Ventfort Hall Announces 2009 Summer Show "Paris 1890 - Unlaced"

Posted April 29, 2009

LENOX, MA - Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox, Massachusetts announces their 8th annual summer theater offering: “Paris 1890 - Unlaced!” This world premiere one-woman show produced by Ventfort Hall in cooperation with Shakespeare & Company provides a humorous, slightly risqué, yet still poignant glimpse into Parisian society of the Gilded Age.

The play was commissioned by Ventfort Hall from playwright and author Juliane Hiam and will star Anne Undeland in multiple roles. Sarah Taylor, formerly of Shakespeare & Company, will return to the area to direct.

With a running time of just over an hour, this comical play brings to light an intriguing mystery featuring five women - all performed by Ms. Undeland: “Juliette,” a contemporary Gilded Age Museum director, “La Crème,” an infamous Parisian courtesan; “Hettie,” the wife of La Crème’s benefactor; “La Chapellier,” a very talkative milliner; “Gertrude,” an American innocent abroad; and finally, “The Virgin,” a flash-in-the-pan celebrity in the Montmarte nightclub scene ¬ singer, dancer, aspiring courtesan. In Citizen Kane style, as we hear from each successive character, we come a little closer to solving the mystery around which the entire play is constructed.

Ventfort Hall approached Ms. Hiam earlier this year with the idea of exploring Paris in the 1890s for their summer production. Jeffrey Folmer, Executive Director, says, “With our mission to bring to life the many-faceted worlds of the Gilded Age, we decided to make a bold splash this summer. Our plays have become a mainstay for us and we wanted to offer our appreciative audiences something light, funny and adventurous to escape into.”

“Paris 1890: Unlaced!” is filled to the brim with farce, laughs and naughty innuendo, but also manages to look deep into the hearts of the women involved. Ultimately, it delves into the social climate of the time, particularly for women, unveiling a number of surprises along the way.

An auspicious ensemble has been recruited, including Ms. Hiam penning the script and Ms. Undeland in the starring role. Sarah Taylor returns to the area from Chicago to direct, Govane Lohbauer of Shakespeare and Company is providing the costumes, and Carl Sprague is designing the sets.

According to Folmer, “As we continue to grow within the context of our many successes, we felt it was important to forge ahead with our artistic vision - exploring the Gilded Age from a culturally significant, albeit comedic angle. In the current economic climate we wanted to provide something both funny and serious at the same time ¬ no mean feat, but I have no question that this romp through Paris in the 1890s will prove to be a real delight! And with a nod to the economy once again, we’ve lowered our prices to make it a little easier for folks.”

Ms. Hiam came to Ventfort by way of Anne Undeland. “I had just performed in Juliane’s play "A Tanglewood Tale" at the Metropolitan Playhouse in New York City in January,” says Ms. Undeland. “I knew she had a sense for the period, but more than that, I knew she writes comedy, particularly a sexy brand of comedy centered around women. I thought this would be right up her alley.”

Juliane Hiam, a native of the Berkshires, was one of the youngest screenwriters in Hollywood to also direct her first feature film. At 21, just out of film school, she optioned her first script then directed “Dead Silence” that same year on location here in the Berkshires starring Danny Aiello, Sally Kirkland, and Maureen Stapleton; and went on to win several awards at film festivals including the AMC Theaters Best Screenplay Award and Best New Director. Subsequently she wrote several more screenplays before moving back to the Berkshires where she began writing plays for the stage. Her “A Tanglewood Tale” premiered at Shakespeare and Company in 2001 and was most recently staged at the Metropolitan Playhouse in New York City.

Her humor column “The World According to Jacoozi” was syndicated nationally with a circulation of over a million in newspapers such as the LA Daily News and its affiliates and the Berkshire Eagle. She recently finished a spin-off novel based on the column called “The Cum Laude Girls.” Her childrens’ plays have been performed at Shakespeare and Company, Mass MoCA and the Norman Rockwell Museum, and she currently serves as writer-in-residence at Kidspace, Mass MoCA.

Sarah Taylor returns to Ventfort Hall having directed the very popular Morgan O’Yuki, Geisha of the Gilded Age. Ms. Taylor has been a company member at Shakespeare & Company since 1998. She has worked with Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program as a director, teacher and choreographer with the Fall and Spring Festivals of Shakespeare, Shakespeare & Young Company, Shakespeare in the Berkshire Juvenile Courts as well as many other residencies. Her acting credits at Shakespeare & Company include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, The Tempest, Love’s Labor’s Lost, The Tamer Tamed, A View Beyond and Dibble Dance. Other regional acting credits include Cymbeline and Troilus and Cressida at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Macbeth at Worcester Foothills Theatre, The Taming of the Shrew Coast-to-Coast Theatre and The Furies, Machinal and Visions of Kerouac at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. She has also worked as a director, teacher and actor with the education programs at Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s Young Artists at Play, The Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Once Upon a Time and the Play Ground Children’s Theatre. Sarah holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Central Florida and a MFA in Acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Anne Undeland has appeared on stages in and around the east coast for the last 15 years, most notably in the one-woman shows “The Belle of Amherst” , “Xingu” and “Fanny Kemble’s Lenox Address” all in previous seasons at Ventfort Hall in collaboration with Shakespeare and Company. She is a Shakespeare and Company trained actress and has also performed with Mixed Company, Riggs Theatre 37, Stageworks, Castle Hill Theater, Barrington Stage, Capitol Rep., and made her debut in New York City this past January at the Metropolitan Playhouse. She is also a recurring voice in BBC Radio plays by Gregory Whitehead.

Carl Sprague has designed sets for almost every theater venue in the Berkshires as well as being a highly respected art director and production designer for feature films. His feature film credits include The Age of Innocence, The Paper, State & Main, Spartan, In Dreams, Before & After, Mona Lisa Smile, The Love Letter, and Amistad. As Art Director for The Royal Tennenbaums he received an Art Director’s Guild nomination. As a production designer his credits include the films Satie & Suzanne, Long Distance, Disappearances, Wedding Daze, Company Retreat, Another Harvest Moon, and Hatteras Hotel. His sets at Mass MoCA for the photographer Gregory Crewdson were featured in the New York Times.

“Paris 1890 - Unlaced!” opens June 26th with an opening night reception (including and “meet and greet” with the actress, director and writer. It will run through September 6th, with performances Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7:30pm , Saturdays at 4:00pm, Sundays at 10am (no performance Saturday, Aug. 29) Opening night reception tickets are $45 and all tickets thereafter are $22 with discounts available for groups of 10 or more. For further information and to purchase tickets call Ventfort Hall at 413-637-3206.

An Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum offers tours of the historic mansion, as well as lectures, concerts, teas, theater and other programs. This elegant Elizabethan-Revival Berkshire Cottage, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open to the public year-around and is available for private rental. Built in 1893 for George and Sarah Morgan (sister of the financier, J. P. Morgan), Ventfort Hall has undergone substantial restoration, which continues.

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