Saturday, April 30, 2016

Theatre Royalty in Wisconsin: Lunt & Fontanne's Ten Chimneys

Tomorrow is May 1st.  And May 3rd marks the beginning of the tourist season at Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot, WI.  If you are unfamiliar with Ten Chimneys, it was the summer home of acting legendary couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, both of whom are buried at Forest Home Cemetery.  I had the incredible opportunity to tour Ten Chimneys last summer, and it is the Wisconsin equivalent to Memphis's Graceland, which I don't use that term loosely.

For as little as $35.00 you can see where Lunt and Fontanne spent not only their summers while they worked on Broadway, but also became their retirement home which includes the main house, rehearsal space, pool and country cottage in the Scandinavian style.

By the 1920's, Lunt and Fontanne were the most respected theatre couples of their era, even earning the respect of fellow actors Lawrence Olivier and Helen Hayes.  They insisted on appearing onstage only together, and they created the most realistic onstage love scenes of any theatrical costars in history.

Genesee Depot was where Lunt grew up, and he had such a love for the area that he insisted his mother as well as his son & daughter-in-law inhabit the guest house, pictured above, especially when he and Lynn were working back east.

One of the most important gifts to the Broadway community has been the foundation of the Lunt-Fontanne theatre on Broadway, home to many critical and box office theatrical successes, in New York. 

Although you cannot take photos of the interiors of the buildings, the tour itself was extremely fascinating.  The most interesting fact I learned (and saw) was that, despite the fact that Lynn Fontanne was British, she loved Alfred and America so much, she decided to become a full American citizen and displayed the British and American flags together in their study.

In addition to the summer tours, there are yearly artist-in-residence programs led by some of Hollywood and Broadway's most prolific stars.  This year, it's time for "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander to grace Ten Chimneys with his acting skills and knowledge.  Past residents have included Olympia Dukakis, David Hyde Pierce and Alan Alda.
For more information on Ten Chimneys, go to

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wooly Fun: 3rd Annual Alpaca & Fiber Fest

Yesterday, I drove about 40 miles north of Milwaukee to the Washington County Fairgrounds in West Bend to attend the 3rd annual Alpaca & Fiber Fest.  A large number of breeders and vendors were on display from all over the Midwest. In addition to ones from Wisconsin, I saw many from Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan.  The vendors had a wide variety of products to sell from Alpaca food and accessories to items made from alpaca wool including socks, hats, scarves and, cutest of all, stuffed animals.

I've always thought alpacas were incredibly cute, but other than that, I didn't know too much about them.  Alpacas come in two breeds: Suri, which have more of aa matted look to their hair:

And the Huacaya, which have more, shall we say, fluffier hair:

I'm more partial to the Huacaya variety.

In addition to the alpacas and products on display, they also had an alpaca show, similar to a dog show, where breeders compete for ribbons.  The show is divided up based on variety, age and gender.

The 3rd annual Alpaca & Fiber Fest was very fun and unique.  I may have to go back up to West Bend this summer to attend the Washington County Fair, where I'm sure there will be a lot more interesting animals to see.