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Fellows Marry During MacDowell Residency After 15-year Partnership

Jonathan Gourlay - June 5, 2014

Type: Artist News, Artist Profiles

Breuer and Mitchell in Calderwood Studio.

Breuer and Mitchell in Calderwood Studio.

Lee Breuer and Maude Mitchell decide to elope while developing new theatre work at MacDowell.

Maude Mitchell met Lee Breuer in 1999 when they were in Utah at the Sundance Institute’s Theater Lab, and they’ve been together ever since. So, with the 15th anniversary of their partnership coming up, they decided to make it legal during their first residencies at MacDowell.

“It felt like the right thing to do – to get married here,” says Mitchell, explaining that both Sundance and MacDowell are creative islands in a social media culture “where you can breathe.”

Breuer, one of the founders of the avant-garde theatre troupe Mabou Mines, says he couldn’t think of a better setting to tie the knot than at the nation’s first artist residency program, especially since the MacDowell grounds take on an, “exotic character in winter, deeply blanketed in snow”.

The couple, who live in Brooklyn and have been recommitting to each other every five years, contacted a Peterborough justice of the peace, met at Harlow’s Pub downtown for an interview, and signed their marriage license. That night, says Mitchell, an actress perhaps best known for her OBIE award-winning performance as Nora in Mabou Mines DollHouse, they went back to Calderwood Studio, looked at each other and asked, “What have we done?” But Breuer describes how the next day they, “took a long snowy walk” through the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, “exchanging vows and Tuareg alphabet rings.”

Then upon filing their marriage license, they realized they had the perfect opportunity and place to celebrate their marriage intimately. The two invited Mitchell’s father to come up from Boston as well as a couple of close friends from New York, and the party went out for sushi to celebrate. Afterward, they invited the other MacDowell artists in residence to join them in Calderwood for cake and champagne, and danced to Otis Redding and Fats Domino.

In describing how they originally met, Mitchell explains that she was at Sundance working on The Laramie Project while Breuer was directing Terry O’Reilly’s Animal Magnetism. At the time Lee had his nine-year-old son with him and for Maude seeing, “a loving father juggling child care and attempting to be creative” offered an insightful introduction.

“I had no way of foreseeing that I would fall in love and find a partner to make work with in one fell swoop,” Breuer says, explaining that he and Mitchell have developed a creative bond that has taken them around the world to develop and ply their craft in places as far flung as Athens, Nairobi, Seoul, Oslo, New Delhi, Bogotá, Tel Aviv, and Zanzibar.

“Neither of us are spring chickens,” says Mitchell (he's 77 and she’s 53), “and that, coupled with the fact we’ve both experienced losing people close to us in recent years, has made us think hard about how lucky we are to have found a deep love late in life.”

“This residency points the way to how we want to conduct our lives now. MacDowell focuses the creative spirit and the emotions – it is a perfect place to both create, and be in love,” says Breuer.

“And it strikes us,” adds Mitchell, “that marrying here is both a way to honor our nearly 15 years of love, creation, and travel together, as well as an attempt to propitiate the gods – you see, we’re petitioning for at least five more years together.”