`Visit’ nets fan a dramatic find

`Visit’ nets fan a dramatic find

Cynthia Dennis

If Louise Muehl was skeptical about the role of fate before a recent London trip, she is no longer. The Waukesha resident is an avid theater supporter, particularly of anything pertaining to late theatrical greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Keen on seeing their Ten Chimneys estate in Genesee preserved, she has made several attempts to interest Britain’s royal family in a project honoring the British-born Fontanne and Waukesha’s Lunt.

In 1991 while in London, Muehl personally delivered a lithograph of Lunt and Fontanne to a representative of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. With it she provided literature on what was then a promising effort to turn the Ten Chimneys property into an American Inside Theater complex. In 1993 Muehl, a former board member of the group, again sent a brochure detailing the project. In both instances, she received cordial replies from the Queen Mother’s private secretary. She also delivered a second lithograph to a theater museum in London.

During Muehl’s most recent London visit, she and her husband, Thomas, were to attend a play. En route, a theater fair was in progress. “There were probably 250 people and 10,000 pieces of literature there,” she said. “I asked one lady if she had anything on the Lunts. She didn’t know who they were.”

Enter fate. Within minutes of visiting other booths at the fair, Muehl found herself clutching an original 1960 play program from opening night of the newly constructed Royalty Theatre. Starring in “The Visit” were Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

“It seems like it was sitting there waiting for me, a miracle I should find this,” Muehl said. “If someone else had found it, who knows if it would have meant anything to them.”

Though fate has favored Muehl, Ten Chimneys and its exquisite contents still await a savior. American Inside Theater founders Mark Simpson and Morrigan Hurt have backed off developing the complex to concentrate on theater. Project backers have suggested a community leader or “sparkplug” to head a capital campaign is needed. Meanwhile, people like Muehl remain hopeful that someone will step forward. Of preserving the Lunt-Fontanne legacy, she said, “I feel it is important to be a believer and supporter.”

Short Takes

Architect gets high honor A Hartland architect has become the first in his profession statewide to be selected for the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. Gary V. Zimmerman will accept the honor May 6 at the American Institute of Architects convention in Atlanta. It is the highest honor the institute bestows, excluding an international Gold Medal, and allows Fellows to use FAIA following their names. Zimmerman is president and chief executive officer of the award-winning Zimmerman Design Group in Milwaukee.

Copyright 1995

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