University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Beth Stafford

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May 4, 2010 
Enjoy a bout of "Hay Fever" at UWM

Hay Fever readthrough at Ten Chimneys
The cast and crew of the upcoming production of “Hay Fever” had their first read-through at the renowned Ten Chimneys.

The UWM Mainstage Theatre Series brings the style and sophistication of “Hay Fever,” by Noël Coward, May 4-9. The production is directed by Rebecca Holderness.

Photo by Alan Magayne-Roshak
The cast of Hay Fever
Rich Gillard as David Bliss (black tie), Max Hultquist as Simon Bliss (white tie), Toni Martin as Judith Bliss, in Hay Fever at UWM's  Mainstage Theatre Series

Playgoers will meet the glamorous and artistic Bliss family and their hapless houseguests, the subject of Coward’s classic and stylish comedy of bad manners. One weekend at the Bliss estate is enough to temporarily derange the romantic and marital landscape and send the guests fleeing – leaving their hosts comfortably indulging their eccentricities.

The cast and crew of the upcoming production of “Hay Fever” had their first read-through at the renowned Ten Chimneys, the historic Wisconsin estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Coward was a frequent visitor to the Genesee Depot property.

“The first read-through was held under the photos of Lunt, Fontanne and Coward himself,” said Holderness. “The cast and crew drew further inspiration for their roles from touring the elegant house and property.” (The opportunity was made possible through the generosity of the Ten Chimneys Foundation.)

Holderness was asked how difficult it is for students − who often seem more focused on the art of texting than the art of conversation − to leap into Coward’s world.

“It is a mistake, I think to consider that contemporary young actors are less interested in language than their counterparts in the 1920s,” said Holderness. “They live a life saturated with language, albeit rapped, twittered, e-mailed or texted. It did not take a great deal of effort to turn their interest to wit expressed in spoken language.”

She adds, “This play of elegance, musicality, incisive humor and bad manners is both interesting and compelling to them. As is a story that has at its heart a certain bittersweet yearning for the romantic assignation…however ill-considered.”

Holderness describes the “…elegant and theatrical Art Deco-inspired set that opens into a spring garden in colors that Maxfield Parrish might have painted. This chic production also features extensive examples of Sir Noël Coward’s wonderful and pointed songs in their original recordings. This will truly be a production that refreshes the senses and sharpens the wits after the cold of winter.”

Cast members and their roles are Rich Gillard, David Bliss; Max Hultquist, Simon Bliss; Megan Kaminsky, Sorel Bliss; Toni Martin, Judith Bliss; Tommy Stevens, Richard Greatham; Margeaux Reed, Myra Arundel; Linever Thurman, Jackie Coryton; Evan Koepnick, Sandy Tyrell; and Jessica Monk, Clara.

The production team includes Brandon Campbell, stage manager; Bethany Davey and Meredith Roat, assistant stage managers; Samantha Humburg, production assistant; Meghan Baskett, assistant director; Ryan Antross, research assistant; Kurt Sharp, scenic designer; Pamela Rehberg, costume designer; Stephen R. White, lighting designer; and Chris Guse, sound designer.

Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. A pre-performance talk on Wednesday, May 5, at 6:45 p.m. is free with admission. Single tickets are $15/general admission and $9/students, seniors and alumni. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 414-229-4308 or in person at the Peck School of the Arts box office in the Zelazo Center, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd. The satellite box office in the Mainstage Theatre lobby will open one hour prior to performances. The Mainstage Theatre is located in the Arts Center, 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd.