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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

All That Glisters

The idea started with the Hirschfeld prints. Doug inherited these treasured pieces from his father. Albert Hirschfeld was an American caricaturist best known for his black and white portraits of Broadway stars that appeared regularly in the New York Times. Doug’s father, Angus Duncan, was the revered labor leader of Actors Equity; their pioneer executive director from the struggling theatrical 40’s to his triumphant retirement in the 70s. His collection of Broadway memorabilia was worthy of display. In each of our homes we’ve found a way to showcase some of these. Now, in our home for 2+ years we decided to makeover our powder room with a nod to the theatrical history of the Duncan family.

As perhaps the most frequently quoted author of all time, William Shakespeare has something to say on any occasion. Shakespeare was a favorite of Doug’s father, his grandparents, actors Augustin Duncan and Margherita Sargent, and of Doug’s great aunt, the legendary Isadora Duncan. So we wanted to incorporate some of the Bard’s best; with a different twist.

Local Georgia artist Kevyn Morris brought this to life. She lacquered the moldings and the ceiling in black. She then transformed the walls with layers of gold and bronze paint, to give the effect of an old theater. The floors are dark walnut (as is the entire house) and we left the original plantation shutters. Dangling from them are stained glass “masks” of tragedy and comedy, designed and made by Doug’s mother.

Framed on the walls are a collection of photos of Doug’s family from various theatrical performances. And our collection of Greek stage prints. On the gold striped shelf box are various pieces from Doug’s grandparents Broadway dressing rooms; mirrors, perfume vials, make up jars, powder boxes and hair wax decanters. In an old box we have just some of the hundreds of Playbills we have collected.

The Hirschfeld drawings are the originals from a New York Times piece on who “might” have done an admirable job in an unsuspecting stage role. Bert Lahr as King Lear; Sir John Gielgud in Tobacco Road; Ernst Borgnine and Ethel Merman in Noel Coward's Present Laughter; Carol Channing as Lady MacBeth. They are prized classics.

Kevyn then hand painted, across the top of the walls, some of our favorite quotes from Shakespeare’s plays. All the world is a stage, and so is a bathroom!

Left: Isadora Duncan, 1895; (center below) Augustin Duncan in Hamlet, 1915, (center top) Augustin Duncan with Mary Martin in The Lute Song, 1952; right top, Augustin Duncan as Puck in Midsummer's Night Dream, 1904. The others are lithographs of Greek theaters.

Here it is. An over-the-top powder room, that does not resemble any other design element of this house. So what! It’s fun and quirky, which defines us. To quote “The Two Gentlemen from Verona,” I have no other but a woman’s reason.

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