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!

1 comment:

  1. I got this comment from a friend who said he was having trouble posting it to the comment section here:

    Thank you so much for publishing this! This letter brought her passion back to us in a vivid manner. What you are doing for Alvina Krause reminds me of what Jonathan Schwartz does for Frank Sinatra - he refuses to accept that "the world has moved on" and plays TWO SOLID HOURS of Sinatra singing EVERY WEEK on his nationally syndicated radio show. He tells stories and plays rare radio performances because he believes that Frank Sinatra is too important to be forgotten.