The Brandywiners, Ltd. celebrates 87 years of tradition in 2018! With more than 300 active
members the annual production budget exceeds $120,000. The success
of The Brandywiners is a legacy of its founders.
"Oklahoma!" at Longwood Gardens, 2008
Here's how it all began. In the Depression year of 1932,
prospects for college-age people were far from promising. But Frances
Tatnall, a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College, had an idea. While
returning from an operetta performance with her sister and brother-in-law,
she boasted that she and some of her friends could produce a better show
than the one they had just seen. She enlisted the help of William Winder
(Chick) Laird, then a student at M.I.T., and plans for a summer production
The fledgling impresarios engaged Frederick W. Wyatt, a prominent
conductor and vocal teacher, to direct a hastily assembled cast in The
Pirates of Penzance. Chick Laird was stage director, Fred Wyatt found
capable singers for the leading roles, and the co-founders recruited
choristers and committee members.
"Me and My Girl" at Longwood Gardens, 2003
The Longwood Gardens Connection
If you are the co-founder and director of a new theatrical company, it
is no hindrance to be the favorite nephew of an uncle who owns a
magnificent outdoor theater.
Chick Laird asked his uncle, Pierre S. du Pont, to permit The
Brandywiners to present their first performance at his Longwood Gardens
Open-Air Theatre and, except for the World War II years, 1942-1945, The
Brandywiners and Longwood have been inseparable.
"Mame" at Longwood Gardens, 2002
Throughout his lifetime, Mr. du Pont had been interested in the theater
since his childhood and frequently expressed the hope that directors would
effectively use his spacious 62' x 34' multi-level main stage. The
Brandywiners have met his challenge through the years by offering
extravaganzas that feature large singing and dancing ensembles, lavish
costumes and professional orchestras.
For the rest of his life, Pierre du Pont maintained a special interest
in The Brandywiners. His encouragement and behind-the-scenes support were
major factors in the development of an organization that has become a
major contributor to the musical life of the Delaware Valley.
Since Pierre du Pont's death in 1954, The Brandywiners have continued
their summer productions in cooperation with the Board of Directors of
Longwood Gardens, Inc.
"Crazy for You" at Longwood Gardens, 2000