The 2017 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows

Hugo Armstrong
Center Theatre Group
(Los Angeles, CA)

"Nominating Hugo Armstrong for a residency at Ten Chimneys has been one of the great pleasures of my job this year. I make the recommendation on behalf of Center Theatre Group, but also on behalf of the entire Los Angeles Theater Community. I don't think that it is a well-known fact across the country that Los Angeles has a deep and thriving theater scene. Those of us that are here see it and recognize it, but in my travels around the country I am surprised that LA is really seen as a TV and Film town, and not much more.

Hugo is among the best known and most respected actors working in Los Angeles, in any of the mediums...but especially in theater. There is a devoted audience (myself among them) who will choose to see a production simply based on Hugo's participation. He has a reputation for a thoughtful and learned approach to a role, for being a leader (while remaining a "team player") and for delivering smart, deep, finely crafted portrayals of virtually any character that comes his way.

I am very proud to have had the chance to work with Hugo myself on a number of projects, and I feel that his residency at Ten Chimneys will be beneficial to him, to his colleagues there...and to all of us here in Los Angeles on his return."

— Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director

Cherise Boothe
Manhattan Theatre Club
(New York, NY)

"Cherise Boothe is an incredibly gifted, creative and unique actress who puts her own stamp on every role she plays. Cherise first came to Manhattan Theatre Club to originate the role of Josephine in RUINED by Lynn Nottage, directed by Kate Whoriskey. In a poignant play about the horrors of war in the Congo, her role incorporated humor as well as pain. She played a woman working in a humble restaurant where her duties included food service as well as catering to the "other needs" of the soldiers who patronized the establishment. She danced, she sang, and she broke the audiences' hearts. The play went on to win countless awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2009. She was also wonderful as Hannah in MTCs production of Sarah Treem's WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND UNAFRAID, directed by Pam McKinnon and starring Cherry Jones.

Cherise earned her MFA in Acting at the prestigious NYU Graduate Acting Program. She has worked in all of New York City's institutional theatres and is an Obie Award winner for her performance in MILK LIKE SUGAR by Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Rebecca Taichman. She has appeared in many top regional theatres including the Kennedy Center, Chicago's Goodman Theatre, The McCarter Theater in Princeton and the Berkshire Theatre Festival. At Yale Repertory Theatre she performed in Danai Gurira's FAMILIAR and most recently she was seen in BARBEQUE by Robert O'Hara at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Cherise's work in front of a camera has included feature films and numerous guest appearances on television. But she always returns to the stage where she has originated many wonderful and varied roles. Cherise is an important American actress, a valued Manhatten Theatre Club artist, and a lovely person. I am thrilled that she has been chosen to be a 2017 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow."

— Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director

Denise Cormier
Asolo Repertory Theatre
(Sarasota, FL)

"What a pleasure to write with unreserved enthusiasm for Denise Cormier to be a fellow at Ten Chimneys. During her time at Asolo Rep, Denise has revealed herself to be an absolutely committed, talented, and creative colleague. Though her time here has been relatively short compared to some, she has come to embody so much of what this company values. Her performances are invariably vivid, exciting, and grounded in absolute truth. She is a fantastic colleague in the room and every director who has worked with her has asked to do so again.

Some of her roles she has played for us include Margaret in GOOD PEOPLE, Birdie Hubbard in THE LITTLE FOXES, Lady Bird Johnson in ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY, Essie Miller in AH, WILDERNESS!, Mrs. Hedges in BORN YESTERDAY, Hillary St. George in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, and Princess della Cercola in OUR BETTERS. The directors she has worked with here at Asolo Rep include Frank Galati, Peter Amster, Greg Leaming, Emily Knapp, Nicole Watson, and myself.

As I record all this, it is astonishing to me that she has done all this body of work in only four seasons at Asolo Rep. The range of the work speaks for itself. Her willingness to take on any task we have thrown at her has been exemplary. Every one of these directors has loved working with her and would have no hesitation in recommending Denise for such a distinguished honor as a fellowship at Ten Chimneys."

— Michael D. Edwards, Producing Artistic Director

Bethany Anne Lind
Alliance Theatre
(Atlanta, GA)

"There are actors, if you're lucky enough to find them, who work constantly and yet never repeat. As long as I've been working with and watching Bethany Anne Lind, that's been the case. Not only are her characters these sui generis constructs, but the process she brings to each piece is unique to the work and its demands. So yes, the same person who captured the hormonally saturated rage of a drug addled adolescent in AUGUST OSAGE was the frighteningly repressed depression era time bomb of female middle age in EDWARD FOOTE. And the same person who broke her audience and castmate's hearts as the damaged but still hopeful heroine of CARAPACE was the fearless survivor at any cost in TROUBADOUR. And those last three shows were all world premieres where Bethany put an indelible stamp on characters still emerging, making them whole, making them leap to life and making the aggregate production worlds better for her relentless curiosity and prodigious skill. Directors like to have Bethany in their casts for premieres. She will mine the text, the room, her fellow actors and her own craft and psyche with question after question until something starts to feel true. And then she will try something else, just to be sure. She is a dreamy collaborator, a tireless creator, and a beautiful soul."

— Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director

Zonya Love
Milwaukee Repertory Theater
(Milwaukee, WI)

"It has been my pleasure and privilege to count Zonya Love, amongst one of our most valued collaborators at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, for the past several seasons. From my first encounter with her in our production of Blues in the Night, to her sensational performance as Celie in my production of The Color Purple, to her rich channeling of Bessie Smith in The Devil's Music, Zonya has time and again proven herself an astonishing musical theater artist, equally gifted with a deep textual facility. Not only does she have one of the most powerhouse voices likely to be encountered in the theater, but her resonant depth of connection to the material, rich inner emotional life, and boundless charisma combine to fill a theater like few other actors often can. Capable in the same breath of both towering power and deep vulnerability, she is nothing short of a compulsively watchable force of nature onstage. She has successfully assayed major roles on Broadway, international and national tours, sang in some of the world's most esteemed concert venues, and supported numerous artists both live and recorded. The earnest social consciousness and deep spirituality that she brings to bear on any endeavor are matched in scale and quality only be her technical skills, and she serves as a true mentor and inspiration to those in her company. I am as moved and impacted by the quality of her humanity as much as I am by the power of her performances, and it is my honor to add her to the list of exceptional Milwaukee Repertory Theater-connected artists that have already taken part in this important program."

— Mark Clements, Artistic Director

Robert Neal
Indiana Repertory Theatre
(Indianapolis, IN)

"When Robert Neal decided to make his home in Indianapolis many years ago, central Indiana audiences were blessed: by a man of great artistry, who relentlessly strives to seek new challenges, by a wonderful family man who has raised his children here and been involved in many aspects of the community, and by a gifted teacher and coach who has now taught several waves of budding theatre artists at the IRT and at area universities. Robert grew up in a small town not far from Indianapolis, and has made a long commitment to making theatre near these roots-while training and practicing his craft in many remote locations, he comes home to share what he has learned. Always a humble practitioner, Robert's talents are wide ranging-he's masterful with Shakespeare, but also created a one-man James Beard show that delighted audiences and peers alike! Lately he's also been making music with a local band, and incorporating that passion into his theatre making. He lives the commitment he's made to place, finding ways to stretch himself through directing and acting, all while staying close to home. We at Indiana Repertory Theatre, artists and audiences alike, can't imagine our world without his consistently inspired performances and are so proud of his inclusion in the 2017 Lunt-Fontanne Fellows class!"

— Janet Allen, Executive Artistic Director

Daniel Pearce
The Public Theater
(New York, NY)

"Daniel Pearce is a deeply gifted, passionately committed actor, who can hold his own opposite Kevin Kline and in maximum security prisons. He has a wonderful love of Shakespeare's verse, and is able to use the language beautifully without ever sounding theatrical or false. He has been a stalwart for the Public Theater in this last decade; I would draw particular attention to his commitment to our Mobile Theater Unit, which is the tip of the spear in our activist theater. The Mobile goes to the most disadvantaged and despised parts of our city, from Riker's Island to Homeless shelters, and offers up Shakespeare in powerful, direct, non-patronizing productions. Daniel has been a warrior of this program, twice touring with us, and I am especially admiring of his athletic commitment to this, the most important of our programs."

— Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director

Stephen Pelinski
Resident Ensemble Players
(Newark, DE)

"Stephen Pelinski is the kind of rare theatre artist that in Japan they refer to as a "national living treasure." He is exemplary of those heroes and heroines in our profession who have chosen a life on the stage in front of live audiences in plays of merit and in collaboration with other fine stage actors over other forms of acting. Stephen's career is one of the most exceptional in the American Theatre. He has played a staggering number of the great roles of our dramatic heritage at a great many of our finest institutions, in productions directed by many of the giants and legends of our profession. Stephen's artistry and experience are matched by a big heart, an unwavering commitment to his colleagues, and an unyielding stand for our profession and for ensemble based, resident acting companies.

Stephen's facility, talent, and open, loving spirit enable him to shift easily from playing the lead in one production to being the butler in the next (with the same level of diligence, attention to detail, and distinctive creativity in each.) He is beloved as well as deeply respected by his colleague actors at our theatre (and, believe me, this is a group of equally formidable players, who are not shallow in their assessments!)

After years of work distinguished by exceptional depth, power, and versatility, Stephen remains hungry to learn and expand his craft - he jumps at the opportunity to work with the voice, movement, or text coaches we invite to our theatre. In addition to his continuing work as a resident actor, he has recently become a resident director at our theatre, as well.

In recognizing Stephen Pelinski with this honor, a particular kind of stage actor is honored - the kind of actor whose range, versatility, ability to transform, and capacity to work in many different ways is even more dazzling in sum than it is in each individual performance. Such actors leave audiences moved and touched by each character they portray, but also with a cumulative benefit: they make us present to our own power to transform and remind us that we are not limited to our seemingly fixed identity.

I am proud to nominate Stephen for this prestigious award. I truly believe that he is the kind of actor for whom this honor was created. The Lunts would be very pleased."

— Sanford (Sandy) Robbins, Producing Artistic Director

Keith Randolph Smith
Manhattan Theatre Club
(New York, NY)

"Keith Randolph Smith is an actor's actor. His talent has been part of four Manhattan Theatre Club seasons since 1995 when he first graced our off-Broadway stage in the title role in HOLIDAY HEART by Cheryl L. West, directed by Tazewell Thompson. Keith played a drag queen with a huge heart who used her gentleness and humor to teach a 12-year-old girl who had been abandoned by her mother about the world. He was magnificent and The New York Times said he gave "crowd-pleasing life" to his character, even though he is an actor "the size of a football player." He returned to MTC for KING HEDLEY II and COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA starring S. Epatha Merkeson, directed by Michael Pressman. He most recently appeared as Doub in our Broadway premiere of August Wilson's JITNEY, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. He and the company, as well as the production, have received stellar reviews.

After serving three years in the United States Army, Keith trained at Karamu House Theater in Cleveland before moving to New York where he has appeared in every major off-Broadway theatre, including the Public Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage Theatre, Classic Stage Company and the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park and on Broadway six times. He has also worked consistently in some of the most prestigious regional theatres across the United Stages including City Theatre, Pittsburgh; The Old Globe, San Diego; the Goodman Theatre, Chicago; and Pittsburgh Public Theatre.

Though Keith displays outstanding flexibility and range performing Shakespeare, Moliere, Brecht and roles in works by some of the nation's best contemporary living playwrights, Keith has a particular expertise in and affinity for the language of August Wilson and has certainly been a huge contributor to the body of his work on the American stage. Keith has appeared in three Wilson plays on Broadway: JITNEY (Broadway premiere), KING HEDLEY II (Broadway premiere) and FENCES. He has also performed KING HEDLEY II at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and JITNEY at Huntington Theater in Boston, Baltimore Center Stage, Buffalo Studio Theater, Geva in Rochester, ACT in San Francisco, Seattle Rep and the National Theatre in London.

It is with great pride that I nominated Keith and I applaud him on being chosen as a 2017 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow. He will bring with him to Ten Chimneys his talent, his warmth and his complete commitment to the theatre. Keith is a consummate artist and one of the finest, kindest and most dedicated actors that has graced the Manhattan Theatre Club stages."

— Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director

Michael Winters
Seattle Repertory Theatre
(Seattle, WA)

"I first worked with Michael about five years ago, when I directed a new play by Samuel D. Hunter at Seattle Rep. Michael helped us with a quick one-day reading to hear a first draft. I remember how thrilled I was to have Michael reading the lead role - it's rare to be able to get him on short notice, especially in the summer when he is often working at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or elsewhere. His instincts for the part, and the tone and rhythm of Sam's writing were incredible and he became an essential collaborator on the project all the way through the premiere a year and a half later. Michael's process is somewhat private, but never precious-he honors the mysteries and contradictions of the characters he plays. He processes a sharp, curious mind and acute sensitivity to the gentlest shifts of emotion. And yet he also exudes tremendous power, charisma, and commands the stage with natural presence and effortless vocal skill. He is equally at home in the language of Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, and O'Neill. I've been mesmerized by his ability in a wide range of parts from Lear, to James Tyrone, to Jody in Lonely Planet. Playwrights write for him and towards him as Steven Dietz did, and as Sam Hunter did in the play we worked on together, A Great Wilderness. Michael's career spans more than four decades now. He is one of the great American stage actors with impeccable craft-learned coming up through repertory companies-and incredible range. He is also a generous mentor and company member. One of my fondest experiences working with Michael was watching him during the rehearsals for A Great Wilderness. In his scenes with Jack Taylor, a high school junior making his professional debut, Michael gave Jack the respect of a fellow veteran, while also guiding and encouraging the young actor with an invisible hand. Even though he works all over the country, Michael still makes his home in Seattle. We are very fortunate to have him and the unforgettable performances he has shared with us over the years. On behalf of our city and Seattle Repertory Theatre it's a great pleasure to nominate Michael for this prestigious fellowship."

Braden Abraham, 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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