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_

Monday, May 13, 2013


by Dan Sullivan
LA Times, July 29, 1970

SANTA MARIA.  The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts of Allen Hancock College:  It sounds like one of those institutions that take ads in the back of “unglossy” magazines promising you a lifetime career in espionage or cartooning.  In fact, the school, named after the Los Angeles millionaire who donated its site, is a respectable member of California’s junior college system.  And its summer “conservatory” program for young people who want to go into the theatre promise only the chance to live and work with a busy repertory company.

But Donovan Marley, director of the college’s theatre department and founder of the summer of the program, has worked to make the Santa Maria experience richer than the old stock-apprentice system it resembles.  Eight academic credits go with it.  The plant, a $1 million thrust-stage theatre, patterned after the Guthrie in Minneapolis, is first -class.  The plays, ranging this year from Anouilh’s “Becket” to “Life with Father” are cast immediately; if you don’t get at least one part, you get your $400 back and can go home.  (Or as most do, you can stay and do technical or fronted the house work.)


Most important, Marley’s staff knows theater and knows young people.  Gordon Peacock, directing “Saint Joan” this year, is head of Canada’s largest university theater department, that of the University of Alberta.  Set designer Robert Blackman did the scenery for the American premiere of Feiffer’s “God Bless” at the Yale Repertory  Theater.  The seven young professional actors who form the core of the company (with Equity approval) are young but seasoned.  And -- Alvina Krause.

Some readers will not know who Miss Krause is.  Others will be surprised to know she is still teaching.  Since her retirement -- not, one gathers, voluntary -- from Northwestern in 1963, she hasn’t been teaching on a regular basis.  But at 75 she is a busy guest lecturer. has made a series of films for educational TV and very occasionally takes on a guest director’s assignment.  Last year she staged “Three Sisters” here (she accepted the assignment, she said, because she had finally decided what the play is about) and this year she is doing “Becket.”

Marley wanted Miss Krause because during her 33 years at Northwestern she ha become what is called a legend in her own time, maybe the best acting teacher in the country.  Her students have included Patricia Neal, Salome Jens, Jerry Orbach, Dick Benjamin and Charlton Heston.  Also, Walter Kerr, whom she had advised not to tecome an actor.  (Too earnest.)

A mystique grew around Miss Krause in her Northwestern years: she was one of those teachers you have crushes on years after you thought you’d stopped having crushes.  Gerald Freedman, director of the New York Shakespeare Festival, put it this way:  “You suddenly realized you had collided with someone who demanded that you take full measure of yourself.”  Another alumnus wrote:  “If Alvina Krause had been born 300 years ago, she would have been burned as a witch.”

Watching her rehearsing “Becket” for its Tuesday night opening, you were reminded less of a witch than of a fairy godmother -- an unfrilly one, like Cinderella’s.  Miss Krause is tiny, wears sensible shoes and, despite the forbidding portrait above, has in persona a deceptive air of being pleased with the way things are going: as if she were looking up at a six-foot son and telling him he looked just fine.  This rather folksy image has its uses -- Miss Krause can issue a zinger so pleasantly that it’s into you and working before you realize it’s not a compliment.


Like most directors she complains about having to teach acting as well as get a show together.  This is rhetoric.  Clearly, she loves to do both.  She is on her feet every minute during rehearsal, following the action like a head linesman.  Then she goes home and types up notes, which some smart publisher will someday make a book of.  The lady is involved.

Marley admires her, because “she makes actors think; and anybody who can do that . . .”  she considers the leading heresy of this or any age is that acting consists of saying words emotionally.  Rather, with Stanislavsky and Boleslavsky, she sees the actor’s task is to be a matter of re-creating the big and little stimulus and responses that constitute your character’s life (everybody’s life), emotion coming as a natural aftermath.  This means that everyone who does a show for Miss Krause, down to the spear carriers, has to know what is going through the nervous system of his character at every moment, and to an extent feel it.  It they don’t, they get caught

“Norman priests and barons -- be aware that a Saxon may infiltrate your entourage,” she had warned Henry II’s honor guard in a note early in rehearsals.  “Never be unaware of movement behind you.”  The warning did not sink in.  So, at the rehearsal I watched, Miss Krause had a fellow on the sidelines come bursting into the scene, bowl over the guards, and wrestle Henry to the ground.  It was a surprise to everybody, especially Henry (Laird Williamson) but the point was made.

Acting to Miss Krause is believing with your body.  Trying to get the right pinking quality into Henry’s and Becket’s reporter, she made Williamson and Vance Jefferis fence their way through the scene.  For an intimate moment n a cave during a storm, she flicked the lights on and off in the rehearsal hall for lightning and made those on the sidelines drum their nails on the floor for rain.  Automatically the players slowed down, playing the silences as well as the words of the scene.

She prowled the stage like a poltergeist, quietly crooning the thoughts of a character as an actor would speak his lines, suddenly clapping her hand over the mouth of a player who was supposed to spit, making him need to spit.

“You’re using this too much,” she said, tapping Williamson’s head.  “Stop thinking How.  Let the scene play you.”  To capture Henry’s isolation before a Saxon crowd, she had Williamson look around the room “and tell us what it’s like to be stared at by actors who think they can do the scene better than you can.”  The actors on the sidelines caught the mood.  “Boo, screw it up!” they chanted.  “They’re faking now,” Miss Krause said pleasantly.  “Should have seen their faces a minute ago.”

Forget the words, play underneath the words, she kept telling them.  The character says this, but isn’t he really thinking about what he’s going to say next?  Now is he really gruff here, or does he know that if he isn’t gruff he’s going to go to pieces.”  “Archbishop,” she yelled to a silent player in one scene.  “What’s bothering you here?”

“I’m the Archbishop and I’m not used to being kept waiting.”

“What are you going to do about it.”

“I’ll wait, damn it.”

“Very good.”

She made the extras in a crowd scene tell how exactly how much they had been bribed to cheer for Henry.  (“Is that all?  I got more.”)  She made a girl with three lines picture exactly what it would mean for a peasant girl to go off to the palace as a courtesan.  (“What does that mean to her?  Ice cream sodas?”)  She was the Story Lady, getting everybody into the world of the play, and if she wouldn’t go, she pushed you.

Afterwards she talked, not effusively, about her method.  She has always worked this way  It is Stanislavsky -- and lots of other people.  The state of American acting is “rather sad,” mostly because no one really believes that acting can be taught as music is.  She likes Santa Maria.  “I like the attitude, the vision.  It isn’t flighty.  It begins down here.”  She points at the floor.  Where she begins.

Friday, May 10, 2013




“She is a catalytic agent; something has to happen to you when you encounter her.  You cannot ignore her.  You suddenly realize you have collided with someone who demands that you take full measure of yourself.”   -- Gerald Freedman

If Alvina Krause has been born 300 years ago, she would have been burned as a witch.  No other explanation would have served to account for the extraordinary effect she has on young people -- and often on older ones as well.

In thirty-three years as a teacher of acting at Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL, she taught a roster of students which reads like a Who’s Who of American Theatre:  Patricia Neal, Charlton Heston, Walter Kerr, Inga Swenson, Jean Hagen, Gerald Freedman, Jeffrey Hunter, Ralph Meeker, Jerry Ohrbach, Martha Hyer, Salome Jens, Paula Prentiss, Joe Bova, Nancy Dussault, Robert Reed, Bill Daniels, Carol Lawrence, Dick Benjamin.  And the list goes on and on.

But numbers are not important: that could be luck, or coincidence.  The remarkable thing has always been her knack for inspiring the young, her drive, her imperishable idealism, her incredible vitality, and the last impression she leaves on her students.

In June of 1964, she delivered a lecture on an assembly program at the Evanston Township High School.  A sixteen year old boy in the audience wrote his impressions after hearing her speak for the first time:  [In a composition which reached us via his English composition teacher.]

“To me Miss Alvina Krause is truth.  Truth in the sense that she is exactly what she claims people should be -- alive.  She is the perfect example of the being who reacts to every stimulus with all of her sense, with all her body, with all her mind.  Even before she began to speak, I noticed how she examined and responded to her surroundings, especially the audience itself.  I could have sworn she looked directly at me several times during the awards presentation -- not only looked at me, but noticed me, as if she were saying to herself, “There’s a tired boy in a pinstripe shirt.  What can I say to interest him?”  And yet I am sure that she saw every single person in the audience, for it is ridiculous to assume that she would notice me especially.  when she spoke concerning the “total man” of the Elizabethan Age, my feelings about her were confirmed.  She is a great teacher because she teaches not what she has learned, but what she herself is.  She shows people how to live.”

Starry-eyed?  Maybe.  But a lot of older and perhaps wiser people would confirm the impression.  What kind of woman does it take to be able, at just under seventy years of age, to produce that kind of impression on a teenager today?  “The way to her heart is through action,” says Gerald Freedman, the Artistic Director of the New York Shakespeare Festival -- and perhaps that’s the best way to explain her: by describing her in action.

A freshman entering the theatre department at Northwestern usually encountered her obliquely at first.  Beginning acting was reserved for sophomores.  But if he was wise, he learned quickly that she was willing to permit freshmen to slip into the back of the auditorium and observe her classes, and as often as not, he would arrange to get there at 9:30 AM, even if it meant cutting another class in the process.  And this opening lecture was always something of an event that even upperclassmen dropped in to hear.  it went something like this:

When the class was assembled, the swinging doors at the back of the auditorium would open, smartly, and she would stride in, often as not dressed in shades of wine or purple, with a handkerchief tucked neatly at her waist, and her hair moored firmly in place by an antique silver comb.

She moved briskly down the aisle, with an expression which was expectant, playful, and quizzical, and greeted the familiar faces in the crowd -- usually with an amiably malicious and intensely “in” remark, which made the old-timers feel superior, if they understood it, and whetted the appetite of the new-comers to belong.  Then, taking her seat on the apron of the stage, she would consult her class cards, and call the roll.  Once.  On the first day.  After that she would know them and know who was present and who was not.  Then a pause.  the smile would be gone, and the class cards laid aside, as she visibly summoned her powers.  The class would fall silent and there would be not the faintest rustle of movement.  She surveyed them for a long moment, thoughtfully, and then began to speak.

“Now we can get down to business.”  Tucking her handkerchief into her belt.  “First of all, we’d better be sure you’re in the right place.  I teach acting.  I don’t know why you are here.  Some of you want to be teachers.  Some, perhaps, simply because you love the theatre and want to learn about it.  Certainly off of you will not be professional actors.  Thank God.  The field is overcrowded as it is.  But I’m teaching for the professionals.  Those who want to devote their lives to acting.  And your work will be judged accordingly.  If you are looking for glamour and fun, this is not the place for you.  Perhaps we will find both.  I hope so.  but they are accidental.  By-products.  Our object is work.  I will not teach you how to be successful.  I can give you no simple tricks that will make you a star.  There are none, and anyway, that doesn’t interest me.  I will try to teach you the craft of acting.  How successful I am depends on my ability and on yours.  I can be patient with slowness to learn.  All art is difficult, and it takes time.  But I will not tolerate stupidity and laziness.  There is a waiting list for this class.  I cannot admit more than 20 or the whole class would be useless.  If the University would let me, I would have fewer.  So long as you are willing to work and learn, you may stay.  But if you aren’t, there are others waiting to take your place.

“You say -- most of you, anyway -- that you want to be actors.  Do you know what you are saying?  Do you have any idea of what it MEANS to be an actor?

“An actor must be a little more and a little better than anyone else.  He must be able to play a genius today and a fool tomorrow and understand both.  To have a voice which is strong, flexible, and controlled.  To have a body which responds to command, which can handle a Renaissance rapier or a cowboy’s lariat, if need be.  He must know something of music, something of art, and a great deal of life.  He must have eyes to see, a mind that understands.  His senses must be sharper than anyone else’s .  He must be able to perceive the world as a king perceives it or a saint, or a stevedore.  He must know all places and all times, for he may be called upon to play them.  And after you are cast in a role, it is too late to begin preparing for it.  if you were cast as Hamlet, tomorrow, what would you do?  The character alone is far more than you can master in the four-to-six weeks of rehearsal our theatre allows.  You must know beforehand what these people wore, and how they wore it, the houses they lived in and the food they ate.  A prince of Denmark who is a swordsman and a poet does not move as we move.  Life at court was filled with intrigue, and a man who was not alert and on his guard didn’t live long.  This is no room for your slumps and your slouches.  You must learn to walk, to speak, to think, to feel.  And then you must learn to do it on cue.

“Now a word of warning.  You come here fascinated with the neurotic artist, in all his picturesqueness and his pose.  Don’t be taken in.  Kill that illusion now.  Neurosis is not interesting.  Because it interferes with work, with action, with accomplishment.  We have no time for neurosis.”

Then, perhaps, the rear doors would open quietly, and some latecomer would try to slip in unobserved.

“I see you, Tom.  Come on down.”

He would move self-consciously down the aisle but no one would turn to look at him.

“Tom has a way of being late.  Be careful, Tom.  You miss things that way.”

“I overslept” -- in a muffled voice.

“Sleep can be an escape they say. . .   We were talking about work.  And about acting.  Acting is not to be learned by sitting in The Hut or Scott Hall Grill.  Or by playing at psychology.  None of us is perfect -- but we are all capable of improvement.  Get rid of your laziness.  Of your vices.  Of everything that stands between you and work.

“Now, if we are going to accomplish anything here, we must get to know each other very well.  Acting is not like history.  I can’t stand up and read you the rules.  Each of us has his own special problems.  If we are to work freely we must not be afraid; there is no room for jealousy, back-biting and intrigue -- three things the theatre abounds in.  The only way to avoid these things is by understanding.  Understanding of ourselves and each other.

“For that reason I am going to ask you to keep a journal.  To record your progress, to ask your questions, to discuss your problems.  Acting problems, that is.  I am neither a psychoanalyst nor a Mother Confessor.  But the journal is a means of saying to me things which for one reason or another you do not want to say in class.  The journal will be required for the first quarter.  After that you may continue it or not, as you wish. . .

“Your first assignment will be a written one.  There will not be many such.  But tonight I want you to begin your journals by telling me why you are in this class, and why you want to act.  And tell me a little about your past experience, and what it has meant to you.  I don’t ask for an autobiography.  Your personal lives do not concern me, except as they related to acting.  The journals will be turned in on Wednesday, hereafter, and returned to you on Friday on Friday with my comments, if any.”

“I will ask you to buy but two books.  ACTING, THE FIRST SIX LESSONS by Richard Boleslavsky, and AN ACTOR PREPARES by Constantin Stanislavsky.  But that is not to say this is the only reading I expect you to do.  Your preparation is something that must go on, every day, all the time.  You must read, look at pictures, listen to music -- because these are the keys to people.  You must, for instance, be able to know and use in your acting the different, say, in the Vienna of the plays of Schnitzler and the Budapest of Molnar.  If you can’t travel, as many of us can’t, these things can be learned only from the books, the music, the pictures of the people who live there.

“You must know plays and the theatre, for there are many styles, and you may need any of them at any time.  You cannot act Noel Coward in the same manner as Tennessee Williams or Congreve like Shakespeare.  You should be reading plays always and you should know something of the history and tradition of the theatre . . .”

She talked on: didactic, visionary, sometimes unreasonable but demanding, demanding, demanding.  Her effect was hypnotic.  For a group of young men and women of whom perhaps little has been required save tolerable manners and good grades in school, she presented a challenge that was irresistible.

Life quickened, seemed to open out and grow larger, and a sense of purpose grew in them.  Ordinary academic classes seemed like an interruption in the work of life.  They wanted to read, write, think, act.  Her words burst bubbles in their minds, pulled them down to reality in some ways, but at the same time set off flashes of illumination, clusters of revelations about themselves and the life they aspired to.  she expected them to be a little more than human, and they did not want to disappoint her.

When the bell sounded to signal the end of the hour, it was an interruption.

In the ensuing classes, the program of study was carefully planned: each quarter of class work was geared toward a particular project, to sum up the work which was done.  In the first quarter of beginning acting, the project was a statue: one of Malvina Hoffman’s sculptures of the Peoples of the World in the Hall of Man at Chicago’s Field Museum: to look at the statue, feel it (museum guards eventually grew tolerant), touch it, perceive it in the muscles, empathetically -- and from that physical object, create a character and a scene.  Without words.  Simply to absorb another creature into one’s muscles, explore it, come to understand it, and then coax them to bring it forth again, intact, and alive.  The second quarter took an opposite tack: a character from a novel -- if possible, a big novel:  ANNA KARENINA or OF HUMAN BONDAGE, which spanned a life-time, and in which the novelist supplied the background and the local color the playwright would not: the details to be picked over and absorbed and selected to create a performance.  Then, at last, in the final quarter, the absolute discipline of the thing itself: tackling a character from a play.  (Other subjects and areas were also covered along the way: dialects, vocal exercises, comedy techniques, how to make entrances and exits, and how to fall down or faint convincingly without getting hurt, along with sense memory exercises, and exercises in observation and concentration.)

The second year acting course was not acting at all, but officially under the aegis of the Department of Oral Interpretation.  ORAL INTERPRETATION OF THE DRAMA.  The Greeks, Shakespeare, and selected moderns.  But something slightly demented on the first day, like taking the class out of doors to play a game of baseball in The Manner of the Greeks would serve to scare off all the random English Majors and academic types who might have signed up for the course and then she could resume serious work on Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides.  (When President Roosevelt’s death was announced, Alvina Krause was shattered: how could she teach that afternoon?  By concentrating on Sophocles:  “Numberless are the world’s wonders.  But none so wonderful as Man.”  I have not spoken to her about the Kennedy assassination, but my guess is that Euripides provided the text again.  “Never shall the violent man rest at my hearth.  Never shall his thoughts be my thoughts.”  That undergraduate year led to the real meat.  STYLES IN ACTING was Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw (“SHAW IS DIDACTIC”) and Brecht, or any other playwrights the class was especially anxious to tackle.

In addition to her teaching duties, Alvina Krause was also the principal instigator of a theatre workshop program of two evenings each quarter, consisting of 3 plays each, or a total of eighteen plays a year, directed by student directors, and overseen by A.K. herself.  (A.K. being the way she signs all communications, and the natural term of reference for her.)  This was in addition to teaching, and directing one major University Theatre Production each year.

Still, this was not enough to occupy her fully.

During spring vacation in the year 1945, when World War II was still in progress, and rationing was still in effect, she went to New York to see plays with a friend, Lucy McCammon, a physical education teacher at Bloomsburg State Teachers College in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.  Lucy happened to mention to her than an old summer theatre was standing empty in a mountain resort town called Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania.  On impulse they got on the phone, without taking time to reflect, and within minutes the property was leased, and A.K. and Lucy found themselves proprietors of a theatre.  (“I needed freedom -- freedom to put in practice fully what I believe in, the kind of theatre I was convinced COULD exist . . . And students were crying for experience, real experience.”)

A company was assembled of interested and talented students -- among them a young girl from Knoxville, Tennessee, named Patricia Neal -- and in June of 1945, the company gathered for the first time at the Playhouse.

The theatre had formerly been run by Ethel Barrymore Colt, but a war had intervened, and the first chore was to drive out the bats and mice.  (The bats always remained a problem, but they had a strong theatre sense, and confined their appearances to murder-mysteries such as MACBETH, though the flying squirrels showed no such discretion.)

Starting out with little or nothing but enthusiasm and determination (Patricia Neal, in addition to playing leads was the company cook and snapped beans during rehearsals, or ran across the road during the breaks to prepare her specialty tuna fish with noodles -- quick, nourishing and cheap), the first season of nine plays was launched, and the theatre continued for twenty seasons, during which it built up an inventory of costumes, scenery and properties any theatre might envy.  (At least one Off-Broadway show has been costumed with things borrowed from the costume room at Eagles Mere -- an enticing room full of boxes and bags with labels like: “Troll Tails and Strange Things.”) 

In twenty years at Eagles mere, A.K. produced a total of one hundred and seventy-eight plays, including 18 of Shakespeare, 16 of Bernard Show, 5 of Ibsen, 3 of Chekhov, 4 of Moliere, and 2 of Edmond Rostand.  There were seven musical comedies, an opera (with Inga Swenson), an original revue, several original plays, and works by most of the major modern playwrights -- from Noel Coward to Pirandello, from Tennessee Williams to Ionesco.

They were busy years, lived at a high level of intensity, and the work was constant and hard.

There was also the need for enormous personal discipline: among her students she commanded a degree of respect and admiration that sometimes bordered on idolatry.  (Students tended to be categorized as Krauseites and Anti-Krauseites, according to whether they joined the cult or avoided it.)  and the strength of her personality was and is immense.  Her rampant idealism can make an ordinary high rage seem like divine wrath, and the value placed on her opinions made her praise or blame carry enormous weight.  Consequently, she has always been conscious of the necessity to use her power as gently and wisely as possible.  It hasn’t always worked -- like anyone, she can give into pressure or become impatient -- and as she would be the first to admit, there is a bit of Ibsen’s “Troll Spirit” in all of us, and given the kind of power she possesses there is always the temptation to use it.  But generally, it has been conscientiously administers, and the hurts she inflicted were inevitable: no one can inspire that much caring, and not cause some pain.

Her thirty-three years at the University and the years at Eagles Mere were extraordinarily creative, and considering the economics of the American Theatre, probably as consistently productive as any career could be, though it did not yield her fame or fortune.  Then in 1963, at 68, she began to encounter difficulties: she was past the mandatory retirement age.  Twice she had succeeded in postponing it, but now she was to be retired -- very much against her will.

The reaction of her former students was one of shocked indignation that A.K. should be turned out of her classroom when it was clear she was still at the peak of her powers.  Great and small, they set to work to reverse the University’s decision.  Charlton Heston sent off a personal letter stating:  “Alvina Krause is retiring, and the School of Speech will be poorer because she is no longer there, just as all those who were there when she was are richer for it.  No student went through speech in her time unmarked by her influence or uninspired by her sharp example . . . As one of this group, I’m still vividly aware of all I learned from her.”

Two hundred and fifty-six of the old students assembled on both coasts to express their distress at the University’s action -- a group which included stars of stage, screen and television, directors, writers, stage managers, teachers in schools and Universities all across the United States, and many others who were no longer in the theatre but who still treasured what she had given them.  A telegram was sent to Northwestern with all of their names appended, containing an urgent request that the University attempt to utilize her enormous talents in special lectures, independent study courses, or however might prove feasible, but the University was not impressed.

A.K. turned to teaching private lessons and preparing lectures and workshops in colleges and high school which proved eager for her services.  For two more 1963 and 1964 she continued to operate the theatre at Eagles Mere.  Then the blow fell.  The property on which the Playhouse stood was sold, and she lost the lease on the theatre, and the loyal audience built up over twenty years.

She then decided, at seventy or thereabouts, that it was time to make a new beginning.  With an ex-student, John Van Meter, she booked the Harper theatre in South Chicago, with intentions of setting up a repertory theatre.  Three plays were mounted:  Pirandello’s SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, Durrenmatt’s THE PHYSICISTS, and Shaw’s TOO TRUE TO BE GOOD.  Critical opinion was generally favorable-- despite some reservations about the youth of the company -- but after three months, money was short, the location had not proved ideal, and there were other claims on the theatre, so the project was forced to fold.

Since then, A.K. has not been idle.  She is still a devout gardener (“Tulips, daffodils . . . I have more than fifty roses.  Chrysanthemums for autumn. . . How else does one solve problems?”) and her lectures and workshops in colleges and high schools (often booked back to back in a schedule that would have staggered someone half her age) have kept her busy:  “From Gallaudet, the Washington, D.C. College for the Deaf and Dumb to Texas University, to Los Angeles State College, to Deane College, Nebraska. . . from Coast to Coast, everywhere but N.U.”  She is a little bitter at being banished from the University where she taught for so many years but there are new interests to pursue.  On teaching the deaf and dumb at Gallaudet:  “They were wonderful.  I just talked directly to them.  And a young man -- he was very good -- translated everything into sign language.  They watched me -- and they watched him -- and somehow it worked.  It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced.”

To sum up her contribution to the theatre in a few paragraphs is impossible, but some things must be said.  She is not the kind of precise practitioner of the Stanislavsky “Method” represented by Lee Strasberg and other New York directors and teachers, and she does not claim to be.  Her conception of theatre is too all-embracing for that: she wants the grandeur, the STYLE as well as the psychology -- in short, she is after very much the things that Stanislavsky himself was after, but she pursues them in her own fashion.

She has a keen analytical mind, and probably could have made a name as a theorist if she ever could have sat down to write long enough to produce anything more complete than notes and comments on particular productions.  She has analyzed and codified the external techniques which every successful actor learns with time, but generally no one can teach, and succeeded in teaching them by creating her own vocabulary for them.  In this area is probably unique, because, in this country at least, most teachers who are interested in external techniques know very little about the inner ones, while the “Method” teachers, who are most interested in internal techniques, seldom bother with externals.  and she is the only teacher I have observed who could seriously teach comedy, and not kill it in the process: to analyze it, break it down, put it back together again, and still have it come out funny.

But her greatest achievement is perhaps this: she has the ability to expand horizons.  To bring people to a sense of their own potential.  To create the vision of what the theatre can be -- and generally isn’t.  (You trained us for a theatre that doesn’t exist!”)

In a world where it’s cool to be hip, and hip to be cool, she is neither cool nor hip.  She cares too much.  It’s impossible for her to remain aloof, to avoid risks.  She is opinionated, often arbitrary, sometimes unreasonable, utterly impatient with incompetence, inflexible in her standards, and sometimes absolutely infuriating.  But she has the gift of enthusiasm and excitement and -- one of her favorite words --”astonishment.”

Now, lest I’ve made her sound like a cross between Socrates and Tamara, Queen of the Visigoths, I’d like to repeat one more little story told by one of her students.
“I was coming down the walk from the library, toward Foster Street, when I saw this adorable little girl running down the sidewalk in her overalls.  I had to just stop and watch her.  She was so peppy. and bright-eyed, and she was having so much fun just running down the street.  Then she got to the corner and I realized it wasn’t a little girl.  It was A.K. in her slacks hurrying to drop a letter in the mailbox.”