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A CurtainUp Feature
A New Kid on the Block: The Wharton Salon at Edith Wharton's Beautifully Restored Lenox Estate, The Mount
By Elyse Sommer
While it's wonderful to see that both the interior of the Wharton mansion and its lush ground have been beautifully restored, given Wharton's literary cache and the mansion's history for experiencing theater, producer Catherine Taylor-Williams deserves a hearty round of applause for once again letting Wharton's words live in the intimate setting of the salon. Taylor-Williams, like a number of the "Xingu" actors, was a long-time member of Shakespeare & Company which called the Mount home until moving to its present location on Kemble Street. Though that company, true to its name, mounts lots of the Bard's plays as well as more modern works, they no longer do the adaptations of Wharton's novels and short stories by Shakespeare & Company founding member and director of training,Dennis Krausnik, were all-time favorites —especially the annual Salon one-acts, with tea served at intermission.
When the Shakespeare folks moved to their Kemble Street headquarters, I salvaged the wooden board from their refreshment stand and used wood chips from the Mount's grounds to spell our our name. While this welcome sign is a treasured reminder of theater at the Mount, there's nothing like the real thing. And so for me, like many of the people attending one of the all too limited performances of the newly founded Wharton Salon was not only fun ("Xingu " is a hilarious little satire) but brought a flood of memories. It was great to have veterans of Shakespeare & Company's Mount days — Corinna May, Tod Randolph and Diane Prusha— back at the Salon, along with Prusha's daughter Rory Hammond, all handsomely outfitted by veteran costumer Arthur Oliver.
Adding poignancy and pleasure to what will hopefully be the first of many Wharton plays, is that the animosity surrounding the parting of the ways between Shakespeare & Company and the Wharton Restoration is now history. The two organizations will continue to go their own way but with a spirit of good will and cooperation. To prove it the Xingu audiences included many Shakespeare & Company folks and both Tod Randolph and Corinna May also have summer gigs on Kemble Street, Randolph as the director of The Dreamer Examines his Pillow and Corinna May in the cast of Twelfth Night.
I think if Edith Wharton could come back to The Mount, she'd join me in welcoming The Wharton Salon back to her lovely home and wish its founder and producing director Catherine Taylor-Williams and her co-producer Lauryn Franzoni, luck in making theater part of the Mount experience. For an idea of plays you might expect to see revived if all goes well, look for Wharton One-Act links in Curtainup's Berkshire Review Archives. You can check on what the Wharton Salon is up to by going to their Facebook page.