|ROSEMARY COTTAGE on the Conklin estate at Huntington, Long Island, where Mr. and Mrs. William Faversham are planning the production of "Orestes" in Mr. Conklin's beautiful open-air theater:|
GREEK DRAMA AND FRENCH MUSIC IN NATURE'S LOVELIEST THEATER : BY MARY
T was just at twilight that we climbed the stone stairway to the hilltop, passing great jars of rose-colored bloom and merging through a vast stone arch to the edge of a sunken garden that seemed a succession of beautiful flowering terraces and that held the eye for a moment before it rested on a blue lagoon and then over formal clusters of trees out to the wide blue sea. It was like a vision of some fair old, old Latin garden with the rich-flowering cup-shaped hill ending in the line of blue, the deep foliage at the right, the two slender figures of Hermes guarding the bridge which crosses the lagoon from the hillside to the stretch of green turf.
Mrs. Faversham and I sat down on the edge of the top terrace that circled the great amphitheater and slowly, through the dusk, I began to realize that this lovely green cup on the top rim of which we were resting was the amphitheater of which so much has been written—the outdoor Greek theater on the estate of Mr. Roland B. Conklin at Huntington, Long Island. I have been studying outdoor theaters for a number of years and had heard a great deal about the beauty and wonder of this place; but I realized there in the twilight as I looked down from terrace to terrace, over one flowered wall to another, down until the blue lagoon cut my line of vision from the green stage beyond them that I have never seen or imagined such a beautiful outdoor theater as Mr. and Mrs. Conklin have just completed, and which will be opened in September by Mr. William Faversham in Richard Le Gallienne's presentation of "Orestes," especially made for Mr. Faversham's performance.
Before my twilight glimpse of the green amphitheater, I had asked Mr. Conklin just how he had developed this outdoor theater plan and he said, "It means three summers' vacations." For it has taken all summer long for three years to design and create and complete this beautiful place of entertainment.
Some years ago it seems that Mr. and Mrs. Conklin, while traveling in Europe, were very much interested in the fine old Greek and Roman amphitheaters and especially delighted with the one at Warsaw, Poland. Indeed, the only really suggested inspiration for this beauty spot on the Conklin estate is the Warsaw theater, so much so that when Mr. Ordynski visited it a few weeks ago he said at first, "It is wonderful, unique!" And then after standing silent and looking over the terrace to the sea for some minutes, he said, "Somehow it reminds me of the theater at Warsaw."
As I talked with Mrs. Faversham about the beauty of the theater, she said, "It is very hard to imagine how much hard work and how much expense is hidden under all this green, back of the stones and wall flowers, for every terrace is supported by a stone structure and where the front wall of each terrace is revealed seventy-nine varieties of wall flowers have been planted. In addition to this one hundred varieties of wall flowers have been brought over from Switzerland in seed packages to be planted and tested and eventually added to the American collection when proved worthy and beautiful enough. One of the wonders of this amphitheater to me is the fact that it will grow more beautiful every year. I can see the time when all the stone walls below the terraces will be gorgeous tapestries with lovely outline patterns in green vines running through. Of a more beautiful place to present a Greek play with rich and rare music we have never dreamed." And so it seemed to me.
LATER, the sun dropped away entirely, leaving just a pale rose canopy over the stage of the theater, and I could imagine there, Orestes' return to his own land, Clytemnestra's terrific arraignment of her husband, Electra's appeal to her brother that the father's honor should be vindicated, Cassandra's appearance in the magnificent train of Agamemnon, no longer a priestess, only a woman heartbroken and prophesying her own death. I could picture figures moving in and out of the green grove beyond, Orestes at last going mad with the tragedy that fate had forced upon him. I could see, too, the Greek dancers on the green turf with the gray Hermes regarding them gravely. And then I could imagine the wonderful curtain of water which will be used to hide the stage from time to time, which will rise up out of the blue lagoon a solid sheet, a thousand shades and tones from the lights that will be thrown over from the hill above. And then through the woods and over the lagoon I could hear the strains of Massenet's tormentingly beautiful music, the music that will fill the air as Cassandra kneels in desperation before Apollo, the music that will go softly out to the audience as Orestes mourns over his fate, the music that melts through the shadows as Clytemnestra declares her love for the new king and her never-ending revenge for the death of Iphigenia.
And Mrs. Faversham told me, as we sat there with perfume and night bird calls all about us, that they are to have the great good fortune of an orchestra of seventy-five pieces from the New York Symphony, directed by that rare musical spirit, David Mannes. Mr. Mannes is spending the summer with his family at one of the cottages on the Conklin estate, and many evenings are spent at the Faversham's house, a lovely centuries-old place called Rosemary Cottage, where scenes of the play are worked out together, with the music and the various actors and artists.
|Front view of the centuries-old cottage, hardly visible through the canopy of blossoming wild roses.|
The evening after our twilight vision of the play in the beautiful amphitheater, Mr. Faversham showed us something of his plan for the first act of "Orestes," playing for us each character with miraculous beauty and understanding. Then, from time to time, the music would flow out under his words, melt into his voice and we would feel for the moment, through the magic of one man's voice and genius, as though we were really out on the green hillside seeing the whole beauty of "Orestes."
|Wild roses in bloom over the porch at Rosemary Cottage.|
These evenings at Rosemary Cottage, with the smell of the sweet brier blowing in the low casement windows and the tang of the salt air coming to us as the wind freshened, are such rare evenings as one likes to picture, where groups of people, vitally interested, loving beauty, understanding art and willing to give their time, their energy, the very things that are a part of their capacity for living, to gather together something of rare significance for the happiness of the people who see it and for the benefit of a much needed American charity. It is so one likes to think of art, producing beauty and giving good gifts to the world and it is not always so that one can view art in this country because, unfortunately, America has made art a luxury. We count beauty for the rich, as we do jewels and champagne and comfort, and the spectacle of a group of people all eager to produce the greatest beauty they know for the sake of artis a rare spectacle, and one that cannot be too widely recognized.
AMERICA is bound to be interested in the people who are going to work with Mr. Faversham and Mr. Mannes for Mr. Le Gallienne's play, "Orestes." To begin with, of course, we shall have Mr. Faversham as Orestes, Julie Opp as Cassandra—and a magnificent figure we can imagine her in the rich robes of the conquered priestess with the tragic Massenet music, Miss Julia Arthur has offered her services for Clytemnestra, and there is a whisper that Phyllis Terry will add her fine Saxon beauty as Electra. Also we have been told just as we are going to press that Nijinski is to dance in the Greek dances. Surely this will add such beauty to the perfumed, verdant amphitheater as will provide the treat of a century to lovers of art.
Already groups of people are getting together to plan costumes and to rehearse the various parts that the production of the play shall and to rehearse the various parts that the production of the play shall be as perfect as the opportunity for its presentation. I understand that there will be no scenery as such, only beautiful costumes appropriate to the time (meaning Greece) and to the place (meaning Huntington), with much white as the Greek play demands and much color as today we are asking for in our outdoor theater productions.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things in connection with this production of "Orestes" is the community spirit that has been developed; and that makes one realize how little community spirit there is in the average large city. Here is a small group of people, artists and lovers of what is valuable, and instantly the purpose develops that puts before the world something that would otherwise have been missed. We find Mr. Le Gallienne offering his play gladly without a hint of what should be returned to him, we find Mr. Kennerley, who is the publisher of the play, offering the presentation of it, Mr. Conklin facing the immense difficulty of adjusting the seating arrangements, the wonderful curtain and various plans for the comfortable housing of the orchestra, the plan for rehearsals, the light equipment, which will be extremely beautiful and quite unique in effect, and then the artists themselves all eager to contribute, that one supreme thing maybe presented.
THIS is really the opening of the theater, although we understand that the quality of the situation was tested out some years ago by those good friends of The Craftsman, the Coburn Players. "As You Like It" was presented there from the stage as it stands today, but without the terrace, the lagoon, the bridge, the curtain of water and the formal stage planting; so that we really have the first production of the play, the opening of the loveliest outdoor amphitheater in America, and a group of artists and musicians such as one seldom finds congregated in even the most elaborate of metropolitan performances. The proceeds of the play have already been arranged to be given to the most popular charity in America today, the families of the guardsmen who are at present on the Mexican frontier. A group of Long Island society women are in charge of the sale of seats and vastly interested in the production as a means of accomplishing both beauty and good.
There will be two performances of "Orestes," one in the afternoon and one in the evening of September sixteenth, and it is hard to decide which will be the more alluring of the two, the one under the brilliant blue sky (for, of course, we are taking it for granted that it will not rain), with all the flowers gaily strewn over the amphitheater and a far glimpse of the sea, or the night performance with the extraordinarily interesting scheme of lighting, with the deep green stage and woods beyond, the mystery of the dark lagoon and the shining water curtain hemmed in by shadows.
Although Mr. Faversham is planning an important production himself in New York this fall, Bernard Shaw's delightful comedy. "Getting Married," he is practically giving up his summer to the Greek production at Rosemary Farm. ***The reviews*** And but a few days will intervene between September sixteenth and the beginning of rehearsals in New York, at which we understand there is a promise of the presence of Mr. Shaw himself to make sure that all is as amusing and satirical and bewildering in the production as he had planned in writing the play.
Click HERE for more on the estate "Rosemary Farm". Click HERE to see "Rosemary Cottage" at wikimapia. BING.
From The Long-Islander August 11, 1916 page 2 -
The Faversham Play Will Be Given at
Rosemary, September 16.
***It appears the production was threatened with the 1916 outbreak of infantile paralysis.***
From The Long-Islander August 11, 1916 page 4 - For the purpose of guarding against the possible spread of infection Dr. Gibson will take up with the Health Board the advisability of allowing the production of the drama "Orestes," in the theatre at Roland Conkiln estate, "Rosemary Farm", in September. This play, which is planned to be given under the direction of William Faversham, and in which Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt is particularly interested, is to be staged with at least 76 young ladles of the village and 100 of the young men, and in view of the fact that Miss Sammis***neighbors*** at the age of 19, had been stricken, it has been decided that the risk would be great.
|STONE BRIDGE TO THE ISLAND STAGE - OCTOBER 2012 - PHOTOS FROM JamesH|
|INTERIOR OF PUMP HOUSE - NOTE THE CLEAR SPRING-FED POOL - OCTOBER 2012 - PHOTOS FROM JamesH|
|MACHINERY USED FOR THE WATER CURTAIN - OCTOBER 2012 - PHOTOS FROM JamesH|
|PIPE FROM THE WATER CURTAIN - OCTOBER 2012 - PHOTOS FROM JamesH|
The Long-Islander August 11, 1911 -
" AS Y O U L I K E I T "
To Be Given at Rosemary Farm for the Benefit of Emergency Hospital of Huntington.
To those who have seen Shakespearean comedy only In the confines of a theatre there yet remains in "As You Like It" a revelation of alluring charm which is to be fully appreciated only when these plays are given in the manner that the Coburn Players present them—out of doors and in the natural surroundings amid which they fit so easily and harmoniously.
Both are full of the spirit of outdoor things, and one can never imagine the Forest of Arden so well an when it is an actual forest glade in which gather the Banished Duke and
his followers, and when there are real trees upon which the love-sick Orlando hangs his amorous messages to Rosalind. And one is more easily transported to Illyrla, too, when it is a real sky that bends above the devoted Viola and her brother Sebastian. Of all the productions made by the Coburn Players through six seasons these plays continue to be the favorites and repetitions are asked for this summer by many colleges and country clubs of the territory through which they make their pilgrimage.
The company is as strong or stronger than ever before. Although as in Shakespeare's day, there are properly no stars, Mr. Coburn and Mrs. Coburn are still leading man and woman, while the stage management is in the skilled hands of Agustin Duncan.
***Notable attendees to the Coburn Players production were Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Louis comfort Tiffany and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. de Forest and Mrs. Jullianna Ferguson. The funds raised were to be used in the erection of a emergency hospital for the village Huntington.***
The Long-Islander August 25 1911 -
CHARMINGLY PRESENTED ABOUT $2,000 NETTED FOR EMERCENCY HOSPITAL.
"As You Like It " Enjoyed by 2,000 People - Artistic Stage Setting—One bad Automobile Accident to Mar Saturday Evening's Pleasure.