Tryon Little Theater’s Marianne Brown: director and actress

Published 6:03 pm Wednesday, August 28, 2013

by Connie Clark

The Tryon Little Theater (TLT) has lost another of its giants: Marianne Brown, who passed away at the age of 90 in early August.

Those who have been around this area for many years had the great pleasure of seeing Marianne perform on stage as well as direct several major productions over the years.

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At the reception following Marianne’s memorial service Aug. 8, Andy Millard, her longtime financial advisor and himself a performer of note, remembered seeing Marianne on stage September 2008 at the 40th anniversary gala for the Tryon Fine Arts Center.

Marianne Brown

Marianne Brown

Marianne recreated her role that evening as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s brilliant “The Importance of Being Earnest” in a scene with Dean Campbell, who was also reprising his 1981 role as Jack Worthing, the gentleman courting Lady B’s daughter Gwendolyn:

“Lady Bracknell: I have always been of the opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?

Jack [after some hesitation]: I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell: I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.”

Five years after hearing Marianne deliver that line, Andy says he still remembers the audience howling with laughter at her exquisite deadpan delivery.

Ah yes… Marianne Brown as a warm, loving mother and understanding wife in the classy comedy “The Philadelphia Story” in December 1980, then five months later gloriously imperious as Lady Bracknell in “Earnest,” and four years after that in March 1985 a manipulative, vain, duplicitous Mrs. Bramson in the thriller “Night Must Fall.”  An actor’s actor, Marianne could put on the character and disappear completely into this different persona.

And as a director, well! Soon after moving to Tryon, she directed her first TLT show, Noel Coward’s delicious “Hay Fever” in December 1978, and one year later she directed Philip Barry’s lavish comedy “Holiday.”

In March 1982 she tackled the offbeat and very funny “Petticoat Fever.”  Then two years later came what was probably the finest of all – William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker” about Helen Keller, her teacher Annie Sullivan, and Helen’s emerging from the prison of being deaf and blind since infancy.

Another two years and Marianne brought the thoughtful “Mornings at Seven” to the Fine Arts Center stage. Then a break of five years until March 1991 and the superb “The Lion in Winter,” the electrifying play on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, their three princely sons, the young King of France, and Henry’s mistress.

And finally in December 1997, “Da” (Dad in the Irish way of speaking), a memory play moving back and forth in time. Since Marianne had lived in Ireland for four years, this play let her travel back to her own earlier years and memories.

Marianne had studied Theatre at renowned Carnegie Tech, then studied voice in New York, Dusseldorf and Paris.

She had also worked for some time in New York City at New Directions Publishing, Muzak Corporation and Columbia Records.

And then the move to Tryon and directing or acting in 15 TLT productions.

How fortunate for all of us who had the great privilege of knowing and working with Marianne, and the theatre-going public who savored her work.