LongHouse Reserve’s annual season opening, Rites of Spring, will be held this Saturday, April 28, from 2 to 5 PM. Jack Lenor Larsen, an internationally known textile designer, author, and collector, founded LongHouse in 1975. Located in East Hampton on a 16-acre property, the reserve and sculpture garden showcases art in all forms throughout its breathtaking landscape, collections, and programs.
During the opening, the amphitheater will be renamed in tribute to the late playwright Edward Albee, who passed away in 2016 and would have celebrated his 90th birthday in March. Albee was Larsen’s longtime friend, dating back to the 1950s, and once served on LongHouse’s arts committee.
Academy Award winner Mercedes Ruehl, of Springs, will perform the opening scene of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with fellow actor, Harris Yulin — the very same scene Albee read with actress Elaine Stritch in 2001. Video footage of that reading will be played throughout the day.
“I adore LongHouse; [board president] Dianne Benson is a friend. They asked if I would consider doing this because I knew and worked with Edward Albee a number of times,” Ruehl explained.
“I’m very happy to be able to do this. The first time I saw [LongHouse] was over 20 years ago. I was so enchanted. I’d never seen any place like it, and that enchantment has continued.”
“Every Christmas morning, [Albee] would call me. It was an endearing habit,” Ruehl reminisced. “The first time I picked up the phone, I just started singing ‘Feliz Navidad,’ and that really tickled him. I also remember his wonderful Christmas parties in his loft in New York. That was the invitation to get if you could.”
Ruehl continued to walk down memory lane, reminiscing about the playwright. In 2010 a dear friend of Albee, Joanna Steichen, passed away. It was Christmas morning and Albee scattered his late friends ashes somberly into the Atlantic Ocean, before placing the traditional morning call to Ruehl. “It was very touching . . . I remember thinking, he had the most incredible capacity for loneliness,” she recalled, inviting him over for Christmas dinner, to which he denied. “A lot of people go to great ends not to experience the loneliness that’s inherent in the human experience, but not him and I admired him enormously for that.”
Former National Endowment for the Arts Chair, Jane Alexander, will give a speech, which will be followed by the launch of the Edward Albee Memorial Fund for art purchases. New art installations will include work by Judith Shea, known for her 3D bronze and hollow iron figures, and Orly Genger, who creates monument-size rope sculptures.
LongHouse Reserve is located on 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton. For more information, call 631-329-3568 or visit www.longhouse.org.