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Ten Chimneys Foundation Offers Opportunity for Theatre Students to Connect with Professionals



Ten Chimneys Foundation Offers Opportunity for Theatre Students to Connect with Professionals
Photo Credit: Ryan Drake - Carroll University

“What you create now out of nothing can become the best time of your life.”

This lesson, shared by acclaimed Broadway and television director Sheldon Epps, sends an important message to the up and coming generation of emerging artists. These words, as spot-on as they are today, also rang true to young artists Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontaine, a pair of 1920’s highest-paid stage actors in the country whose Wisconsin estate would go onto to become known as Ten Chimneys – THE place for aspiring and practicing theatre professionals to gather. 

The work of the Ten Chimneys Foundation is truly incredible. From tours of their beautiful estate, master classes with world renowned actors and directors, and other events to honor and celebrate the “art of living” – there’s always something exciting going on. President of Ten Chimneys Randy Bryant compares their work to the theatrical version of “seeing how the sausage is made.” He believes in carrying on Lunt and Fontaine’s love of the theatre through the enriching programs.

This past week, Bryant provided an opportunity to local theatre students at Carroll University by bringing Sheldon Epps onto campus for a discussion about his career, experiences, and what it truly takes to build a life in the theatre. Epps, who recently finished serving twenty years as Artistic Director at the nationally praised Pasadena Playhouse, is know for his directing work both on Broadway and television. Some of his television work includes Frasier, Friends, Sister Sister, and more.

Epps’ career began with an education at Carnegie Mellon as an acting major. After graduation, he and a group of students started a small theatre company in New York City. In their small, 75-seat theatre, his directing career was born. Epps shared with the students the importance of being able to make something out of nothing, telling a story of finding a stack of five hundred egg crates on the side of the road and using them to build one of their first sets. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all of the puzzle pieces yet. Maybe you won’t ever have them all. But don’t let that stop you from starting to put it together.”

Epps left the Carroll University students with some inspiring messages about building a career in the arts. “Be around it in whatever way you can be around it. Be a part of it in whatever way you can be a part of it. Don’t wait,” said Epps. “If you get beaten down and still want to do it, that’s how you know you’re meant to do it.”

Bryant and Epps ended the conversation by inviting the students to Ten Chimneys to sit in on a master class taught by actor Alfred Molina, known for his roles in films such as Spider-Man 2, The Da Vinci Code, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. It’s opportunities like these that help ensure we’ve got a group of young artists ready and passionate to define the theatre of tomorrow.

Carroll University's Theatre & Arts Management Program will be presenting it's 4th Annual Summer Repertory Series with a production of Next to Normal, August 11-19. Tickets can be purchased at tickets.carrollu.edu.

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