No one seems to object to the transcriptions and posting of AK’s comments which are at I’m putting comments and analysis on a separate blog, this one, so that people who don’t want to read such things don’t have to. This blog is set to accept anonymous comments, but I read them all and won’t tolerate flame wars. None have started.

Some of the most interesting and useful feedback on this material is coming in emails, some shared and others not shared, which I don’t want to post with names attached unless I have permission. I’m just going ahead to name the people AK named in her notes -- it’s been half a century since then, after all. Indeed, some of the email comments are arriving from people in that time period as well and those of us who know each other can probably guess who said what.

In good “discussion” mode, I’ll try to separate the issues from the people.

1. It is most moving that after fifty years the memory of personal relationships with AK have the status of love affairs, magical relationships that have inspired people for decades. They do NOT want that interfered with. Who would?

2. Likewise, there were a few people deeply wounded by past misunderstanding and schism and they, too, still hurt. To some this might be a reason to shut down, but to me it’s a reason to continue.

3. One opinion is that AK’s teaching methods are obsolete now. Students will no longer tolerate the confrontive and sometimes invasive tactics she used then. Indeed, some people wouldn’t accept them then, but they quietly went elsewhere. Is it a loss or a gain to give up the auteur model of teaching? Stanislavki was, after all, a Russian like the famously dictatorial ballet masters.

4. Is it true that academic theatre is nothing like professional theatre? You can still be tough on professional actors? (If Equity allows it.)

5. Some feel that theatre is totally different now. Whatever was important then is NOT important now. Or, to the contrary, theatre, esp. repertory theatre, is entering a renaissance that is vital and thriving across the country with new companies still being founded.

6. AK’s life trajectory is not really understandable without considering the time periods, the place, the administrators, sexism, and so on. No different from understanding a character in a play. (I confess -- this is my opinion.) All this happened before the Derrida Deconstruction craze, but we understand that, don’t we?

Mary Strachan Scriver

(Prairie Mary_

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Stage and Screen Are Ablaze with a Galaxy Discovered by Alvina Krause at Northwestern University
By Eugenie Wells
(Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine, June 4, 1961)

Show business centers on Hollywood and Broadway, but many of its great names got there via Evanston, IL, and the School of Speech of Northwestern University.

In the movie capital, the network television studios, the theatre dressing rooms, the name of Alvina Krause is familiar and respected.  A professor of dramatics, who has become a “Miss Chips” on the Evanston campus, Miss Krause is retiring this month after 30 years at the N.U. school of speech, but her students will be leaving their marks on the American drama for many years to come.

Jennifer Jones was Phyllis Isley, of Tulsa and points southwest when she studied with Alvina Krause.  Jeffrey Hunter was Hank McKinnies, of Milwaukee.  Charlton Heston was an Evanston boy who met his famed actress wife, Lydia Clarke, in Alvina Krause’s classes.

Alvina Krause was and is a tough taskmaster as well as an admired and beloved one.  She declares she never “discovered” anyone, she just tried to teach them to discover themselves.

She is loath to offer too much encouragement, even to promising young actors and actresses, for she is familiar with the tragic life of the player who spends a lifetime in grease paint and never wins great success.

“If a student learns at 21 that he doesn’t have what it takes,” she declares, “that’s bad enough.  But if he doesn’t realize it until he’s 35, that’s really tough.

“It would be a horrible thing, to encourage a youth, too sure of himself, to go to Broadway, and have him wish, five years later, that he weren’t there.  I don’t want to have anyone coming to me and asking, “Why did you let me go?”

There was one one-year course in acting when Miss Krause came there a generation ago.  Today there are three full year courses, with a total of 12 hours’ credit.

University students used to think in terms of “acting,” she recalls.  Now they think and study in terms of “interpretation.”

Miss Krause asks her students to keep personal journals in which they take note of every situation, every person they encounter who might contribute to their ability to interpret and project characters.  The notes are completely confidential betwen each pupil and Miss Krause, but she doesn’t hesitate to ask them to enact crises, tragic or embarrassing that come directly from their personal experiences.
On occasions Miss Krause has been known to ascertain that a couple of her students have become involved in a love affair.  She is liable to ask them, in classes, to improvise love scenes.

School of speech grads recall one year when Miss Krause asked a young lady to make up and enact on the spot, a scene set in an ice cream parlor, in which she hears suddenly that her father has just been killed.  Miss Krause was aware that, about a month earlier, the girl had been in an ice cream parlor when she received word that her father had just been killed.

Merciless?  Perhaps -- but Alvina Krause doesn’t pretend to pull any punches with her students.  And, while they fear her stern discipline on the campus, many of them learn to love her, and correspond with her for years.  The mail brings an unusual amount of letters from Broadway and Hollywood to the big old house a half block from the Evanston campus where the small, gray-haired lady has lived for many seasons.

She operates a summer theatre at Eagles Mere, PA, near Williamsport, in wich she employs primarily drama students who are at a level between college work and the professional stage.  Life for the players at Eagles Mere is no holiday either, as they play one show, rehearse the next, and study the one after that.

The ordeal is worth it.

Jennifer Jones, who went almost directly from the Evanston campus into Hollywood’s “The Song of Bernadette,” added to her fame with “Duel in the Sun” and other pictures.

Charlton Heston piled up innumerable credits, including those for box office appeal, and his Oscar winning “Ben-Hur” merely marks a peak in a career which has many years to go.

Ralph Meeker was in “Mister Roberts,” “Streetcar Named Desire,” and “Picnic” on Broadway before going to Hollywood for “Kiss Me Deadly,” “The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown,” “Paths of Glory,” “Desert Sands,” and “The Big House.”

Cloris Leachman also made her movie debut in “Kiss Me Deadly,” a Mickey Spillane shoot’em up, after playing on Broadway in “South Pacific,” “King of Hearts,” “The Masque,” “A Touch of the Poet,” and other plays.

Billie Lou Watt went from Northwestern into “Kiss and Tell,” which ran for nearly two years in the Loop and then continued on to a Manhattan stage career.

Two of Miss Krause’s girls, Patricia Neal and Jean Hagan (who had been Jean Verhagen at the school of speech), made their marks in Lillian Hellman’s bitter drama, “Another Part of the Forest.”  Pat won a New York Drama Critics Circle award in that production, went to Hollywood to make “The Fountainhead,” followed that with film roles in “A Face in the Crowd,” “The Hasty Heart,” and others.  Jean was on the screen in “Spring Reunion” and “The Big Knife.”

Jeffrey Hunter has been a virile hero in everything from “Gun for a Coward,” and “The True Story of Jesse James” to “The Proud Ones” and “The Great Locomotive Chase.”  His latest role: that of the Christ in “King of Kings.

Charlotte Lubotsky became Charlotte Rae, stole the show in “The Littlest Revue,” and came back to star in the Empire Room of the Palmer House.  Paul Lynde is in “Bye Bye Birdie.”  Carol Lawrence won plaudits in “West Side Story.”  Richard Stauffer is in “The Fantasticks,”  Georgann Johnson in “Critic’s Choice,” Jerry Orbach in “Carnival,” Nancy Dussault in “Do Re Mi,” Ron Husmann in “Tenderloin.”

Jerry Friedman coached Judy Holliday for “Bells Are Ringing,” directed New York’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park last summer, will direct a new Broadway musical, “The Gay Life” next fall.  Inga Swenson is understudying Julie Andrews in “Camelot.

The list of Krause pupils who went directly to Hollywood and made good would run into scores, not forgetting Martha Hyer, one of the most beautiful blondes ever to cross the Great Divide.

Among Alvina’s other graduates who have attained fame in various phases of the entertainment business you’d have to include Andra Martin, Paula Prentiss, and Ann-Margret Olson, the latter two recent additions to the Hollywood star roster; Judy Bement, who went from the campus Waa-Mu show to a featured role in “Medium Rare,” and the old reliable Edgar Bergen.

All of them can recall the days and nights when they studied under Alvina Krause.

Born at New Lisbon, WI, Miss Krause took her bachelor’s degree in science and speech at Northwestern in 1928.  She taught high school for a year at Seaside, OR, and taught for another year at Hamline University, St. Paul.

Her Hamline players came to Northwestern to take part in a festival of one-act plays, and Alvina was invited to stay and join the faculty.  She achieved her master’s degree in interpretation in 1933, and was appointed an assistant professor of interpretation in 1940.

When she retires this month, she will head for Pennsylvania and her 17th season at Eagles Mere.  After that, she’ll be back in Evanston, and doubtless will continue to be seen about the campus in an advisory capacity of some kind.

Northwestern’s school of speech has a famed faculty (some of whose members also studied under Miss Krause), and it of course will continue to be one of the foremost university dramatics centers in the country -- but is inimitable “Miss Chips” will be missed.

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