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.


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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


(Yankton Press & Dakotan,  April 5, 1969) by Dale Bruget

Like bread upon the waters, the philosophy of acting which Miss Alvina Krause instilled in her students at Northwestern University over a period of 33 successful years has borne the fruits of deep-seated respect and sense of purpose which are now coming to her table in her retirement years.

Through the efforts of one of those students -- Vera Ward of Yankton -- the teaching techniques of Miss Krause are being recorded for posterity, perhaps more importantly, for the instruction of coming generations of aspiring young actors and actresses.

Mrs. Ward, wife of Dr. Donald B. Ward, president of Yankton College, made a career out of the talents which achieved shape and policy at the hands of Miss Krause, and now with undying love for the theatre and dedication to the task of preserving Miss Krause’s teachings for others, she is engaged in a project involving no lesser a light in the performing arts that Charlton Heston, Hollywood actor of top rank for a number of years.

Heston, who shares Vera Ward’s sense of urgency about making Miss Krause’s genius live on, has paid tribute to her in an introduction and summary recorded for a half-hour pilot film, showing her life, conducting a student workshop in acting.

Visit in Hollywood

This recording was made in Hollywood last week, when the Wards visited the Hestons at their home in Cold Water Canyon and were guests of the famous actor and his wife, Lydia, at a ballet performance and evening “on the town.”

Mrs. Ward, Lydia Heston and Charlton Heston were contemporary students of Miss Krause at Northwestern.

In opening remarks for the video-tape, Heston said:

“Alvina Krause’s absolute conviction that you could be better than you were is as close as I can come to singling out the one essential in her method and her person.  Perhaps that’s what separates the great teacher from the good teacher.  This conviction of potential, and her capacity to communicate it to you, is what I remember most vividly, and is perhaps the greatest part of the incalculable debt I owe her.

“She is the same (today). . . exactly the same, and exactly as good.  Except for one thing, of course.  When I studied under her she was naturally older than we were.  Now, more than 20 years later, she is, I realize, younger.  Much younger.

Miss Krause has made three workshop appearances on campus at Yankton College and is slated to return next fall.

“Study of Life”

Vera Ward is spearheading the thrust which hopefully will result in a series of 8 - 10 videotapes to be distributed by the South Dakota Fine Arts Council, at cost, to schools and colleges throughout the state.  Mrs. Ward also hopes to initiate and promote distribution of the films beyond the borders of South Dakota as the channels clear.

Appropriately, the series has been named “Acting -- a Study of Life.”  . . .[clipping cut off short] This and other films are to be kinescoped for use in classrooms, everywhere, in addition to uses in educational television and regular programming.

As a feasibility study, a full hour video-tape was made in Sioux City, featuring Miss Krause, Mrs. Ward and students, and this was aired twice in the region.  It affirmed the practicality of undertaking the series, and seeking financial assistance through the Fine arts Council.  The council’s approval of the project led to the start of the series which will continue with more workshop film sessions when Miss Krause returns in the fall.

Now professor emeritus at Northwestern, Miss Krause looks out upon a constellation of theater stars whom she has taught -- Heston, Patricia Neale, Jeffrey Hunter, Paula Prentiss, Dick Benjamin, Ralph Meeker and others, including Vera Bantz Ward who continues her own stage career with scintillating solo performances throughout the Midwest, with occasional returns to the footlights and legitimate theatre in metropolitan centers.

Dr. and Mrs. Ward returned to Yankton Monday from a trip of two weeks taking them to El Paso, Texas, Phoenix, Arizona, and Los Angeles.  They attended Yankton College alumni meetings and made other business contacts, and specifically made the presentation of pins and certificates and statuettes to members of the Joseph Ward Club.

Among the recipients was 90-year-old Daisy Ward (Mrs. Freeman Ward) of El Paso, an aunt of Dr. Ward.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Acting Lessons with Alvina Krause, a two-hour DVD of excerpts from Alvina Krause’s 1968 master classes at the University of South Dakota, is now available from the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.  Originally produced by Vera Ward (C43) as Acting -- a Study of Life, the documentary was rediscovered through the detective work of William Bergfeldt (C57).  Support from BTE and private sources funded the transfer of the master tapes to digital format (there is some audio and video distortion).  Featuring the original introduction and closing by alumnus Charlton Heston, the black and white DVD shows Krause working with students on “Creating Shakespeare’s World.”  “Theatre of the Absurd,” and “What is Character?”  The legendary Northwestern acting teacher served as BTE’s artistic director from 1978 until her death in 1981.

Copies may be purchased by contacting the BTE box offrice at or by calling 570/784-8181.  For purchases by Northwestern alumni, BTE will donate a portion of the receipts to the school’s Alvina Krause Fund.