Sunday, December 30, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: March 1979

The School gears up for a televised gala in October 1980 to celebrate the opening of the new Theater/Interpretation Center. The Dean wants Krause to agree to participate.

[Discussion of an applicant for an acting teaching position in the Theatre Department -- DD]
Many things puzzle me. Why is Dean Wood suddenly courting me? A huge floral arrangement comes to me on the occasion of the film festival. [One of the Bloomsburg students had made a short film about Krause and her Bloomsburg teaching -- DD] And before that an urgent invitation to the Centennial Alumni meeting May 11. "Be my guest". Why? I have virtually been banned for years. Why this urgency now. Dean McBurney told me: "Understand, Miss Krause, alumni have no control in my administration, no influence whatsoever". And he cut all alumni ties. All contacts with Dennis-Cumnock alums were cut off. And he made a point of establishing none with graduates of his own regime, particularly theatre grads. So where would I be on alumni day? Alone? alumni days can be fearfully lonely. But what I do not understand is this sudden intimate pressure. What goes?
The film festival was a big success. I can't bear the film myself, but people seem moved by it. And so I endure it. Tony Roberts was at his best: his genuine, outgoing, sharing self. BTE did a smart job inviting him here. How much money will come in remains to be seen.
Sea Gull progresses. [Krause was directing -- DD] There are hurdles but it is promising. C is becoming a real actress -- if I can get her to make it big enough. Why do NU theatre majors fail to realize that theatre is bigger than life? But the group spirit is remarkable. Pray for us.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: January/ February 1979

A new year with new concerns and old passions.

The fog, heavy and all-concealing, is creeping up from the hollow this January day. What a winter! Snow and cold and now a fog!
[...A discussion of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble and the possibility of my directing for the upcoming summer... -- DD]
Someone told me that Coakley is resigning -- Is it true? Is it possible? I restrain my Glory Hallelujiah until I hear positive truth. And what is [another colleague -- DD]'s present stand? If anyone is leaving you and Sam [Ball -- DD] must have a strong voice in new appointments. Both of you are too reluctant to fight. If you can't name a strong, giant of a replacement, can't you wangle a Galati directed production? That's how I made a transition from Interpretation to theatre. In that new theatre can you start clean? Is there no one else but me who wants the name Dennis over the portals?
Have I disturbed you?


If the name McBurney is to be featured in the new theatre building, I will never go near it. The name alone fills me with revulsion. Does Sam remember this?


Krause's birthday was January 29.

The flowers are beautiful! Did you tell them to tuck yellow rose buds? among pink carnations, white mums and purple heather. Exquisite! I thank you for thinking of me so beautifully! My heart leaps up.
It was a wonderful birthday party! So good to be with a company laughing together, celebrating together. I dread birthdays and birthday parties -- reminders of the race that can't be won. But this was a happy event this year.
You know we all want you to direct here this summer. I have told the administrative committee to write you conditions. I have nothing to do with financial arrangements. Artistic Direction is all I can manage. You will hear from them very soon. There is a problem. If "Misalliance" is the first show it must go into rehearsal in May. In fact I would start character work immediately after the Bucknell performance of "Sea Gull" [Krause had directed -- DD]. Can that be managed? "Misalliance" is a good opener for the season. Any other suggestions.
[...Discussion of BTE finances... -- DD]
...I repeat we are all most eager to have you direct a production. Does Equity cover you as a director or only as an actor?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: December 1978

Krause's 1978 Christmas card.

Merry Christmas wherever you are!
This morning was three hours of brilliant Shakespeare. I think JG's [a recent addition to the Bloomsburg class -- DD] work has sparked the group. She knows how to work (remarkable!) and she works. Her work glows. This morning she was a Juliet, truly Shakespeare's Juliet created for J! Young, glowing, "natural", responsive to all living things. I felt I were seeing Juliet for the first time. And S played Romeo, not as brilliant as her Juliet, but a truly responsive Romeo.
X and Y still agonize. Z did a Launcelot Gobbo that was absolutely brilliant. Not one trace of Z struggling. Easy as if he had played clowns all his life. Z has been working hard and it is paying off. T still has problems. She is tangled up in personal complications and cannot give her talents the concentration due them. The other day I ordered her to get her personal life in order and come to grips with what is important. She does an excellent piece of work one day, then nothing for weeks.
Are you insisting on voice training for actors. B could be terrific if she had a voice equal to her talents. As it is her voice is her enemy. She is aware of the need, but I can't give time to voice!
Did you know Vera Ward and Muriel Bach [former Krause students -- DD] approached Dean Wood with a project to raise funds to have my name somewhere in the new building? He was cool to the idea and they dropped it. It seems I am still "controversial". I don't mind: I feel no link to the present School, but isn't it ridiculous? Is he afraid of me? After all the School once stood high nationally and internationally for excellence. Is that evil?

Lucy once said to me, "She's always complaining about the school, but all the flowers she plants are purple and white". [Northwestern University's school colors -- DD]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letter from Alvina Krause: November 1978

With Annie May Swift closed, the school rented the seventh and eighth floors of a downtown Evanston bank building to house the Dean's offices and the Theatre Department. The acting classroom was one of those rooms with low ceilings, fluorescent lights, tile floors.

David, I know it must be hard -- this adjustment. (My own heart aches thinking of that Annie May Swift auditorium and what we created therein. Lear! A magnificent Lear!) But take a deep breath, David, and respond to that challenge! With what you have to give you can convert any space into a stage. Play in the round and create a world in a little space. Make it an opportunity to test imagination! I have just written a biting criticism to your students here in Bloom on their inability to create, on their total lack of imagination, on their inability to get out of their commonplace egoes [sic]. Not one can see and respond to General Gabler's picture on a wall! And so they fail utterly as actors. Get busy, David. It's a challenge. Convert your present class rooms into Ibsen's world. Chekhov's. Shakespeare's! maybe out of nothing you can really be a great teacher and touch the creative minds of actors which now luxuriate in unmotivated emotion and lines without imagery behind them. Why tell me why can no Hedda put images behind, around, and overflowing: "I am bored -- bored to death" Why does not one of them want to smash that lamp shade with red roses painted on it. Why can not one of them want to stamp on my French Oriental turned into a flowered green carpet? NO creative minds! Get busy in your desolate classrooms. I challenge you! And I believe in you! Grieve with me over Annie May Swift, but join hands with Cumnock and Dennis --
By the way maybe you can jolt your Dean a bit. Muriel Bach [former student -- DD] called me the other night. She and Vera Ward (former student -- DD] had approached the Dean on a project of theirs concerning the new Theatre building and me. He welcomed them, said he favored their project, said he had considered it himself but someone had always come forth with derogatory comments -- Can you make him see the nature of the source of those comments -- C C Cunningham's letter of resignation tells the full story I can swear it is the truth. It is in the archives, if it isn't in his own office files it is in President Miller's file. Can truth never prevail? Must the Mitchells, Schneidemans, Coakleys forever prevail? Muriel and Vera think otherwise. I doubt that they can make their point.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: October 1978

Annie May Swift Hall burned. A fire had started on the stage of the very theater where Krause had taught her acting classes. The fire had spread to within the walls of the building. To determine the extent of the damage, Annie May Swift Hall was closed indefinitely.

Thank you for calling us about the fire. I couldn't have borne to hear it from someone who didn't care. Let me know what happens now. The people who would deeply care are either dead or like me far away. McBurney, you know, deliberately, purposefully, ended all alumni relations with generations preceding him. "Alumni do not run my School" says he to me.
"In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was God". Do you know that was the beginning of the School? That was how it started. That was its function, its purpose. Should that not be the beginning of the History. To read the Word of God, to speak the word of God, to communicate the Word of God with beauty, with meaning, with dignity, with truth, with conviction. Isn't that wonderfully unique in this crass, unbelieving world? A young theological student sat listening with growing indignation at the way his fellow students, his instructors, his Wesleyan ministers read the glowing words of the Bible. He sensed that "out of the depths" came the Psalms. He cried out when "Lift up my eyes unto the hills" was read in dull, dead, meaningless tones. He experienced the vitality of the scriptures, he recognized the beauty of the King James version. The Scotch poet soul in him rose in rebellion. He was a man of action. He started classes for his fellow students in reading the Bible, in public speaking for ministers all based on his deep feeling that the Word of God, the life of Christ, the work of the Apostles was too deep, too important to humanity, that it must be communicated in a form fitting the importance of the subject and the beauty of the language.
I wish you could have heard him read a Psalm! It glowed with understanding of the depths of our needs. And the book of Job. To me it had been a lengthy overwrought tale of misery until I heard him read a passage with the simplicity of great art and the comprehension of a great mind revealing, through the beauty of the spoken word, the depths of faith. You have written to me of my "greatness". I have just given you the source. He illuminated the Bible, Shakespeare, Bobby Burns. I saw what Speech could be; it shook me, stimulated my mind, my imagination, my will. He saw the need for Speech education -- it was called Elocution in those days, but don't let that mislead you. There was nothing of elocution in his own work and any tendency in that direction was knocked out of us pronto. With his own funds he bought from NU the land on which Annie May stands (It has its own campus!) He set about raising money for his school, he assembled a staff of people who shared his sense of truth and discipline. And among those students was Ralph Dennis whom he recognized as a worthy successor. And Dennis carried on. It was glorious. Those people believed. They believed in their work, they believed in the School, and they believed in their students. And they had true comprehension of the power of the spoken word to reveal humanity through great writing. They shared that belief with their students. The Cumnock spirit carried on right up to the Sarett Conspiracy which ushered in McBurney and death. How dare that woman write those drab paragraphs. The School of Speech was a light in the wilderness. Truly it was Dennis was the personification of a leader in Speech. In his tacky old suits he strode about the Speech education world like a giant. Sure! He was hated. He tore down empty attitudinizing. He jerked us up by the nape of the neck on any evidence of satisfaction with mediocrity. Mediocrity! It could not exist in his world. We had to reach, reach. He started the theatre department. Before it was fully established he had opened up Speech Correction, speech therapy; before that was old, radio was on its way, TV. And he travelled Europe, China, India, Russia (when the Revolution broke) Always learning, discovering, searching, living.
He brought that world and the people of that world right into Annie May Swift. And now they turn over the writing of that history to a woman as devoid of mind and imagination as a rhinoceros -- the dumbest of beasts! ----- So she makes a cut-and-dried dissertation out of life itself. Do something! Take her to dinner, get her drunk, wangle her material from her, re-write it. Strangle her!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: October 1978

More and more Krause was connecting her experience with the Bloomsburg students to her suggestions for my teaching.
And the School of Speech centenary celebration continued to rankle.

David, don't don't don't let your students in beginning acting perform. They have no instrument with which to perform. A violinist wants a perfect Stradivarius so an actor must want a perfect instrument before he can perform. That instrument is himself: his body (train every muscle) his voice (it must express every character from Hamlet to Lear, every emotion, reach everyone in an audience without effort) senses -- which create the Renaissance world, the Arthur Miller world, unknown worlds etc -- the imagination ------- but I don't need to tell you this. Do it! The trouble with the actors I have here is that they cannot create worlds, they cannot respond to that world or to each other. You saw it this summer. They are only now beginning to perceive (to use their senses to respond to stimuli, to understand through perception what a human being is and how he relates to his world) to play together and that means to actually respond through the senses to each other.
Do not let Juliet speak one word or "emote" one emotion until she actually has seen an Italian sun in an Italian sky and felt its heat on her face, her neck. And for God's sake: she must sense stars in an Italy sky -- stars stars -- that play is full of stars. You train those senses to respond truthfully or I disown you. I have told this group "Work on Act II Hedda Gabler but know that you are not Hedda, you are not Brack, you must create them. Hedda must handle an army pistol as a man does, must shoot in the air because she dares not fire straight; she hears, senses, people gossiping etc. --
Your actors have nothing with which to act until they have trained those senses to respond. Talent in acting is the ability to perceive more deeply than other people do -- They must create an actor's Stradivarius.
If Lynn [Rein. See the December 13 post -- DD] is capable of doing the history of School of Speech why is her article in Dialogue so utterly devoid of appreciation of what that school was. Why is it so devoid of appreciation, of color? It reads like an article written in response to an unimaginative assignment of a professor in an English class "Write a 1000 word essay on -- --". But that wasn't what surprised me most in the last "Dialogue". Lee Mitchell who was McBurney's right hand man in the destruction of the theatre department writes on "foundations of excellence" ---- for the Centennial section. So the "Centennial" is to celebrate McBurney's reign! I get my invitation to the ground breaking the day before the event! But McBurney gets there on time! I have a diploma from the old School and two degrees from the present school. And I knew Dr. Cumnock! ---- Sorry!
It's a beautiful day! Pennsylvania in October. We drove for two or three hours this morning. Intoxication! "Lord, thou has made the world too beautiful this year"
Yes, the class is alive this year. I begin to enjoy teaching again. I still fear "Sea Gull" [A spring production was planned by the new Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble -- DD] but not quite so much as before. Tell JC [a former Bloomsburg student -- DD] of these developments. He might be impressed --
Have fun

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1977

The play I directed for my first University Theatre mainstage production (fall quarter 1977) was Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance.

Letter (27 November 1977)
Do you present your show in Cahn? [The largest theater auditorium on campus. With one balcony, it seats over a thousand-- DD] If you do let me warn you about projection problems. You know it is difficult. There are spots on stage from which it is exceptionally difficult: upstage center and in a direct line down stage. Get your people on stage before dress rehearsal and have them think out and up to the balcony. It isn't loudness that carries. In fact loudness strikes up subtle reverberations that muddle sound. It is (1) think up and out, (2) realize that it takes sound time to travel that distance 3 articulate clearly but not artificially, 4. Direct tones to the front. I know you have probably been aware of this, but I have to make sure -- And maybe you are not in Cahn!

[Comments about an NU colleague -- DD]

Can't you get the department to bring in a good voice instructor? Your people badly need it. It is shocking that people in the field of acting graduate from Speech with such hideously inadequate voices. And people like T [A former graduate assistant, studying in Bloomsburg -- DD] are not equipped to do the job! And Speech reeducation people [now the department of Communications Sciences and Disorders -- DD] are not equipped to do the job. They know only remedial speech, not speech for the actor. When is the department going to wake up to this fact?
Write me in full about Delicate Balance opening. You know we are all wishing big wishes for you. Keep your spine erect, no caving in! My other self will be sitting in the right end seat, 8th row, center section. Tell them to play out to me.


Letter (19 December 1977)
I have not yet had a direct account of Delicate Balance, maybe Rand will be back tonight. [Rand Whipple, NU alum and Bloomsburg student, and current resident of Bloomsburg PA -- DD]
Sizing up the strength and weakness of this year's group: You must concentrate on responding, responding to fellow actors, to the world in which their characters exist, to the specifics in that world which play on character. These people still want to play emotions, say lines! After six months of Chekhov. I am desperate. They can play escape, but from what: the stemming from the stimulus is missing. And stir creative minds!


Letter (30 December 1977)
David, this letter came to me from John Van Meter. He is a deeply thoughtful critic. I thought you might like to see it. It is high encouragement. Did the theatre staff recognize the merit in your work?

[...Discussion of the beginning plans to start a theatre in Bloomsburg -- DD]

A brilliant 1978 to you!

Letter to Krause from John Van Meter (27 December 1977)
Dear Alvina,
David's production was such as to command the utmost respect from all who saw it. The quality of listening in the audience was something you rarely sense in theatres today and the lively discussions of Albee's intent, meanings, dramatic methods which you heard in the lobby during intermissions and after the play showed that the drama was engrossing to the spectators. David seems to have spent his rehearsal time on all the right things, so that we were treated not only to comedy and climaxes, but to poetry, good diction, voices well-placed, actors' bodies under control, developing characters and character relationships, beautiful resonances after and between lines. He did, I thought, an especially remarkable job of opening up the evening -- of establishing his characters, the tone of the evening to come, the questions to be probed in our own minds. David seemed genuinely excited by my suggestion to him that his principal characters needed something "new" to do in the latter part of the play so that an audience wouldn't feel they had heard all the strings in a given actor's bow -- that some new vocal tones, new notes of speaking, new acting areas to play in, new attacks on scenes, etc. in the last hour of playing could keep us refreshed and on the edges of our seats right up to the end. David's mind grasped the possibilities of this with any production and went racing off to develop its potential: he has a robust intelligence. I know you would have been thrilled by the play in performance and by seeing the sound applications of your principles to worthwhile material. And at NU again -- of all places. My own fondness for Albee as a playwright has quickly-reached limits: I find his people tiresome, I don't like some of his involuted dialogue, he hints at things he will dramatize later and then sidesteps the whole matter instead, and he is too darkly pessimistic for my taste. I would hate to be trapped for six weeks as the director of one of his plays, but I admire David's staying power in such a situation. When he told me about some of his problems with individual cast members (the girl who played the four-times divorced daughter in particular) I was in awe of his handling of the cast, for it was ensemble playing from beginning to end. And how difficult! -- all the characters in that grey zone of middle age where nothing but solid character acting will carry the day, even if the average cast age is 20! ... a college girl who has to be drunk all evening, etc. etc. David dared mightily and brought off a production to be remembered by U. T. [University Theatre -- DD] audiences. His lot from now on with his colleagues wil not be an easy one. He is too good!
I'm delighted to know that Lucy has been feeling well and that you have had some company in the house for part of the holidays. I'm so sorry to learn of your sister's death. [Krause's favorite sibling -- Otelia? Krause was the youngest of five and ten years younger than Otelia, the next youngest -- DD] Would that we could go on at our peak performances always and not have to waste away. But it cannot be. And so I settle for memories more and more of the enrichments that have come my way from those who have at some time been close to me.
Will you ladies travel to Chicago when the snows are over or shall I come to Bloomsburg again to see you?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Winter 1978

The School of Speech was planning to publish a 100th anniversary history.

A Centennial history of the School done by a present graduate student fills me with horror. What department is the student in? He should be in Interpretation. Not by Public Speaking! The School was first of all: Interpretation. You should supervise the study -- can't you manage it? If not it should be Lilla. [Lilla Heston, chair of the Interpretation Department]. She has more links with the Dennis regime than anyone. See that whoever does it gets in touch with Hazel Easton [Instructor of Voice and Interpretation 1919-1936; those positions were phased out in 1936. And Winifred Ward's life partner (see blog post of September 22, 2012) -- DD], she will have invaluable material and perhaps knows how to reach people still living who were in some way connected with the Dennis years. Be sure that whoever does it begins with a graduate dissertation done some years ago on Cumnock by Grace Mattern. That Centennial paper must come out of the Interp department. It was when McBurney, a public speaking man, was made Dean that the ruin began. Let's have an end to hypocrisy!
Your new course -- splendid. Go on working at it, think about it deeply, find yourself in it. That's all I can say. Find what you really want to say through theatre. Keep at theatre roots in living, but growing to theatre. Set up goals, never lose sight of them. What is it we want: great Theatre. Now define that term! Never lose sight of what you are really teaching. And what students deeply need --
My flu has been dreadful -- I still go weak with no provocation. And I am sick of being shut in for three weeks! And my head doesn't click on all fours. And I didn't know Moliere would be such a nightmare to teach. They seem all responsive, understanding ---- and nothing happens. No carry over. They do nothing. They seem content to know about. There's no drive to do. Are any of them really actors?

Happy working!



[...Krause asks about someone who had written to inquire about joining the Bloomsburg students...--DD]
Lynn Rein [Hired to write the centenary history of the School of Speech -- DD] was an experience! I hate living in the past. I recognize roots in the past, but I do not want to relive it. And she did her dissertation on Lew Sarett! [Professor of prosody in the Public Address and Communication Department 1920-1953 --DD] That bit of news almost turned me off completely. Lew Sarett put McBurney in the Dean's chair. His name, to me, is anathema. For whom is she writing this book? Wood? [Roy V. Wood, Dean of the School of Speech 1972-1988 -- DD] NU? Who is financing it? She somehow dodged my questions. Has she interviewed Sam Ball? (Teacher of Set Design 1960 to late 1990s] He could tell a thing or two about the McBurney era. I wish Rein success but what can she do with the McBurney years. And will she tell he married his daughter-in-law after his son deserted her. To my amazement she had found C C Cunningham's [Professor of Interpretation 1929-1947-- DD] letter of resignation in the library! In President Miller's files. You must read it some day. It was plain truth he told.
[...Discussion of the situation with her current Bloomsburg students... -- DD]
W was here the other night all afire -- he had just discovered Shaw. He was so excited he bounced in his chair. He had just discovered Bernard Shaw! You get busy and really teach this giant in Theatre! M is full of Shavian vitality too. He is a stimulant. Teach him.
We have just returned from a beautiful trip to the Gaspé Peninsula. John Van Meter drove us. Beautiful!
Make it a great year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 1977

It had been a tumultuous Ft. Lauderdale summer. This post is a conflation of two letters from Krause with discussions of her Bloomsburg students omitted.

Wisdom, David! Seek it! Hang onto it! Wisdom and understanding. Let this summer lead you to it. Try hard to see through this tangle and come through it without scars that are too deep.
...try to reach understanding. Pass no judgment until you can view it all from a distant mountain top. And grow, David! Taller and taller.
I think you all have learned much this summer. Or rather, much has crystallized. You have grown. I think you are, at least, the leader you should be. Is the way clear now? Are you strong enough to take over the role you must play at NU? No more downstage extra player positions? You know now that you can act, you can direct, you can teach.
The questions you ask me are the ones that hit me after I was retired and started travelling to other teachers. It hit hard: Where were the teachers of acting? I was shocked, amazed, sick: All other aspects of theatre taught in detail, but no acting -- Why? -- Because in this country -- in this great America, the "star" system prevails! You have it or you don't have it: it can't be taught -- And it has infected [Krause names names -- DD]
I don't need to give you the answer, David. You know it. You have found it.
Meanwhile if this group can start things going in Bloom -- Who knows maybe you don't need NU --
Be brave --
Two roads- - - -
I took the one less travelled by
And that made all the difference


Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 1977

Besides directing Arms and the Man in Ft. Lauderdale, I played Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. This post is an excerpt from a longer letter dealing with her Bloomsburg students.


If an audience does not look with you into the far distance and see nothing you fail. I suggest you play in black darkness and try to see light. If your audience sees a nuclear cloud rising -- good.
The comedy springs from the incongruity of two tramps, two naive humans concerned with a banana and the need for a toilet are faced with profundities -- Charlie Chaplin and a nuclear bomb -- You -- David -- washed up on a desert isle -- you need food -- why? -- shelter -- why? But you can't remember the end of "King Lear": Waiting for -- what? Godot. Never forget that empty waiting. So you eat a banana, take off a shoe, rub a corn, talk, take off a coat, put it on again -- endlessly waiting -- for what? And in come Pozzo -- money -- money -- and a slave remembering all the things he has forgotten -- with no association with realities. -- Some rehearsal play it as a nightmare more real than reality --
The summer was a curious one, but wound up with three final hours of work that make hope flame again.
[... Further discussion of her students -- DD....]

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Winter 1977, Summer 1977

A letter mostly about her Bloomsburg students.
I omit that central section.

Wonderful! So you have really found the joy of teaching! You will probably suffer for it! Excellence cannot be tolerated, you know. But for the students' sake keep it up and know that the intolerance is acknowledgement of achievement on your part.
My class starts slowly. They chose to work on Shaw and he has them floundering for the time being.

[...Discussion of individuals -- DD]

These people have written me. Are they people I want if I decide to keep on with this strange, non-academic set-up. Would they work as hard and as intelligently as the present group?
[A list of names -- DD]


During the summer of 1977 I directed a production of Shaw's Arms and the Man in Ft. Lauderdale in a company mostly of fellow Krause Bloomsburg students.

So you have learned! The hard way! By seeing a good drama turn into a bad show! Now engrave it in hard words in your brain, your heart, your director's code: A director must be an autocrat, a tyrant, a strict disciplinarian. He must not compromise! The drama comes first, the public a close second. Keep your tender, compassionate heart in storage for your personal, private life. As a director you have no private life. For the period of rehearsal and production the play is your life! And your players will honor you, respect you, even love you if you are that autocrat. If those players are true theatre people they will make their private lives secondary to their theatre life. Shaw comes first. Serve him and you will be rewarded not only by public approval but by the deep respect of your cast. Stiffen your spine, David. No compromises with personal soft heartedness! I am happy your cast pulled through with a good performance Saturday night, but in future guard against that happening.
Clear your mind, David! You have the capacity to become a great director. Don't settle for less. Keep your vision clear, your sights clear: truth, excellence. Hold them to the highest! There are thousands of [Krause names three NU colleagues -- DD], but only a few greats. Join the latter!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1976

My first professional acting job in Chicago: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols. Directed by Dennis Zacek. Northlight Theatre.

Just had a long telephone call from John Van Meter. Ecstatic over "Joe Egg". And John to be moved to ecstasy is most rare. He praised your work in great detail. And praised the directing! That was a surprise after seeing his work at Loyola. [Zacek was artistic director of Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre from 1977 to 2011. In fall 1971 at Loyola he co-directed with Bud Beyer a production of Romeo and Juliet, which I think is the only production of Zacek's that Krause saw. At Loyola I acted in several shows directed by Zacek: The Knack (fall 1969), Little Mary Sunshine (spring 1970), The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd (summer 1970), Thieves' Carnival (summer 1970), Waiting for Godot (winter 1971)  -- DD]
So you did it! You truly did it! Tied up all you have learned and all that you are. Now will you stand tall! Without any prodding. Now will you teach with joy? You better! And meet your faculty colleagues eye to eye. Be humble thinking of all there is still to achieve, but no humility before the Coakleys, Schneidemans [faculty colleagues -- DD], etc. of your world. Did the Dean see your production? No humility before him either! Eye to eye assurance!
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to gloat a little personally. Grin at [She names another colleague -- DD] for me!


I am deeply curious about the 2 million plus that has been contributed to the theatre fund. Do find out who gave it. The Dean should be willing to tell. [I didn't ask; he didn't tell -- DD]
As for the article [Is it the Dialogue article? something else? I can't remember -- DD] -- no one could do it more effectively than you -- especially since this summer when I think you were objective about the totality of theatre training. Whatever you do keep it down to earth, realistic, true. No eulogy. The roots of acting are in humanity. The study of characters is the study of man -- of the people of a small town, a big town, a family, a Congress, a White House. if you can stick to assignments -- I so much wish you could destroy the charisma rationalization that [She names a colleague -- DD] and other theatre staff are propagating. The extension of the theories of psychology, sociology, history, etc -- into reality, into humanity ---- why can't people see it -- They don't want to: it's hard going, it means thinking, understanding, perceiving. And that statement: "Acting can't be taught; you have it or you don't" -- that sticks in my craw! -- And vitally concerned. Not a day goes by, studying Chekhov, that we have not referred to US politics, the nuclear bomb, education, etc -- Be sure to indicate that studying drama is not going back to the past; it is bringing our past to our present.
God bless!


After the second week of fall 1976, I stopped writing a teaching journal. This is one of Krause's last comments in that journal.

I burst with joy!
Now you are strong. You know where you are going.
Fear Nothing -- No One
Take Workshop [Student-directed one-acts -- DD] on any terms and convert it into yours with superior leadership

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Claire from A Delicate Balance -- An Email Exchange

A former student emailed me about Albee's Claire and she gave me permission to post our subsequent exchange, which I do with minor editing. Ideas are scattered, therefore, and undeveloped; but I thought the spirit of the exchange was worth that shortcoming.

The Emails
Evelyn (Not her real name):
So what's the deal with CLAIRE in A Delicate Balance? Now that I'm her age, and know a few struggling alcoholics, I have more questions than ever.... What is the true vulnerability that keeps her from trying to function on her own? What keeps her living with Agnes and Tobias? When did she get permanently installed? After the death of the boy? Was the affair of the wet July after the boy's death?
Yes, she's funny, and wise and acerbic and all that, but she has made MAJOR compromises to maintain this relationship. Did she try and work and the booze kept her from any sort of success.... What makes her feel that she is entitled to A and T's care? Did the Dad of Agnes and Claire have anything to do with this? There is a sentence about his deathbed wish...?

David (My real name):
There are lots of opposites delicately balanced in the play. The one that strikes deepest for me and that links all the scenes and the acts together is the balance between Rights and Responsibilities. This is the organizing oppositional balance for all the others: self v. others; family v. friends; parent v. child; etc. And where are the lines drawn? When does friend become invader? when does child become adult? What rights and responsibilities does that imply? What's the balance between doing for others and protecting yourself? etc. And behind it all, what is it that you're protecting?

It's important not that the characters are of a certain age, but that they are of a certain socio-economic class and are retired and no longer actively engaged in life and living -- and there is a question about how vital their engagement has ever been. They've made their compromises and they are living a relatively, though delicately (sorry), balanced life with them. (Tobias asks the gardener about the new orchids for the greenhouse; Agnes checks with the cook about the evening's dinner plans, stops at Claire's door to listen if she's awake. Perhaps without needing to say anything, she hands Tobias the empty brandy snifter she finds on the stairs.) Harry and Edna will challenge the structure of that life and force Agnes and Tobias to come to irrevocable decisions about this delicate balance. (I've always appreciated the metaphor of the mobile for family: each piece strategically placed to keep it all in balanced suspension. Add pressure anywhere and all pieces must adjust in an effort to maintain balance.) I like that the play pulls back from that final irrevocable confrontation by letting Harry and Edna upstairs arrive at the decision to leave just as downstairs Agnes and Tobias are reaching a decision about what they -- he -- will do. So Tobias's "aria" becomes not so much a confrontation with Harry as a plea for Harry to give Tobias a chance to Do the Right Thing -- even if doing so might bring disaster on his delicately balanced family life -- an easier "aria" to sing when you know that Harry and Edna are leaving.

It's pretty clear that Claire never quite lived up to the standard that her older sister set as a daughter, a girl friend, a mate, etc. And since Agnes surely was Miss Perfect, it's not hard to imagine slightly younger sister Claire becoming Miss Imperfect. If Claire wanted to, she could go to the country club Christmas party and dress and act just like all the other women, but long ago she fell before their judgments and Agnes's expectations and she began to parade her failings rather than hiding them. Why?
Yes, she did once live alone, though she has never worked because she has never needed to work. But living alone was a failure, no? The description Agnes gives of Claire's life on her own is an accurate one. And, yes, on his deathbed, their father made Agnes promise she would take care of Claire. And so Claire has a shelter, a home, a safe haven here without having to be personally responsible for maintaining it; balance that 'right' with the 'responsibility' of gratitude to her sister as well as some attempt to keep her excesses in check and you get the major forces of her life. So, yes, she's entitled. She's also needful of this. Dad knew it and Agnes knows it. And although it's not possible to pinpoint the exact time/occasion that Claire came to live with them, it has been long enough that her part in the mobile balance of this family has been firmly established.
I'm not sure that there is a "true vulnerability that keeps her from functioning on her own" beyond what the play suggests in the lifelong living in Perfect Agnes's shadow, etc. I think you can add that, given the kind of outsider's objectivity Claire has (It's not for nothing that she's named 'Claire'), she can see things clearly but can't find enough strength to live as if she didn't.

After the death of the paternal grandmother, Albee's adoptive mother and father moved into the house that provides the setting for this play. Mrs. Albee had an alcoholic younger sister who often made extended visits as a houseguest there. Imagine the young Edward Albee -- with the passion and the objectivity of an artist -- witnessing his father's acquiescence to his mother in all things as she destroyed his relationship with his father. He hated his mother -- and she him -- and it was many years after her death that he wrote Three Tall Women and came to some reconciliation with his feelings about her. He was an artist, a social activist, someone who wanted to matter, etc. -- and surely the privileged and essentially meaningless life of his family must have caused despair as well as anger.
Albee said, "These people [the characters of A Delicate Balance] are teetering between being able to survive and being thrown into chaos". And for me that describes the greater existentially philosophically huger reality behind "Rights v. Responsibilities". Behind it all, as Agnes says, is "the deep sadness". The existential despair thing. The sense of lives lived not meaningfully, not productively. Emptiness. I think this is as important to the play and to the characters as the foot pedal bass line is important to the musical meaning of an organ piece.

Anyway, to respond to your other specific questions, Tobias does say to Agnes that he didn't want to have sex with her after Teddy's death so that she might be spared another pregnancy. So we might be able to imagine that the July Claire affair happened after that. Dunno if it's essential (or possible) to know for certain. (And regardless of when Claire came to live with them permanently, this incident suggests that she has always been an intimate part of their lives.)
You may be only six or seven years younger than Claire, but important to understanding the gulf between you and her is that she lives in a world that expects no real productive activity from any of them and so they create a cocoon that keeps the outside world away. Until Harry and Edna (Mitt and Ann? George and Barbara?) enter with their fear of imminent disaster.

Okay, but now the question is: What does the actor DO to turn all these ideas into expressive meaningful behavior?

Enough. I didn't think this through carefully, so feel free to find it inadequate to your needs. And feel free to pound further on my virtual door.

I think the context of NON-PRODUCTIVE may be the most important touchstone for me. When I talk to my students, I remind them that knowing themselves is critical. In this case, knowing that EVELYN must at the end of the day Be Productive above all things, Claire will be a really interesting challenge for me. What if I, Evelyn, had no use? Couldn't Advocate, Teach, Parent, make lists, bake cookies, create, nurture, pick dog poop up, WHATEVER!!!!
I might drink. I often dream of being a more addictive personality, cuz I love a buzz, but my usefulness kicks in and I think about all that will not get done if I overdo.... WOW.

Ohyes, you have lots of Claire capacities. You have the objective fifty-yard line pov, her delight in language, her ability to see the ironies, the incongruities, in others' lives -- and in her own. You early on loved the response you got from knocking people off balance with straight-talk -- shocking!
(How do you relate to Claire's relationship with family?)

Then try this: View your out-going motivation/need to DO, to Produce, to pick up dog poop, etc., as an addictive energy/need all on its own. Fuel it with the early Claire failure to live up to Agnes -- and you can turn your own driving energy into destructivve behavior. Improvise the first time Claire decided to get drunk in order to escape from being compared and found lacking. Was it a club dance? a fund-raiser? Did she try hard to succeed? Maybe there was a contest to sign up as many people as possible to donate to charity. And Claire seems to be winning. Then, of course, Agnes's tally is counted (Or something -- you create one that works for you). And Claire just finally decides whatthefuckwhybother and she gets roaring drunk. She gets attention. Noticed. And she gets to give them the finger at the same time as she gets finally to be the one in the spotlight.
Drink as an escape from -- what? and also as a way to get noticed, responded to. ("Oh, I am here! I exist!")

One more thing: It occurs to me that [the name of an actress with whom Evelyn was often in competition -- and who usually won] is your Agnes.


Ooooo, I didn't mean to ouch you. But if it makes creative sense, it's worth it....

It was a good ouch!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1976

Where Krause wrote names,  I use capital letters.

Your progress is stupendous!
The group here had a setback -- We gave too much time to the pantomime for the Fair -- the Wedding dress exhibition [Above the fireplace in the living room hung a painting of Lucy's grandmother in a wedding dress; in the trunk Lucy's grandmother had packed when she fled the Union troops, Lucy had the dress. One of the Bloomsburg group, Laurie McCants, wore it for the fair. See attached photo  --DD] -- It got them off the track. But they are back in stride this week -- A is terrific in grasp and understanding, B is equal to him and adds a wider background. C is growing -- you should see her Work now -- D has depths I did not dream of -- They are a joy --
Carry on


Laurie McCantz wearing Lucy's grandmother's dress and standing before the portrait -- and it seems grandmother is wearing something other than the wedding gown.
A note from Jerry Stropnicky, founding member of The Bloomsburg Theatre ensemble:  I remember that dress, which I reconstructed from unsewn fabric. The silk was given by President Polk to Lucy's ancestor, the thread had disintegrated in storage. Lucy wanted the dress reconstructed, so we did and won the blue ribbon (first prize) at the Bloomsburg Fair. Stories layered on stories.

And this is Laurie in a rehearsal skirt for Irina from Three Sisters and Nina from The Sea Gull etc. in front of the house several of them rented.

[Photos posted with the approval of Laurie McCantz]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 76 journal

One of the students who went to Bloomsburg in the summer of 1976 shared the page of comments Krause wrote in his journal.

Student Journal
What does Gaev do when he says "He smells of the henhouse"? What is his olfactory sense like? What did he buy after the sale of the cherry orchard --
Do you hear his voice?

Whenever you make a discovery about a character, immediately ask: How is this expressed by eyes? Spine? Voice? What is Gaev's basic rhythm?

Yasha -- Draw a picture of him. How does he wear his hair? What is his vocal tune? Do you see his smile? Describe his eyes.

Every time you make a discovery, tell how it determines character -- For instance, look about at people today -- How do we express our age, our Watergate era?
What has happened to our spines? Why is the American voice what it is? Have you looked into people's eyes lately? What do you see? What is our rhythm of speed? of movement? Why?

Get into development of character and its physical expression. Can you hear Gaev's voice, its quality, its pace, its rhythm, its diction? How does Yasha's differ?
Sit in a library for 8 hours reading bad print, taking notes -- What happens to your spine? And you have forgotten to eat since yesterday -- Now what are your eyes like? What do they see? -- but you have an idea you must get on paper -- Now describe this Trofimov.


I kept detailed notes of each class session with Krause that summer. Her comments clarified or expanded on my notes. This is what she wrote at the end.

Journal Note
Tell me how you will make all this information yours --
How will you go about getting total response --
Know what you are after and Never be Afraid.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Spring 1976

I spent the summer of 1976 in Bloomsburg with mostly Northwestern graduates mostly from the first class I had taught the full three-year acting course. This is a letter I got in the spring anticipating their arrival.

David, could you have copies made of the enclosed material and distribute copies to people who are coming. I feared if I sent it to some member of the group it might seem preferential treatment. I don't want to waste any time getting started. No one tells me the date when they will all assemble here. Can you initiate a response? These are people who are coming:
[A list of seven people -- DD]
I know you are busy, I hate to trouble you, but ----

Lucy insisted I go to NY for one day with a friend who was driving up -- I went, saw two of the Norman Conquests plays [by Alan Ayckborn -- DD] and had dinner with Paula and Dick [Prentiss and Benjamin -- DD] and their wonderful two year old son -- Fabulous!
I find myself in a panic about the summer. On the one hand I welcome the opportunity to work but seven new people and only eight weeks, sixteen sessions, thirty two hours ----- madness! What can be achieved? In the middle of the night a stern voice says "Cancel it! There's still time!"
I wonder about your work, but think of no suggestions. Do teach with joy!


Enclosed Material
In order to lose no time of our brief summer session come prepared to start work on the first day of our meeting on "Cherry Orchard". Prepare one of the following passages from the play. Avoid making it a finished production; keep it in the work-rehearsal stage. Work alone, or with others.
Trofimov-Anya: end of Act II
Anya-Varya: Act I dialogue
Trofimov-Lopahin: Act IV
Lopahin -- Opening of Act I
Lubov -- Act II "Oh my sins! I have thrown away money -----
Gaev -- Act I, the bookcase
The key to Chekhov is the essential of all true acting: truthfulness of response, of total response (Words spoken are only the vocalized part of the response). To arrive at these responses create the world of the drama, respond to the people of that world, respond to the significant elements of the environment. Bring to the moment the essential associations which are heightened, intensified by the moment of the drama (homecoming, departure, imminence of change).
Through responses to environment, to people, motivate the thought behind lines, overflowing lines, never spoken, more important than the vocalized thought. This unspoken thought, response, carries the drama to its final moment: the sound of the ax.
Every moment must reveal the inner action of the Chekhov drama: a great orchard has become unproductive; the owners of the Cherry Orchard have become unproductive. What happens to their world? To Russia? What similarity do you find in your world (school, theatre). Find life studies from, in, your world (Bring to all drama a concern -- the concern that motivates Chekov.)
The play is a comedy. The dramatist views his world, his people, his Russia from a distance. He loves his people, his country; but from a distance he sees incongruities which are comic. Not farce comedy, not belly-laugh comedy but thoughtful comedy based on love and understanding and concern for the world in which we live. You love your mother but she can't balance a check book; your father is a great guy but putting up storm windows he falls off the ladder, or breaks the glass. Lopahin is a fine man, a highly competent merchant but he can't say "Varya, marry me". Lubov is a lovely person, everyone loves her, but money slips through her fingers, as does life, love, happiness.
These are comments to start your creative minds going in the right direction. Focus on truth. Chekhov drama is realism, but in its high selectivity it becomes poetic realism. Think about it, read about it.


In this group were the first of those who, two years later, created The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble which continues successfully today. The BTE is preparing to celebrate its Thirty-Fifth Anniversary.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Spring 1976

Advice and Exhortation

Do you know, and do you use, "John Gielgud's Hamlet" by Rosamund Gilder? -- It would be invaluable. It is a detailed description, moment by moment, of Gielgud's production -- and his was a Hamlet of deep grasp. If you don't have a copy, get busy and find one. Some one got away with mine, to my deep regret. Start a search through second hand dealers -- I think it is out of print. I think Deering library lost their copy too. Use it!! Assign it: "Present nunnery scene as 1) John Gielgud did it" 2. As you would do it. Do not be hesitant to use such material openly while you are finding your way. If you have any creative sense it will assert itself; if you haven't then follow a leader, a creator, a Gielgud! To the creative teacher, the whole world is a stimulus -- books, people, music, art, politics -- Use the world! The stimuli are not within you -- The responses, the creative responses are within you. The world, life, art play upon them. Shakespeare is the whole wide world, all time, past present future: Renaissance, medieval, modern -- the far stretches of the mind. The theatre is the universe! Don't get bogged down in a classroom for God's sake! Don't get hemmed in by [She names two colleagues and an administrator -- DD].
The theatre is freedom!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Spring 1976

Winter quarter 1975 I directed Winnebago, a one-act play by Frank Galati. It played in the Benson Street Lab. In the lab winter quarter 1976 I directed Entertaining Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton about which Frank Galati said that he had missed the sex and the violence.
It was not unnoticed by me that sex and violence are central to Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

Dear David,
When a production closes never, never dwell on what was wrong. The result of such contemplation is despair. Always 1) recognize the wrong 2. immediately seek the why 3. Plan the approach to the next production. Always go on. Never dwell in the past. What must you do now? Where is the gap in your work? Why? It seems to me -- and from this angle I could be wrong -- your weakness is in character motivation. If your people had been truly motivated they would have responded to each other and to their world in such a way that Frank would have got from your production -- inevitably the sex brutality which he felt was lacking.
This aspect is latent in the first meeting with the cast. 1) Create the world in which these people live. Don't think because the drama is modern you will not have to focus on the elements which make this modern world. In a sense for this reason, a modern drama is more difficult than a classic: your people think they know their world. They don't. Bring newspaper stories to their attention -- stories in which your drama may be rooted. Get them out of the college classroom into the world of Mr. Sloane. 2. Establish the dramatist viewpoint on this world. Does he see it from the comic, objective viewpoint? from the tragic? The realistic: comic and tragedy? 3. Improvise your characters in this world until their character spines develop, until their responses are clear and habitual. Lead your characters into the playwright's viewpoint: in this moment of dramatization, what did the playwright, through character, say about his world and sex?
In fact, what I have written should be the subject of the last quarter of B43. [The three-quarter beginning acting class -- DD] If you no longer use the novelist to create character, you, yourself, will need to take on the attributes of the novelist. What is the world that created the people in Virginia Woolf? Maybe that's a good beginning -- Bring in a character study of a professor -- in a classroom -- after a movie, in a bar, in a faculty meeting, alone with TV, reading the morning paper, at commencement, etc -- etc -- His wife, ditto. Don't use one word from the play until the contemporary academic world is set up: money, promotion, honesty, success, failure, sex freedom, sex restriction, intellectual integrity vs. academic promotion, need to create an imaginary world, natural instincts vs abortion. Abortion of ideas, of ideals, etc ad infinitum. Maybe "Virginia" would be good background for your last quarter, But do not let them use one word from the play until near the end of the course. What becomes important to each person? What motivates him? What price education? What is a "character"?
You have much to learn -- that is wonderful -- you must grow and grow and grow. There is no end to growth in theatre. That's the wonder of it, the frustration of it, the amazement of it: you take a giant step and you're at the foot of a mountain. Even if you get to the top of it, there will be a whole range to explore. Climb on!
I have received no letter from [She names a student who wanted to move to Bloomsburg to study with her -- DD]. Let him write again but actually six students is quite enough. Tell everyone the class is complete unless someone has to drop out -- no more.
Muriel Bach [former student who regularly performed one-person shows -- DD] comes here this week with her new program for AAUW. I won't know how we are going to get Lucy to the auditorium, but somehow it must be done. She has not yet been able to get into a car. We have used the ambulance or the van for the aged. Neither are available for entertainment pursuits. No one realizes that Muriel's program is therapy.
Chin up, spine erect, eyes bright, stride into the future like Renaissance Man!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: December 1, 1975 and January 31 1976


Letter (December 1, 1975)
The doctor insists that Lucy is recovering -- It is slow, but it is recovery. When she will be able to go home he can't say, but she will to home! And that starts contemplation of a future. Bloomsburg will be our abiding place. No more travelling. And so I have been thinking perhaps of resuming acting classes again -- not for a few months, but eventually. But I would want students who could be of service to us. Give us six to eight hours of service in return for lessons. Reasonable? Lucy will be unable to drive her car. Is there someone wanting acting lessons who could drive our Cadillac as we required transportation, shopping, etc. Someone who could, and would, do yard work. This is all speculative. Until we take Lucy home I can't tell how my time may be occupied. But perhaps you could survey the scene from your angle --
Dean Wood's [Dean 1972-1988 -- DD] elaborate alumni appeal amuses me ironically. Dean McBurney said "Alumni will not run my school" and proceeded effectively to destroy all Dennis [Dean Ralph Dennis 1913-1942 -- DD] alumni relations. Now Dean Wood sounds a trumpet call --



Letter (January 31, 1976)
Dear David,
I wish you could share the beauty of your flowers with me! They are lovely. The container is a glass basket, faintly gold at the bottom, intensifying to a soft gold-red at the top. Your small, delicate red roses are opening slowly surrounded by the soft gold yellow of -- I forget the name of the lovely plumes. Small carnations tinted red and soft gold hold them all together. It sits on our dining table and Lucy shares my pleasure! Thank you!
The doctor says Lucy's progress is good. She, of course, is impatient. She hates doing nothing and I am not clever enough to think of important things to do. She scoffs at "busy work" and frets that I do too much. Life is complicated by the fact that the doctor says "No red meat"! She dislikes fish and chicken and turkey get pretty tiresome. So what am I going to do? How long will she be content with soup! A further complication: her doctor is leaving Geisinger Hospital. She would not be here today if he had not taken over. The head of the neurological clinic said "She is too old. Nothing can be done." And Dr. Thomas took over. Now he is leaving. He has not decided where he is going. To Arizona temporarily. I finally blurted out "Why, why are you going?" He continued writing for a while, continued testing Lucy for several minutes then looked me straight in the eye and quietly said "For ethical reasons". I gulped -- hard. I was back at NU. McBurney, New Dean, was saying to me "You raised a question in faculty meeting regarding a proposition I had made. I consider questioning your Dean grounds for dismissal. Keep that in mind in future." I considered resigning, thought better of it, decided to go my way alone, but to fight him in my way. Now I meet that same thing in Geisinger Hospital! Dr. Thomas was quietly telling me that in the clinic where his wife works 80% of the operations performed are unnecessary! They even leave patients in an impaired psychological state. So for ethical reasons he is leaving! Humanity, what price humanity! -- See that your teaching is rooted in humanity!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: 25 November 1975




Lucy wrote that -- which tells you that there is hope again -- I am assuming that the beautiful flowers came from you -- red roses, heather, pink carnations -- Lovely! She was not capable of seeing them the first day. Now she smiles in response. The doctor today said "Better! Much better" and he stays talking to her about an hour. Just talking about gardens and people and things. He performed this arteriogram  on the Maharajah of India. Lucy chuckles over that; he says he has improved in the intervening years.
I stay right here every day and some nights for it is essential that she be relaxed and unworried. And I can calm her when panic raises its ugly head. She has been here for three weeks and it will probably be two to three weeks more. But she is alive! And today the prospects are good. Will you pass the word along? I find it difficult to write. Tell John Van Meter.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: 17 November 1975


Geisinger Hospital
Danville, PA

Dear David,
This is difficult to write. I am at the hospital where Lucy is confined. She has had a brain hemorragh [sic]. Not a massive one. She was treated for several days for a concussion. They have performed a strange operation. A silken tube has been run from the groin through the entire torso to the brain: the blood has been drained, the bleeding stopped. And that is all I know. She is under sedation most of the time. In between pills she is lucid, speaks clearly, remembers everything except the moment when it all occurred. She is holding her own -- that's as much as I can tell. The bevy of doctors -- five, six, seven of them -- seem pleased with her state. She keeps say [sic] "Can I go home today." It will be two weeks at the very best is the answer. I am spending my days here by her bed. My niece has come from Detroit to look after me --
Tell R I won't be answering letters for a while. Tell others the same --

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 1975

I visited Bloomsburg the beginning of summer 1975.

I hope your visit was as profitable to you as to me. I can't turn off my think-pot.
Your article is too good for Alumni News -- but turn it in. Then why not extract the best, most pertinent to the teaching of acting and submit it to American Theatre Association or Speech Association or whatever are the big professional organizations. I realize more and more that we need to fight a concept which prevails in colleges and universities: "Acting can't be taught". And your Dean wants you to publish! Well go ahead on your favorite subject!
Think seriously on your new course. Talk to the Dean about it. Tell him you have no intention of forever being a protegé of AK. That you would like to break that tie with a new course -- all yours. Remind him that you all are trying to teach AK courses. You want to break the chain. Be explicit and firm. Tell him that I was forever changing and adding. If I were teaching now I probably would add Acting & The Humanities or something of the sort.
Do understand: I don't want you to exploit me, but use me to write about teaching acting, of a theory of teaching. You do it well, so go ahead and use this material to your advantage -- You might even have a doctoral dissertation it it!!! Learn to play the academic game your way (but don't let anyone steal your ideas.) Publish! But publish what you most like!

Eventually I rewrote the Dialogue article as the shorter bio piece they actually wanted.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer and Fall 1975

I was asked to write a profile of Alvina Krause for Dialogue, the new publication of the School of Speech. I asked Krause to provide me with some background information.

[...A brief discussion of an unrelated topic -- DD]
I have jotted down on the back of your paper some of the places I have been since retirement. I simply cannot remember all. It seems I was continually catching planes to take me somewhere for a workshop after retirement -- I kept no record.
Just remember the basic philosophy I tried to communicate -- "Theatre if it is real is big. In comprehension of humanity it stretches to the far horizon -- In understanding, deep as the human heart--

Doane College for lectures and workshops repeatedly until they gave me a PhD Dr of Humanities
Yankton College several times
Texas U -- lectures and workshops
California U at LA
Michigan U
Illinois U --
Illinois Wesleyan Interim session 2 or 3 weeks of teaching and workshops
S Methodist U -- Dallas
Gallaudet, the world's only college for the deaf Washington D.C.
Master classes for the Recreation Dept. of D.C.
Roosevelt U. Ask Frank Galati

Ask Vera Ward [former student -- DD] about Yankton
Ask John Van Meter about my retirement
Evanston and New Trier H.S. Do talk to Winifred Gahagen at New Trier.  She can tell you how I work with H. S. students and how wonderful their response is. And she would be happy to help you. She understands my work as a teacher ----
Concern is my motivation passionate concern for youth, for humanity --
Concern is the root of drama. Shaw, Shakespeare, Chekhov -- all the greats --
Concern must motivate the actor, the director, the dramatist.


Further Notes
Alvina Krause
NU Alum
Assigned to teach a 2 hr. credit course in acting, AK soon transformed it into a 4 hour year course; an intermediate 4 hr year course in the acting of Greek drama, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Shaw, Ibsen was soon added. A third course in Style followed. This unusual sequence of Acting courses attracted students with serious professional aims. To complete their training A.K. established a summer theatre: The Playhouse, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania. Out of this combination of academic and practical training came Patricia Neal, Paula Prentiss, Richard Benjamin, Gerald Freedman, Inga Swenson, James Olson, Corinne Jacker, Marshall Mason, Jack Clay, Omar Paxon: teachers, directors, actors. She directed and produced 180 productions at Eagles Mere.
University Theater productions of Chekhov brought her national recognition as an authority on Chekhovian drama. Her production of King Lear was SRO. Long Day's Into Night [sic] was her final production at NU. O'Neill's Anna Christie had been her first.
Since retirement: lectures and workshops in universities and college throughout the country, directed Three Sisters and Beckett at Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, Santa Maria, California. American College Theatre Association gave her a gold medal award of excellence in 1974.
At the present moment (July 1975) she is preparing to participate in August as critic teacher in the finals of the National High School Festival in WAshington DC.


I sent her a first draft.

I began your paper with dread fearing an obituary. Thank you for avoiding that possibility!
Can you add somewhere that I am a tyrant on techniques of communication, on voice and body training, on timing and pointing of lines, on all elements of the art of communication. (This needs some stress because too many people fail to see that substance without form is meaningless -- that I demand both. To some it is a contradiction in my work.

A Final Note
The study of acting begins with life -- humanity
Emphasize the need for study, for reading, for study of all the humanities courses.
Craft is important, but it is not studied for mastery of craft alone. Its purpose is to shape, form, communicate substance. The material of drama is the astonishment of living.
Goal: Not stardom but excellence in the art of theatre.
Can you write up what I did for Galati's class? That may be what the Dean wants -- [Krause went to Evanston as a guest teacher in Frank Galati's summer 1975 class on Clowning. She was pointedly clear that she was responding to Galati's request, not to an invitation from the school -- DD].
My only reason for travelling after retirement was to communicate what acting, (theatre) really is to young people (like you) who really want to know in depth.
*Also to spread the doctrine that courses in acting in colleges and HS should not be pushed to the periphery of education, but should be at the very center because acting is the study of human motivation, of the "why" of behaviour as well as an art form as serious and big and great as opera, all music, painting, sculpture
Please try to make clear why I travelled so extensively -- It was not for money, nor fame nor self exploitation. It was because I believe totally in the importance of theatre in our culture, it must be restored to that importance if we are to exist in this world of conflict. UNDERSTANDING -- God help us! Let us do the drama of all nations, all people, with understanding, for understanding -- Please get  the motive for my teaching! And my concern for young people (like you)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Spring 1975

The group of students in Bloomsburg was growing and they were by now mostly graduates of NU. Krause's letters included more and more discussion of her work with them.
I have used capital letters when she writes actual names.

You make sure you recognize priorities! You just may have the capacities that make a great teacher. Let nothing come between you and that aim! And if you need warning, look at [She names an NU colleague -- DD]. A man of colossal talents who lost sight of priorities and what is he now! Keep your vision clear. It's a lonely road, but look at [ditto -- DD]: he chose the other --

Yes, I have told the group we stop work in two weeks. It is useless to go on and I refuse to pursue a useless course. I would rather work in my garden. I tell you this because you better do something about that sophomore course in acting! It should be the very guts of the work in acting! It should turn on the creative minds of actors. It should be the touchstone for all future work. An actor creates should be the theme. Out of what? Stored up images, sensory images, action images, people images. By what means? The creative imagination. Do you know these NU people --except for Y -- have none? No imagination at all! Even when I supply the flame, nothing kindles! They admit it: they are numb, they have never used the creative mind. P brought it all to a climax with Mercutio. We had worked on Mercutio earlier in the year. I told them: here is Shakespeare himself, his active creative mind teeming with images thrown into galloping verse. And what does P give us? A clown. A bumbling clown. Wit? Not a trace! Poetry? Imagination? Not a sign! I blew my top, P left and probably will not reappear. And thus we got to the acknowledgment: no creative minds. Three years of acting at NU and imagination is a foreign word. Now you get busy on that basic course. Scrap my program. Devise your own. But reach the creative mind! I shall work with U and Y if they like, but the rest -- goodbye.

The Chekhov cherry tree was beautiful [Those of us who first went to Bloomsburg during spring break 1972 planted a Cherry Orchard cherry tree in the backyard as a parting gift -- DD]-- and now the iris gloriously regal and I plucked a white rosebud today.
And what is NU doing for the Bicentennial?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1974

During fall 1974 and winter 1975 my journal was full of questions.

[On Creative Imagination, I end the entry with this question:]
What am I missing? Where is my blind spot?

Krause's Response:
Imagination works through the senses. They must be trained to respond.
See the lake -- actually see the color, the form, the movement: See a gull flying over the lake, muscles perceive the movement, the dip, the soaring, Hear the waves, the beat, the tempo, feel the spray.
Enlarge the responses, the lake becomes the North Sea, the water darkens, the roar is loud, the gulls cry out, the spray slaps your face, the clouds are dark, they rush -- Hamlet watches the 7th wave come in, break "To be or not to be"
[Along the left hand margin she wrote "Reality" to bracket this first part -- DD.]
Imagination becomes creative only if the realistic sensory response to a stimulus is vivid enough to enlarge of its own accord from lake to ocean to Hamlet on a parapet --
"To be" will only be words unless touched off by images rooted in reality

"My dear Judge, how mortally bored I have been" -- What must the actress see, hear, perceive -- what must the actress do -- turn a rehearsal table into a Victorian table with marble top, a miniature in a gold filigree frame, a lamp with a decorated globe shade --

Turn a rehearsal prop into Gaev's bookcase through sense response -- begin with your own reality.

[About a student in beginning acting]
And what do you do with a student who sits caved in, thinking like crazy, uncomfortable with his physical self, unable to let himself create because he is self-conscious even when I get the entire class involved in an exercise? He'll try and then he gives up, collapses. I'm at a real loss.

What is his chief interest? What does he know well? To some degree, in what is he an authority? Whatever it is, get him to show the class how -- If he is a camera buff -- Let him illustrate -- Then go to -- If Hamlet had a camera -- what -- how -- Work from the known -- from confidence to --


[A description of work on the Antigone/Creon scene in Anouilh's Antigone and my attempts to get students to create the characters as forces more than as realistic human beings. When I met resistance from the students, I flailed.]
As ever, any light you can shed will be assimilated.

Begin with real people, eliminate gradually all small actions, all small intonations. Try it in French, the language of precision. Listen to French drama.

About Antigone's Nurse
She is stripped of everything except the qualities that make her not see, not realize.

Get to the basic motivating force for each one and let that force dominate
Haemon -- a deep love for Antigone -- he would choose death for it. Youth, eliminate all romanticizing about youth and love. Play only the motivating force.
Ismene -- Youth loving life (normal) more than death.
Soldiers -- just that, no more  -- no individualities, they await orders, receive them, obey -- play poker while waiting --

I begin to question for myself. What is the difference between realism vs. Greek tragedy? Greek tragedy vs. Anouilh?

[Next to my "realism"] Death of a Salesman. Keep Arthur Miller in mind for realism.
[Next to my "Greek tragedy"] tragic realization "Lo, he is fallen"
[Next to my "Anouilh"] Aimed at the head.
[Next to my "Greek tragedy"] Aimed at understanding through -- ?

[Observations about Greek tragedy, ending with this:]
But isn't that essentially what the French drama does too? There is a difference -- I can sense it, but I cannot articulate it and therefore I'm not certain how to teach it. Will you help clarify?

It's in the aim -- the French insist on that intellectual grasp.

From my summer journal
Try being Anouilh -- with a keen mind, with a deep concern for his country, for humanity, looking from a high tower at his Paris, his France, knowing, realizing that with his talents he had the responsibility to strike a blow against Nazism. Play the Antigone he is creating as he looks at Paris.


I send her copies of the notes I post on the bulletin board.

The notes are to the point. Can you expand each point, illustrate, question? Always test your own imagination until you can trust yourself fully to develop any statement. Feel that you know Hedda and all her associates better than you know your own friends. And trust your own mind to explore, discover.
Talk about characters in drama as real people. As you talk about Eilert Lovborg become Eilert for a few moments.
[...A discussion of students and friends...DD]
I'm glad you have moved to Evanston. Should save time--


Friday, October 19, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: The Greeks Fall 1974

Notes to my junior class: the Greeks.

Krause's Comments
Excellent foundation on which to build. Be sure you bring it to concrete realizations. Insist that your students find definite modern personifications of Greek drama -- Who, today, is Creon? For me: McBurney -- Smooth, good looking politician who forced his way into a place of power to destroy the school his predecessor had created. [James H. McBurney, Dean of the School of Speech 1942-1972 -- DD]
I have always felt the Kennedy family is the epitome of Greek drama. Robert was Haemon -- Rose is Greek in facing destiny (I rebel at the Camelot application to the Kennedys)
Electra -- surely she is still among you. Lilla Heston [Charlton's sister and Chair of the Interpretation Department 1979-1984 -- DD] was once Electra -- through personal strength she survived--
I am sure that Mrs. Martin Luther King has elements of Medea in her. Not capable of killing her children, but great depth of indignation. Perhaps you will find Medea among the blacks. Remember her tragic rage was not only against Jason but against the society which created woman's role it it.
For Antigone remember my story of the Hungarian Youth watching the Russian tanks roll by --
Jacqueline Kennedy has qualities of Antigone -- she didn't choose physical death.

And I remember the students -- men and women -- who drifted into my house that afternoon of Kennedy's assassination. There was a true Greek chorus -- Speechless, numb, lost, they found their way to my house: Frank Galati -- an armful of books clasped close to his chest -- sat by the radio, tears, silent tears, helpless, hopeless tears streaming down his cheeks.
I sat by a window my eyes closed tightly wishing I could shut out the fearful words I had heard: "We break this program to announce -----"
There is the beginning of a Greek chorus -- begin with such realities to take you into Greek tragedy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1974

Year two begins.

Continue to seek communication with Dr. Scott [See post for September 24 -- DD]. Invite him to luncheon with you. Ask him direct questions: How would he stage a Greek chorus today? anything to get him started talking. Let him know that in your philosophy acting cannot be taught as a separate entity: it is part of a whole, it must be so taught -- a whole, not only of living, but of the arts and humanities. And continue to make that point in staff meetings! To teach acting you must teach theatre -- only achieved by cooperation within the department. Ask Scott -- and the department -- who are the finest teachers of literature on campus because you want to recommend that your students study with them. Who is doing significant teaching in psychology? history? sociology? The good actor must have a comprehension of the entire system of human life. Scott can help you with this, but let others know positively what your goals are. The actor acts with all that he is. This is your basic principle, isn't it? Well -- establish, promote work for this principle. Tell your students to take Galati's courses. He is no competitor, he is a colleague working for the same goals. Insist upon registration in Dr. Bacon's Shakespeare -- he too is your colleague. Maybe you can make a small break by having Yvonne [the head of the costume shop -- DD] talk to your class on acting in costume: how the chest must lead, how muscles at the waist line govern movement of the skirts, how to leap over sofas in flowing robes, how to wear "costumes" as clothes.
Break down these ridiculous barriers which have been created by jealousy and incompetence. Recognize the fact that teaching acting is teaching theatre and theatre is the astonishment of living cast into theatre form -- See John Van Meter. Seek out the people who will sustain you in your faith.
God help you
AK --

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Summer 1974

Beginning with fall 1974 I would be teaching for the first time the final year of the acting course -- Style: The Actor as Communicator.
I went to Bloomsburg for the summer of 1974 and Krause worked with her students on French drama (Moliere, Anouilh, Giraudoux) -- drama, as she put it, that demands style for its communication.
As the summer went on, the class worked on other dramatists, but as much as was possible Krause kept the focus of their work on style.
I kept a journal.
This post comprises excerpts from that journal and Krause's comments.

I titled the first entry "Style".
Krause commented:
The last stage in the creative process.
Style is more real than reality. "Why?" It is reality heightened, intensified by selectivity.
Quote, I think, from my lecture on style:
"When a craftsman has something distinctly his own to say, he may say it so clearly, so emphatically, that his manner of expression is part of what he is saying. He gives his subject clarification, intensification -- projection: he gives it Style."
"Style is organic". A.K.

Difference between Moliere, Coward, Wilde, Feydeau -- techniques are the same, but the style is different? the manner in which the techniques become part of the communication of the drama changes, but the techniques stay the same? Can you clarify?

Go straight to the end of the line --
Punch the end of the line in some way --
Use bright tones --
Toss up and out and over the audience
End business with the line --
Business points the line, must not steal the line --
Etc -- These are techniques common to all.
Style comes from discovering exactly what best suits the specific character and drama --
Style makes choices, Style selects, Style throws focus exactly where it should be to make a point (Chaplin throws focus on his eyes for instance by eliminating focus on his mustache -- Throws focus on his hat by eliminating all else)

I could do a dozen things (acts) to characterize me. If I wanted to project an acting teacher cares passionately about humanity, what specifically would I do? That selection of detail is style.


Working on Dorine and Orgon from Tartuffe, I asked about getting students to discover the responsiveness and flexibility of character spine.
Krause wrote this:
Spines --
I used animal studies to make students aware of spines -- Be a cat -- note that the tail is moved by the spine -- Note that each footstep starts in the spine, flows through -- Be a cat -- be a human cat -- control the tale [sic] through the spine.
Trees have spines too, I think. Isn't Antigone a birch tree that is being bent to the ground by storm, heavy ice, snow. But it must rise, it must grow toward the sky. It doesn't know why, it must slowly come erect. Our birch tree was bent to the ground during a winter storm. We thought it would break, it took days to come erect, but it did.
Have students observe and recreate the spines of the old, middle-aged, the ill, the soldier -- big business, etc.
Create National spines -- the very erect Norwegian spine, the curved Polish, the flexible Italian, etc.
Study a dancer's spine -- a trucker's --
Where will you find the Creon spine
Have you observed Nixon's -- slightly curved, but no flexibility


This is my record of Krause's comments focusing on elements of style during a work session on the beginning of Three Sisters.
That was good realistic acting but it wasn't Three Sisters. Why? What story must you tell? What story did you tell?
Masha--you want to tell her whole story in her response to that [Olga's saying that they would soon go to Moscow-- DD]. What will you do to tell: I don't believe a word of that, I have given up hope, I am purposeless. What single movement of the head will tell this?

The audience must get a chance to identify with each sister, to respond with each, to understand the basics of each -- they must care for each one -- at the same time Chekhov's drama must be sent home.

Olga -- what will you do on "I have a headache" that will show you are not a teacher, but that will keep the audience liking you?

In my journal she wrote this:
Note on the opening of Three Sisters, although verbally it seems to be Olga's "scene", the focus changes from one to another. 
The director will say Focus on Irina! Focus on Masha! and there is an arrest and a hold.

In one entry I described the work of actors dealing with the Orgon and Dorine scene in Tartuffe. Krause was going to keep me focused on style the whole summer.
She wrote this:
You have described the preparatory improvisation. After that eliminate, choose the most telling movement, or tone -- the arrest of what movement
So you arrive at
Style and meaning -- (always remember style and meaning are one)


We did work like this on Tartuffe, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Anouilh's Antigone, The Importance of Being Earnest, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, and others.
I left Bloomsburg in late August ready to add the third year acting course to my teaching schedule.


I got this letter shortly after returning to Evanston for fall quarter 1974.

The flowers are beautiful. Stupendous! I wish you could share them with us. Thank you!
In the Saturday Review --World for this week -- August 10 -- is a description of Lunt-Fontanne acting which I think you could use. It's in the Henry Hewes column. You might be able to use it in "Styles". I would send you my copy but I think our group should read it.
It was good to have you here this summer!

Good luck


An excerpt from a letter a year later -- fall 1975 -- in which Krause responds to a comment I had made about something one of my colleagues had said.

The third quarter of "Styles" has not "traditionally" been contemporary realism and certainly not "American". The focus is on Style always. My last quarter culminated in drama that was highly dependent on Style for success: Ionesco, Albee for instance. [The name of another colleague -- DD] has turned Styles into something he thinks he can teach because he doesn't know what Style in drama is! Don't let anyone pull this "traditional" stuff.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: May 1974

Krause invited me to come to Bloomsburg for summer 1974 to work on Style before my first senior class started in the fall.
And as she believed that theatre happened only when there was an audience, she was urging her Bloomsburg students toward public performance.
Where Krause names names, I use letters of the alphabet.

The positive note dominant in your letter is great. Hang on! Move on!
A girl called me a few days ago asking to come here this summer. I referred her to you for a reference. I cannot judge by a telephone conversation, but my responses to her were negative. She is a Junior, she says. Is she mature enough to work with our group this summer? With you? I she emotionally stable? She seemed "carried away" with an idea that had just hit her. J and S are doing very good work; K is mature. If R comes back he will be highly competent. Wouldn't this Junior be lost in such a group? Don't be hesitant about a frank evaluation of this girl. It would be kindness to her.
The possibility here of a play in the park this summer is again in the air. I am not encouraging it. What they want is a "show" -- However we must be ready to do something if it is called for. What? I think it must be non-royalty for there is no money available evidently. It occurs to me that we could do an old melodrama with style. My favorite is "Lady Audley's Secret". I have no copy of it now. I think there is one in Deering Library. As faculty you could draw it out for an unlimited time. Could you get a copy, read it, send it to us. When it is done with real style it is terrific. Would you be interested in directing it and playing in it?
Be firm on this "coaching" business. Coaching is a practice of the commercial theatre. They cast "stars" in leads. They cast by appearance, size, etc. And so they need a coach to tell people how to walk, to speak, to sit, to "emote". The academic theatre should be above that for it is their business to teach students to act. If they are taught truly to act, they need no "coach". I fought the term when I came to NU. Mitchell [Lee Mitchell, chair of the department, teacher of directing, Krause te noire -- DD] asked me to "coach" his actors. I told him I was a teacher, I would teach acting -- I would not "coach". Understand? I was successful in banning the term during my presence at NU. Be forceful in your stand. Don't fight, but stand on your principles and make clear where you stand. And see that your students understand. When they learn to act, they will not need a coach. They may want to go to an authority if they are cast in a complex role in Shakespeare, Chekhov, etc. They may need help in analysis, they will need study but not "coaching".

There was no public performance that summer.