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

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