCA excursion was far far afield. Way into Wisconsin, to fabled Genesee Depot. That's the railroad station nearest Ten Chimneys, the home of those great Broadway & London stage-stars, Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne.
A Memorable Visit To Ten Chimneys Foundation-
In the Lunts' heyday, theatre-magazines, society news, and even gossip columns chronicled their summer retreats to Ten Chimneys. And, of course, also the celebrities who came to share this lovely estate with them, for a holiday far away from West End or Broadway stages.
These regularly included dearly beloved friends and talented theatre professionals such as Noël Coward-who wrote Design for Living for the three of them to play. To the semi-scandalized delight of their fans, who suspected it was based on their own intimate friendship.
Also a frequent guest was Helen Hayes, who had her very own bedroom. Other luminaries included such theatrical icons as Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, and the noted drama critic, Alexander Woolcott, the self-styled "Town Crier" and model for Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner.
RESTORING MURALS AT TEN CHIMNEYS. Photo: ©Ten Chimneys Foundation/Erika Kent, 2002.
Ten Chimneys is some 30 miles from Milwaukee, and even further from Madison. But when I was earning an MA in Speech & Theatre at the University of Wisconsin back in 1951, I would read about the Lunts arriving at Ten Chimneys and wish I could take a bus over there to tell them how much I admired them.
To love the Lunts, you didn't have to be a Broadway-based theatre-goer. The Lunts were of that Lost Tribe, real Theatrical Troupers. Before television gave even the untalented international brand-recognition, taking a Broadway Success out on a National Tour guaranteed nation-wide admiration and affection.
Half a century ago in America, the Lunts were more widely known than many scientists and statesmen. Only baseball heroes like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb may have had more visibility and recognition.
For many of my generation, "The Lunts" symbolized the very best in American Theatre: Dazzling talent, keen intelligence, delightful wit, great good looks, grace, elegance, fine manners, sensitivity, compassion-and powerful emotions, kept in check until the climactic dramatic moment.
My great good fortune was to have seen the Lunts both in The Great Sebastians and in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's shattering drama of naked betrayal and remorseless revenge, The Visit.
But I never got to meet them, much less get an invitation to come over from Madison to Ten Chimneys.
Years later-when I was putting together a panel of famous actresses for the Drama Desk in Sardi's Belasco Room-I did get a charming telegram from Lynn Fontanne.
ALFRED LUNT & LYNN FONTANNE AT TABLE DURING WORLD WAR II.
Photo: ©Warren O'Brien, 1942.
That season, Claire Bloom and Eileen Atkins were playing Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth on Broadway, in Robert Bolt's Vivat! Vivat, Regina!
Salome Jens and Nancy Marchand were at the Vivian Beaumont in Schiller's Maria Stuart. And Beverly Sills and Pauline Tinsley were their operatic counterparts at the New York City Opera.
They all agreed to talk about their experiences exploring and acting these famous queens. Margalo Gilmore, who had long ago played in John Drinkwater's Mary of Scotland, also joined us. Of course I had invited Lynn Fontanne.
But she was on a sunny vacation-not at Ten Chimneys, but in Florida. She cabled me: "Sorry I cannot be with you. But please tell them that if you play Elizabeth, you cannot have a failure!" Maxwell Anderson would have loved that reply.
This was the same Drama Desk meeting at which the late social arbiter Earl Blackwell announced the creation of the Theatre Hall of Fame. So it was an altogether memorable occasion .
Imagine my surprise, however, when I later told my Brooklyn College Theatre Majors about this event. Most of them had never heard of Lynn Fontanne, let alone Alfred Lunt. And none of them had ever been to an opera at Lincoln Center.
That was a long time ago, so it's small wonder that some of our Chicago contingent were not sure who the Lunts were. Or what they had contributed to the American Theatre…
LUNT & FONTANNE ON BROADWAY--Petrucchio & Kate battle in 1935 "Taming of the Shrew." Photo: Courtesy of the Theatre Guild.
So it is all the more important that the Lunts' memories and achievements will live on at the newly restored Ten Chimneys!
It is shocking for anyone who loves theatre to realize that there is no real Theatre Museum in New York City. Nor anything really worthy of that name in any other major American cultural center.
There are research theatre-collections and libraries in Manhattan, but they are not the same thing. Nor are they easy of access for the General Public.
Even the display materials of the New York Songwriters' Hall of Fame are now in storage way out on Long Island, at C. W. Post College. They've lost their Manhattan home.
In London and on the Continent, outstanding Theatre and Opera Museums are the rule, not the exception.
Even in remote but picturesque European villages-where a famous stage or opera star may have summered-there is apt to be a small museum or Gedenkstätte.
PROPOSED NEW PROGRAM CENTER FOR TEN CHIMNEYS. Photo: ©Anderson Illustrations, 2002.
Ten Chimneys is soon to become America's premiere Theater-Gedenkstätte!
What is perhaps most important about Ten Chimneys as a theatre-museum-as well as a newly established center for theatre research, conferences, and theatre education-is that everything from the Lunts' lives was still IN PLACE.
All too often, famous apartments, mansions, and even palaces have been stripped of their furnishings and mementos. Much later-to recreate the original home or office of the Distinguished Departed-curators have to search for actual memorabilia sold at auction after the owners' deaths and scattered across the world.
If Sigmund Freud's actual couch cannot be found, one like it will have to do.
Important decorative details of some of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Houses are now in major museums-which are not about to return them to the original rooms for which they were expressly designed.
Fortunately, that is not the case at Ten Chimneys. Everything Alfred Lunt or Lynn Fontanne bought or created for each of the many rooms is still in place. In the exact places they intended for these treasures, in fact!
LYNN FONTANNE'S DRESSING-TABLE PRESERVED AT TEN CHIMNEYS. Photo: ©Zane Williams, 2002.
This very nearly was lost. After Lunt and Fontanne had both passed on-and a surviving relative had also died-the estate was to be auctioned. And all its furniture, fittings, and wonderful memorabilia would be dispersed.
Fortunately, a passionate Madison restaurateur and theatre-historian, Joseph W. Garton, believed so strongly that this should be prevented that he bought the entire estate outright in 1996. With a seven-figure loan, against his own personal assets!
But even more funding was needed to make immediate repairs to the roofs and other exteriors, to protect inner ceilings and the marvelous hand-painted murals from further damage.
To that end, the Ten Chimneys Foundation was created in 1997. It bought the estate from Garton, who is today the Prime Mover in the ongoing restoration of the various houses and the creation of the new Program Center.
The fund-raising goal for these projects is $12.5 million. Over $11 million has already been subscribed, but even small sums are welcome so Ten Chimneys can open to the public on schedule in 2003. On 26 May, the Lunts' wedding anniversary!
For more information-or for making donations-log onto the Foundation's website: www.tenchimneys.org
Or, if you don't have Internet access or e-mail-and possibly actually saw the Lunts on stage!-write to Ten Chimneys Foundation, PO Box 225, Genesee Depot, WI 53127. A phone-call will reach them at 262-968-4161.
If Joseph Garton or his VP Sean Malone don't answer, you will surely hear the voice of one of the friendly and well-informed staff. Possibly the charming guide who took our group on an amazing tour of the various buildings, pointing out many treasures and decorations we otherwise might have missed.
The 18th century Swedish log-cabin is especially interesting. But the Hen-House-where Lunt installed his mother and sister, when he and Lynn moved into the main house-is also Swedish-themed, with colorful folkloric scenes of Bible stories original to Dalarna in Central Sweden.
TEN CHIMNEYS DINING-ROOM RESTORED. Photo: ©Ten Chimneys Foundation/David Mullikin, 2002.
But you will just have to go to Ten Chimneys yourself to see all these wonders. And to imagine what it must have been like to have had a gourmet meal whipped up by expert chef Alfred, and then share theatre anecdotes with Noël, Larry, and Helen!
On the way there or back, you can stop off in Milwaukee to see the handsomely restored Pabst Theatre. Over my desk there is a paper fan with this slogan: I'M A FAN OF THE PABST THEATRE!
But I have never been back to Madison since my graduation in 1951. Nor have the Badgers ever invited me to give a theatre-course at UW. Or even to donate to the scholarship fund!
No matter. I'm already committed to UC/Berkeley [AB] and Stanford University [PhD]. [Loney]
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