Rock the Oscars 2019: Robinson Center Performance Hall

Over the years, Robinson Center Performance Hall has played host to numerous Oscar winners and Oscar nominees.

Stage actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made only one movie, but each were Oscar nominated for their performances in The Guardsman.  Over the years, they made several appearances in Little Rock in plays.  Their first visits were to the Little Rock High School auditorium. Once Robinson opened, they appeared on that stage. In There Shall Be No Night, they shared the stage with future Oscar nominee Montgomery Clift.

Two time Oscar winner Helen Hayes appeared on stage at Robinson.  At the time, she was only a single Oscar winner (Best Actress for The Sin of Madelon Claudet).  Later she would pick up her second statuette for Supporting Actress in Airport.

Four time winner Katharine Hepburn graced the stage of Robinson in the 1940s.  Her first Oscar was for Morning Glory.  By the time she appeared at Robinson she had that award.  Later she would pick up Oscars for The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond.

Charles Boyer never won an Oscar in a competitive category (though he was nominated).  He did however win an Honorary Oscar in the 1940s for his promotiono of French culture during World War II.  He appeared on stage at Robinson in the early 1950s as part of the tour of Don Juan in Hell (written by Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw — yes Shaw won an Oscar for the screenplay of Pygmalion.)

Multiple Oscar nominee, and special Oscar recipient, Mickey Rooney appeared on stage at Robinson in 1986 in the national tour of Sugar Babies.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: IDIOT’S DELIGHT national tour

IdiotIn 1939, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were undertaking two near-simultaneous national tours.  This brought them to Little Rock twice in less than a month.  The first, on February 20, 1939, was for Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize winning Idiot’s Delight.

Set in a European hotel on the eve of World War II, it concerns a group of disparate hotel guests who are trying to make sense of the future.  While the play was directed by Bretaigne Windust, the play carried the billing that the production was “conceived and supervised by Mr. Lunt and Miss Fontanne.”

The cast included many members of the original Broadway company including Richard Whorf, Sydney Greenstreet, Jacqueline Paige, George Meador and Barry Thomson.

The original production had run on Broadway in 1936. Their next Broadway show was Amphitryon ’38 in 1937 and 1938.  In 1939, they took these two shows on tour with their regular group of actors.  (They came back to Little Rock in March with Amphitryon ’38).

The Lunt’s next visit to to Little Rock after March 1939 would be to Robinson Memorial Auditorium in There Shall Be No Night.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers Play in Little Rock: Lunt and Fontanne in THERE SHALL BE NO NIGHT

ThereShallBeOn the eve of the US entry into World War II, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne returned to Little Rock in the national tour of Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize winning There Shall Be No Night.  It played at Robinson Memorial Auditorium on Monday, November 24, 1941.

Set in Finland in the time leading up to and during the start of the Russian invasion, it looked at the impact of impending war on a family.  Between the time it premiered in March 1940 and the tour in 1941, so many European countries experienced the horrors of war as countries were overtaken and troops were either killed or pressed into service by the enemy.  A program note in the playbill outlined much of this and noted how the script had not been updated to reflect the changes in world events.  (When Robinson opened in February 1940, the Russian invasion of Finland was a top international story.)

Joining Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were many members of the original Broadway cast including Sydney Greenstreet, Thomas Gomez, Elisabeth Fraser, and Maurice Colbourne.  Also from the original cast was a young actor who played the Lunts’ son, Montgomery Clift.

The play was directed by Mr. Lunt.  The sets were by first time Broadway designer Richard Whorf.  He would go on to have an illustrious career as a theatrical designer.  He had been an actor on Broadway and was a member of the unofficial Lunt-Fontanne repertory company of actors.  The costumes were by Valentina, who often designed costumes for Miss Fontanne.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Rock the Oscars: Robinson Center Music Hall

Over the years, Robinson Center Music Hall has played host to numerous Oscar winners and Oscar nominees.

Stage actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made only one movie, but each were Oscar nominated for their performances in The Guardsman.  Over the years, they made several appearances in Little Rock in plays.  Their first visits were to the Little Rock High School auditorium. Once Robinson opened, they appeared on that stage.

Two time Oscar winner Helen Hayes appeared on stage at Robinson.  At the time, she was only a single Oscar winner (Best Actress for The Sin of Madelon Claudet).  Later she would pick up her second statuette for Supporting Actress in Airport.

Four time winner Katharine Hepburn graced the stage of Robinson in the 1940s.  Her first Oscar was for Morning Glory.  By the time she appeared at Robinson she had that award.  Later she would pick up Oscars for The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond.

Charles Boyer never won an Oscar in a competitive category (though he was nominated).  He did however win an Honorary Oscar in the 1940s for his promotiono of French culture during World War II.  He appeared on stage at Robinson in the early 1950s as part of the tour of Don Juan in Hell (written by Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw — yes Shaw won an Oscar for the screenplay of Pygmalion.)

Multiple Oscar nominee, and special Oscar recipient, Mickey Rooney appeared on stage at Robinson in 1986 in the national tour of Sugar Babies.

ROCKing the TONYS – Lynn Fontanne & Alfred Lunt

Rock the TonysThe LuntsLynn Fontanne & Alfred Lunt

Little Rock connection: Appeared at Robinson Auditorium in 1941.  The couple often toured the country in their Broadway plays. This appearance was probably in the Pulitzer Prize winning There Shall Be No Night which had been their 1940 Broadway success.

Tony Awards connection: The couple received a special mounted dual Tony Award in 1970.

Lunt received a 1954 Tony for directing Audrey Hepburn in Ondine. The next year he received a Tony for acting in the play Quadrille. In 1959, he received a Tony nomination for his performance in the play The Visit, his final Broadway appearance as an actor.

Fontanne was nominated for her performance in The Visit, which was her final Broadway appearance.

Most of this couple’s career predated the Tony Awards. Tony nominations weren’t announced until 1956, so it is unknown whether Fontanne received a nomination for Quadrille.