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


NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: CELEBRATING 150 YEARS.  Available from the Northwestern University Press.  Written by Jay Pridmore, a Chicago writer.

This is on pages 210-211.


Among the strongest departments at Northwestern at the time was theatre, and among its godmothers was Alvina Krause ’28, one of the legendary acting teachers for more than a generation of American performers.  At least three of Krause’s students won Academy Awards -- including Charlton Heston ’45, Patricia Neal ’47, and Jennifer Jones ’40.  That distinction was only the most obvious side of her skill as a director and acting coach.

Krause was not involved in acting for the glitter and celebrity.  Born in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, she enrolled at Northwestern’s School of Oratory in 1914 and taught high school after graduation.  She returned to Northwestern for a bachelor’s degree, than took a position at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The drama department at Hamline was in decline, but Krause whipped it into shape and brought a one-act play to a theatre competition at Northwestern and won.  Dean Ralph Dennis could not help but notice her talent and in 1930 hired her as an instructor in voice and interpretation.

Krause was soon directing productions at the University Theatre.  Her first play, Anna Christie, earned praise in the Daily for its emotion and “sincere effect.”  And for decades she coaxed actors into great performances, according to Bill Kuehl ’52, who remembered her “help” while getting ready to go onstage in the title role of Uncle Vanya.

Krause approached him backstage, and Kuehl expected a word of encouragement.  Instead she slapped him in the face as hard as she could.  Kuehl was shocked and his face was stinging, but almost instantly he knew what Alvina Krause was doing.  The blow “made me hurt and confused and unhappy, so that I would take those feelings with me on stage” and use them as Uncle Vanya, he said.

Less in need of an emotional jump start was Paula Ragusa ’59, later screen actress Paula Prentiss, who came to Northwestern with abundant talent but, some said, little discipline.  Krause could provide this and more, as she did for Ragusa one summer at the Eagles Mere Playhouse in Pennsylvania, a summer theatre directed by Krause and featuring mostly Northwestern student actors.  Ragusa, playing Queen Margaret in Richard III, was throwing curses at the court in dress rehearsal when Krause yelled, “Make them stronger, Paula, make them real.”  Perhaps frustrated at herself, Ragusa’s reponse was to snap.  She pulled half her dress off and snarled,  “If you think you can do it better, you wear the dress.”

Krause stayed calm.  “Now say the Queen’s curses,” she said, which Ragusa did, and the scene was transformed.  Also on stage at the time was another future film actor, Tony Roberts ’61, who had the next line.  “My hair doth stand on end to hear her curse,” Roberts said with added resonance that was not lost when the play opened to a live audience.

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