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_

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Eagles Mere, PA, is a little resort town in the "Endless Mountains” which are part of the Appalachian chain and near the Catskills.  I spent a summer there (1960) as costumer for the resident repertory theatre, which meant I was soon so pressured and exhausted that I hardly knew what was going on around me, much less finding it a magical place to relax! Nevertheless, for many people it was something like the movie “Dirty Dancing,” but we were hardly operating on that scale and didn’t worry about being oppressed because we were so filled with fervor, dedication to the theatre, and high hopes for the future.

The old rooming house where we lived was pretty minimal with plumbing that made strange noises and the only cooking stove an ancient wood range.  Next door was the church above where a string quartet practiced during the week and church services included a lot of singing.  I couldn’t hear the sermons, but our cook for the second half of the summer was an evangelical Christian who told Bible stories on the porch just out my window.  The mostly Jewish actors listened politely.  I went home with her at the end of the summer, since I was penniless, and canned her tomato crop for a week of room and board.  I can’t remember how I got back to Chicago.  She lived near Gettysburg, the battlefield, and I have vivid memories of that broad field and a woodchuck I chased across it.

The Sweet Shop on the other side of the boarding house.

The cook for the first half of the summer was a small alcoholic black woman who could not manage the woodstove.  In fact, she was barely managing her life at all.  Some of the more devilish among us set up a doppler effect railroad simulation in the hallway and turned it on full-blast when she came staggering home from some place only she knew existed.  The next day she left forever, which was how we got the Sunday School lady.  For a few days we had no cook and survived on the resourceful skills of Jerry Zeismer who said,  “I’ll make a pot of chili that will last us a week -- trust me.”  He was quite right -- it was so hot that a few bites were enough to drive everyone with the resources over to the Sweet Shop.   (Jerry has been a major success in Hollywood.)

Street shoot: r.  Jerry Zeismer, Stu Hagmann, Maria Moriates, Katina now married to Austin Pendleton.

Normally I wasn’t around the actual playhouse very much.  It was a converted barn at the edge of a swamp and the stage was small enough that one had to cross by going outside the building, where one had to be careful of footing.  I don’t remember mosquitoes much so there must have been insecticide fogging going on, or maybe there were simply enough bats to control the problem.  Stage lighting confused them, so occasionally one dropped onto the stage or the actors.
A red eft

The distance between the boarding house and the playhouse was a mile or so and few of us had vehicles, so I often carried costumes over via the path along the lake, which was a pleasure except when it was dark because of the many trip roots.  The surrounding woods were full of paths but I don’t remember seeing deer -- just tracks.  One memorable moment was spotting a red eft, a tiny scarlet salamander.  Another was being pursued by an elderly gentleman slashing at me with his cane and accusing me of being up to something immoral!  I left too soon to figure out who he thought I was.  

On another day Laird Williamson and I went bushwhacking, nearly losing ourselves in the beautiful but over-thick azaleas, but finally reaching this spectacular gorge, which is sometimes even compared to the Grand Canyon.  The summer I was there it rained so much and everything was so damp that a nice crop of mushrooms raised itself in my best Papagallo pumps.  The tallest ‘shroom was about five inches.

Lucy and AK went out on the lake on Sunday afternoons, Lucy rowing and AK scribbling.  The rest of us mostly slept -- together or apart -- whenever we weren’t onstage one way or another.  But once I rose to investigate strange kitchen noises in the middle of the night and found a couple of drenched actors pinning their pocket contents and what clothing they could spare to the lines strung over the woodstove and trying to stir up a fire with very little success.  There was no other heat in the place.  The actors had a strong sense of order: dollar bills pinned up in order of denomination and so on.  But a weak sense of boatsmanship: they had pushed off in the night in an unsound rowboat which luckily sank close enough to shore to wade back.

There was a memorable late evening visit from AK in her nightgown with a shawl thrown over it and her hair spread over her shoulders.  She’d been obsessing over something about the play in rehearsal and had come over to roust some actors for experiments and information.

Lucy and I wrestled with the compost, which was more like soup.  Both of us had only a foggy notion of what ought to happen, but nothing was digesting no matter how much we stirred.  Likewise, “plastic steel” would not heal the woodstove in spite of the optimistic copy on the tube.  At least we were partners in failure.

The sign shop, where Laird created beautiful silk-screened posters on cardboard, had originally been the ice house and was sunk into a hillside so it was possible to walk onto the flat roof, a perfect place for sunbathing, but we were forbidden to go there because traffic made the roof leak.

When I was so exhausted that there was no possibility of falling asleep, I would walk over in the night to the riding academy where there was a team of big farm horses who pulled hay rides in summer and sleigh rides in winter.  Tied into their stalls and busy munching hay from their feed boxes, they didn’t mind if I climbed onto their backs and napped for a while, rocked when they shifted their weight.  It was enough physical reassurance and comfort to get me through the season.  I have always been grateful for the comfort of horses.


Tom Foral, 2001

As an illustration that Northwestern University preparation for acting and other dimensions of the theatre arts can support a career in several arts, I submit the example of Tom Foral, who has been a carrier of spears in the background of Shakespearean drama, but also a set designer, a portraitist, a bricoleur (collage), and a creator of "beefcake" ranging from the semi-realistic to the satirical.  After ten years on Broadway in various capacities, he and his spouse, Joey, whose career was in the musical theatre, enjoy various locations as well as keeping a pied a terre in Manhattan.  Here is a publicity sheet from a recent successful event.

Tom's most recent stage role was as the Stage Manager in "Our Town."

Tom in the center.

The following transcriptions of notes to Tom from Alvina Krause show how much she was an entrepreneur and impresario (impresaria?) as well as an acting teacher and director.  Starting from very limited resources and proceeding by hook and crook as well as the passion of her students, which allowed her to make outrageous demands on them, she and Lucy managed to keep the dream of repertory theatre alive in a little resort town west of the Poconos from 1945 to 1965 where people came to escape the heat before air conditioning.  There was and is also an active winter-sports scene involving ice-tobogganing, but we were back at Northwestern then.

Written into a booklet originally meant to be a journal notebook :

Tom --

My “super-jet” is an hour and a half late so here I am bored to desperation in the Pittsburgh airport.

So you are Equity/Sc [?]  Are we going to bill you as Foral Thomas this summer?  I am not wishing that you will not get the big chance, but we would like to see you at E.M.  Several of your E.M. fans are asking about you.  And I am wondering again whether you could design “Ethan Frome” for our stage.  “Gideon” is on the schedule.  Want to play God?  I am not sure that “Oh Dad, Poor Dad” will be available, but a lot of people are urging me to do it.  Do you know “Idiot’s Delight”?   It is tempting me; would have to be done in period: 1930’s.  What Shakespeare?  I know not!  What Shaw?  Chris has cast “Back to Methuselah” but I am still afraid of it.  

No musical picked.  Do you know “Boys from Syracuse”?  Worth reviving?  I don’t know.  “Camelot” is not available.  Jerry Freedmansuggested “Lorenzo”; says bad directing killed it on N.Y.

Forest Inn has just been sold.  We do not know what it will mean to us.  Owners are two Philadelphia men: Way and Benvegna or something of the sort.  The “corporation” went $9,000 into the red last year.

These huge resort inns were the source of the Eagles Mere audiences.  There were five of them.

We were tempted to come to see you at McCarter, but Lucy did not have her car and we procrastinated too long.

At NU things have reached a point beyond endurance.  If Fortune does not materialize, I think I shall retire to my rose garden.

Carry your spears with style!


P.S.  Surprised to get a postscript?  Well -- it’s getting important to know whether you will be coming to E.M. because:  Van meter will direct "Antony and Cleopatra" for me if Tom Foral is available to play Antony.  Of course, he also stipulated that you would have to be letter-perfect in the role before coming to E.M. so that we could start work on it early.  Well?



If you play Father, Antony and The Lord, I guess you should not play Ethan as I had originally planned -- do you want to direct Ethan? Van Meter says:  I hope Foral will design “Antony and C” -- yes?  And “Ethan” and . . .  I’m still in a fog about a couple of shows.  Can Frank not stay for "Antony and C"  Aug 7,8,9,10?


Unit set again this summer?  Two unit sets?  Have one promising Sophomore interested in design.  Has done some promising work.  Use him?  If you’re with "Life with Father "can you play Father without pre-season rehearsal?  Guest-star-artist ready to go?  Can’t think of anyone else who could so directly, authoritatively speak to God!  Frank wants a cement floor to build flats on.

Fortune be with us!


Some samples of Foral work, far from complete, but to give you an idea. and

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Starting to accumulate information about someone on a blog (or in this case two blogs) is not the same thing as writing a book about them.  It’s easy to say,  “write a book” which people envision as one waving a magic wand so “poof” it appears on a shelf somewhere.  One needs to justify writing a biography.  In fact, a thorough search of places and documents means an investment of considerable money and travel.

These are scans of scans rather than transferred code, so they are a little vague which AK was NOT!  
They come from Tom Foral and remind us of AK's favorite teaching story which was about an actress who could summon the sense memory of a rose so vividly that the audience could tell what color the rose was.  The photos were taken at the Bloomsburg home of AK and Lucy McCammon.

Alvina Krause (January 28, 1893 – December 31, 1981) was an acting professor at Northwestern University who taught her own version of the famous “Method,” which used sense memories from the lives of the actors to evoke realistic acting.  That’s not all there is to acting,  First one has to learn lines, follow blocking, make sure to cheat towards the audience, project to the back wall of the auditorium, “land” lines and all manner of other technical things that need to become unconscious, intuitive and second nature.  Beyond that, an eerie and sometimes frightening magic seizes the actor and audience in a trance of belief.

Krause was considered a “star maker” and that’s the way Northwestern University presents her, with a long list of her “stars.”  She herself repeatedly emphasized that to come to her expecting to be made a star was folly.  She told a story about a mother who brought her son, demanding that Krause make him famous.  The silly woman was turned away.  But there were plenty of sons (and daughters) who came on their own, begging to be split open, to get at the heart of their passion or talent or whatever it was inside them that drove them towards this specific art form, a near-sacred vocation.  

Google can lead one in and out of many flammable and burnt buildings.  I’ve read what dead men wrote, secrets and old black mail, and -- if you know how to read between lines written in invisible ink or decipher codes from past eras -- a lot of nonsense and laughable convictions.  For former students none of that has the compelling power of Krause’s handwriting in one of the blue exam books where she scribbled her directing notes.  One glimpse and we’re back in some moment, skewered like an insect on a pin, when insight struck us between the eyes.  Oh!  THAT was it!

A handwriting sample and clip from Foral.  
She liked a small format as is this page which was evidently from a journal or diary notebook.

I’ve been posting all this on two blogs -- actually there are three if you count a fragment that I abandoned early.  They  for those handwritten bits. for writing about Krause, much of it mine, I confess, but also notes and articles from others.  The fragment is at  David Downs, a student and working partner of Krause, has also posted on a blog   David Press’ thesis about Krause’s work is available at the usual Ph.D. thesis source, University Microfilms in Ann Arbor, MI, and Krause’s own Master’s thesis is available through the Northwestern Archives.  I put notes from them on "The Silver Comb" blog.  She did not receive a Ph.D.

People have wondered why Krause was abruptly and forcibly retired from the School of Speech and why no one has ever explained her work in the way that other famous Method teachers have been analyzed.  What is it that made her so effective and meaningful for so many people -- quite apart from any “star system” (an idea that made her snort) and even apart from the theatre, since many of us didn't become actors or directors.  Underlying the politics of the School of Speech and the actions of the university are the dynamics of a great sea-change in the nature of theatre and another deep shift in the assumptions of the larger culture.  The theatre went from realism to surrealism (possibly because of film or possibly because of a world gone absurd) and the culture went from prissy to libertine.

Krause’s lifespan nearly coincided with the 20th century.  She began her career as a stalwart orator, Chautauqua-style, declaiming great literature for her rural Midwest small town.  Her first teaching job was in Seaside, OR, where she was the gym teacher.  Then began a slow progression up through a small college, then Garrett seminary, and to Northwestern University, by that time under the protection of Dean Dennis, a great favorite on the Chatauqua circuit.  She was technically a teacher of “interpretation” until almost the end of her teaching career, though by then she was staging plays year-round.

The materials on the blogs I shepherd are mostly from the last few years at Northwestern as they transitioned through Eaglesmere, PA to the Alvina Krause Theatre in Bloomsburg, PA, which is another source of information about Krause and her work. ( Over the years people tried to question her about her theories and methods, but she was evasive.  There were several interrelated reasons for this.  One was that she really didn’t have conscious theories and repeatedly protested that she just KNEW, she FELT it.  Questions felt like challenges.  In an academic setting she justified her presence in a university instead of a conservatory by emphasizing the crucial importance of history and culture, how it affected a character, how it had shaped the playwright.  Her conviction was that actors could never learn too much.

The Eagles Mere Playhouse in late days.
Photo from Foral.  He is with his mom and sister.

Some students were exploring religion, as is natural at this stage in life, and grappling with some very muscular serpents.  Questions about the core aspects of life were too much for some and there were accusations that her methods were too rough, damaging and belittling.  She was certainly no mollycoddler but the students came begging to be broken open.  It was risky in the way that true creation and art must be to have real value.  Not a pretty pursuit, an entertainment, but a gut-wrenching transformative experience.

Of course sex was part of it.  In those days girls at NU had to sign in and out after dark with a ten o'clock curfew, and the housemother came at midnight to make surprise bed-checks.  If a girl married or became pregnant, no matter the sequence, she had to leave.  A man caught in a homosexual act meant jail, a felony.  Krause was in what is sometimes called a “Boston marriage,” two women in household partnership, a matter of intimacy and trust.  Lucy did not come to campus, but in the summer and on long breaks the two women were together, often traveling.  No one quite believed in lesbian relationships anyway.  But at the other extreme some Method directors and actors at that time felt they had to break barriers and taboos on stage.  One was cautious about being associated with them.

School of Speech professors, who included high school dramatics coaches, speech pathologists, hearing experts, designers of stage lighting, costumers, and other stage technicians, were very assorted in style.  The debate and public speaking people traveled, competed, were half-politicians -- they were the randy ones with opportunities.  Interpretation?  I wouldn’t know.  An undercurrent of lust is always in the hard wiring of a university -- let alone in the euphoric or tortured atmosphere of theatre companies -- no doubt there was worry that it could burst into a conflagration that would consume alumni donations.

Today the School of Speech is gone, replaced by the five divisions of Communication Arts:  Communication Sciences and DisordersCommunication Studies;  Radio, Television and FilmPerformance StudiesTheatre (includes Dance)  Debate and interpretation have disappeared, along with the teaching of high school dramatics which was my actual major.

The division called “Rhetoric and Public Culture” would hardly stutter if presented with problems of sexuality, gender, and all that ticklish stuff.  So why leave that hidden social aspect of the Fifties/Sixties School of Speech unstudied?  What’s still in the closet anyway?

Former students.  Some “out”, some “bi,” some hidden, protecting reputations that control their employment, some just feeling like the Krause years were so intense and so personal that they don’t want them talked about.  And there are, bless ‘em, still people who had no consciousness of any of this.  We’re old now, our partners may be sick or dead, and life is tough enough without questioning what happened in one’s youth.  Some write their own books and include Krause as part of their story.

Former student Joy Zinoman, founder and director of The Studio Theatre, has already spoken of  Krause as a "fierce lesbian" and has been a living example of Krause's other and mostly unremarked major contribution, which is her belief in local repertory theatre like both EaglesMere and Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.

Maybe there’s no place or justification for a book about Alvina Krause.  Maybe it ought to be a play instead.  David Downs took a run at it.  Anyone else?  Or should we just let Alvina Krause fade into the past?  (I do not know who wrote the Wikipedia entry.)