Sunday, January 27, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: October 16, 1981

The last letter

Thank you! thank you for the beautiful flowers. You know how I love them. Soft pinks, pale yellows, white. It's a lovely basket and it speeds me on to health. I am much better. Just need to get confidence in my ability to do things for myself -- .
I was grateful too to hear that your Dean was not guilty of that threat. Your School is still dear to me. The BTE "Music Hall" is a big success.


Alvina Krause died December 31, 1981, just one month before her eighty-ninth birthday.

February 2, 1982

Dear David,
Thank you for a very beautiful letter.
I know how much you meant to Alvina and what more can I say.
Carry on as only you can do!


Dear David,
Thank you for the note, and thank you for the earlier one which I treasure!
Spoon River opened last night -- a rave review -- I have an idea you have heard already.
I missed it -- minor but compelling ailments -- but R is an excellent director and I was assured of his success before it opened.
I will see it tonight.
I hope your work continues to grow and I am sure it will!
Love, Lucy


The Alvina Krause Theatre was dedicated in Bloomsburg PA

Dear David,
Why were you the one chosen to deliver this dedication speech? Was anyone ever given more help in the exact direction this theatre should go?
Whatever comes from your heart is what you should say. No one should say anything about what you feel and want to say, yourself.
I have avoided writing because this is your day, and as important as anything you can ever do. You will come up with all you need, and it will be right.
Much love,


Dedication of the Alvina Krause Theater
August 5, 1984
Keynote Address
David Downs

Governor and Mrs. Thornburgh, Mayor and Mrs. Bauman, honored guests and dignitaries, Miss Lucy McCammon, Members of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, and friends of Lucy, of the BTE, and of Alvina Krause:

            Let me first thank Betsy for a most gracious and generous introduction.  And let me thank the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble for extending this invitation to me.  I regard it as the finest moment of my professional life to date.
            As I was packing my bags on Friday to come to this finest moment of my professional life to date, I stopped in the midst of folding a shirt and I said to myself, “Do you think Alvina Krause, that supremely optimistic of human beings, really believed this day would come?”  And I answered myself instantly: “Of course she did, you fool.”  Alvina Krause spent the last ten years of her life working for this day.  After all, who is the driving, propelling force that has brought us all together here?  It would be no surprise to her.
            I used to think that all of the years Miss Krause had lived and worked were only years of preparation for my appearance in her life.  She spent so many years at Northwestern University learning—learning what teaching is in a way that I wonder if anyone else ever has or ever will.  And those twenty seasons at Eagles Mere where she learned so intensely what an audience is, what a creative imaginative part in any theatre the audience must be.  And finally those ten years after her retirement from Northwestern, spent traveling and doing workshops and conferences only to discover, as she once said to me, “the horror, so late in my life, that no one else was teaching acting.”
            There are people here today who can speak much more authoritatively about those years than I can.  She came into my life, or rather I barged into hers, at the very beginning of what was to be the last decade of that life.  She was seventy-nine years old then, living in Bloomsburg.  And in March of 1972, Miss Krause and Lucy graciously agreed to allow five people from Chicago to spend seven days and seven nights living in their house and studying theatre.  Miss Krause conducted class from nine o’clock to twelve  o’clock every morning and from seven  o’clock to ten-thirty, every  evening.  And, of course, ten-thirty became eleven-thirty, then quarter to twelve until Lucy would finally take over and kick us all out to rehearse for the next class.
            At the end of the week, three of us told Miss Krause that we were returning in July for six more weeks.  She and Lucy found us rooms in the college dormitory and we came for six weeks and worked every day from nine to twelve and seven to ten-thirty.
            During this time “Eagles Mere” became a name that resonated like “Camelot” resonates.  We resented you all for your Alvina Krause.  But in the years since that beginning time of ours, I have come to think that we have an Alvina Krause that no one else has had.  We have a distillation of a lifetime’s living and teaching; we have a clarity of vision and wisdom reached only at the end of the journey; we have a person who was free of all the social and political distractions of the academic world.  (Henry Kissinger, I think it was, once said that conflicts in the academic world are so very intense because the stakes are so very small.)  We experienced Alvina Krause at a time when she could be, as we sometimes jokingly said, our own personal Star Wars Yoda.
            And so, at the end of those six summer weeks we decided that we were coming back temporarily forever, and we announced it to her.  Without so much as a blink of her eyes, she said, “Well, then you’ll have to get jobs and we’ll hold class only twice a week.  Be here October 10.” You simply didn’t surprise Alvina Krause.
            Within days of our return, work began in earnest:  Besides class work, we now kept detailed written journals.  She wrote notes, she talked to me, she began to expand our thinking of why we were in Bloomsburg.  She began to connect us and our work with the life of the community. It began to occur to me that as far as Alvina Krause was concerned, theater did not exist for its own sake in her basement so that we could revel privately in what we were learning.
            “Couldn’t you do A Midsummer-Night’s Dream in the park this summer?” she asked.
            I nearly choked. “Miss Krause, there are only three of us.”
            A moment’s thought and then, “Yes, we’ll have to double up the roles.”
            “What about a stage and scenery?” I asked in growing terror.
            She said, “We’ll have to get evergreens from the park.”
            Well, that project never materialized. We were not so courageous in our thinking as she was.  But she pressed on. In my journal one day she included an article about lunchtime theatres in London. Little twenty  or thirty minute pieces performed at noon had begun to be very popular. There was a note from her attached to the article:
Couldn’t you get Dick Benefield   [manager of popular hotel and restaurant in town -- DD] interested in something like this? You could start with something like an old melodrama, get a heroine, a lover, and a villain.  My favorite is Lady Audley’s Secret.

You notice she was going to leave it all up to me.

Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, and then you have to have an entr’acte:  I suggest “Bird in a Gilded Cage”.  No setting.  All you have to have is a card bearer.  Here’s what should be on the card….

            And then she’d say, “I didn’t know this was going to happen”.

By the way, does anyone in the group play the piano? And then once established with melodrama, you could change to other things.

            This idea, too, fell on deaf ears.
            In two months we three were joined by six or seven  others. We met downstairs in the recreation room twice  a week  and Chekhov, Shakespeare, Shaw began to come alive for us.  None of us had the nerve to think beyond that wonderful room.  None, that is, but Alvina Krause.  On January 10 in my journal she wrote:
You have a good grasp of these principles.  Why don’t you look into the opportunity of an hour or two at the junior high school on Wednesday afternoons?  This is the very way to teach theatre to young people.  And you could do it so well and make Bloomsburg begin to see itself through its children.

            Well, I still didn’t have confidence enough to take action on that assumption and the suggestion came to nothing.
            In March of 1973 I was invited to interview for an acting teaching position at Northwestern and I told Miss Krause there was no way in hell that I would take it.  Earlier she had written to me:
If you are going to be an actor and a teacher, it’s time for you to get a job.  It’s time for you to start teaching.  Aim for some of the public schools in this area.  Go to the Bloomsburg College perhaps.

And then the invitation came to interview at Northwestern University.
            In May 1973 Miss Krause was invited to speak to the Rotary Women. The next day she wrote in my journal, “I had hoped that these intelligent educated mothers of today would see a need for theatre in Bloomsburg. I failed.”  But she never failed for long.  I still don’t know how it happened, but suddenly, in June of 1973, we were doing Oliver! with the children at St. Columba’s School.  We turned the cafeteria into a theatre and Alvina Krause came to our rehearsals.  I will never forget how those ten and eleven year old children responded to her, how she got them all to understand what it was to become a character and to love theatre.
            And how did I ever get the courage to direct Everyman in the Catholic Church?  And to ask Father Casey to take a role in it!  I played the voice of God.  Miss Krause wrote notes to me after the production and said, “Your God was all right, but you could have punched the ends of lines a little more.”
            It was in the middle of the last week of rehearsals that I was officially offered the position at Northwestern.  Only the week before, I and the two original sojourners to Bloomsburg had decided to stay in Bloomsburg and to create a theatre.  I called NU and turned down the job.  That afternoon my two friends told me that they had decided to go to  London in the fall.  The fall!  That was only two months away!  I called Northwestern.  “I changed my mind.  I’d like the job.”  Thank heaven they gave it to me.
            That evening Lucy and Miss Krause appeared at rehearsal.  Miss Krause had not come to any rehearsals.  She had been determined to make me discover that I could direct the production on my own.  But this was dress rehearsal week, her last chance to see what we were doing.  I suppose she simply could not resist.  She came into the back of the house as unobtrusively as she could.  (Imagine God being unobtrusive.)  When I saw her, I realized with simultaneous grief and horror that only hours earlier, I had pledged myself to leave Bloomsburg.
            I don’t remember how rehearsal went, but afterwards, as AK and Lucy got into their car, I ran up to them and asked if we three could see Miss Krause the next morning.  As she looked at me, I burst into tears and told her that we were coming the next day to tell her that we were leaving Bloomsburg.  There was the slightest of pauses and then Lucy tramped down on the gas pedal, the car roared out of the parking lot, and I didn’t see what Miss Krause thought.
            We arrived the next morning and AK was downstairs in the classroom reading a magazine, startled to discover that the time had gone so quickly and we were there.
            “Well,” she said, “what’s so important?”
            We choked on the lumps in our throats.  The others did not know I had already told her.
            “You’ve decided to quit the theatre!” she said with mock horror.
            “No, Miss Krause.”
            In a slightly more serious tone: “Have you decided not to go on with Everyman?”
            “No, Miss Krause.”
            A pause. She removed her glasses. “You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
            We all began to cry.  And that wonderful woman said, “Why so sad?  Your leaving was implicit in your coming here, wasn’t it?  Did you not get what you came for?  Have you not leaned what you wanted?   Are you disappointed in me?”  And on and on she went until she made us feel absolutely good about leaving.  I like to think that her heart was breaking too, but she wasn’t going to let her breaking heart ruin our futures.
            So I went to Northwestern.   And then I started getting news from Bloomsburg.  “We’re doing a program called The Human Comedy for the AAUW next month.  We’re planning a parable in mime for the Bloomsburg Fair.”
            I sent Miss Krause a weekly journal of every class I taught, and though she had her own classes here, she wrote extensive notes to me with specific comments and suggestions meant to stimulate my own thinking, and questions, questions, questions.  She had simply decided to do everything in her superhuman power to make me discover my own way of teaching.  I returned to Bloomsburg over Christmas vacation and then for spring break.  In March 1974 I got this note:
If the little group here succeeds in the promotion of theatre in the park this summer, would you be interested in joining them—acting, directing, building a youth theatre for Bloomsburg?  Whether anyone will come up with a subsidy is anybody’s guess.  But it doesn’t do any harm to plan, does it?  What would you suggest?

Now she knew I was going to come for the summer to work with her on teaching style.  For heaven’s sake, the next year I was assigned to teach the course in style, something she had worked twenty years to develop.
It occurred to me that we could do an old melodrama with style.  Lady Audley’s Secret perhaps….

Well, once again she was more adventuresome than her students.  There was no theatre in the park that summer.
            Each year as a class of my theatre students graduated from Northwestern, a certain few made the journey to Bloomsburg to continue their study.  By October of 1975, however,  Miss Krause had become thoroughly frustrated with the current group.
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.

            And then, the next month: “Lucy has fallen ill.  Please pass the word:  I will not be answering letters.” And I thought:  This is it, it’s all over now.
            One month later in December, I got the following letter:
The doctor insists 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 go home.  And that starts contemplation of a future.  I have been thinking perhaps of resuming acting classes.

And it was the class that went to Bloomsburg in the spring of ’76 who are here today dedicating this theatre.  From the time of their arrival in Bloomsburg, the list of programs and plays and projects and productions done for the community grows and grows.  I will not believe that Alvina Krause was forced to create the BTE.  Today’s dedication ceremony is the direct result of her unquenchable burning drive to bring theatre to Bloomsburg.
            And so I said to myself:  I am the Keynote Speaker at the Dedication of The Alvina Krause Theatre.  What does all that mean?  Keynote.  Dedication.  Theatre.  Alvina  Krause.  To what should such a theatre be dedicated?
            AK had this to say about teaching:
To achieve what in your heart you long to achieve you will need a clarity of mind and vision, a physical stamina beyond that of ordinary man.  I know whereof I speak.
            And in response to my questioning her about those years after her retirement when she traveled from college to college and conference to conference, she wrote this to me:
Please try to make clear why I traveled 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) who truly want to learn to achieve, to reach for stars.

            If the bedrock of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble is to be found in the life of Alvina Krause, I want to end this address by asking, “Where do we find such a bedrock in which her life was anchored?”  Not surprisingly, she gave me the answer.  In the fall of 1978, in response to a letter from me about the burning of the Speech Building at Northwestern,  I got this letter from Alvina Krause:
“In the beginning was the word.  And the word was with God”.  Do you know that that was the beginning of the School of Speech?  That was how it started.  That was its function, its purpose.  To read the word of God, to speak the world 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 of ours?

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 mine eyes unto the hills” was read in dull, dead, meaningless tones.  He experienced the vitality of the scripture, he recognized the beauty of the King James version.  The Scottish 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 acts 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 over-wrought 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 human faith.  He illuminated the Bible, Shakespeare, Bobby Burns.  He saw the need for Speech education.  With his own funds he bought from NU the land on which Annie May Swift stands.  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.

These people believed.  They believed in their work, they believed in the School and they believed in their students.  They had true comprehension of the power of the spoken word to reveal humanity through great writing and they shared that belief with their students.

I saw what speech could be.  It shook me, stimulated my mind, my imagination, my will.  You have written to me of my ‘greatness’. I have just given you the source.

            When Alvina Krause died during the early hours of that last day in 1981, she left me as I was emerging from the tortured adolescence of my teaching life.  It was as if a cherished parent had left me just when I was beginning to understand.  It was as if a compassionate, loving, knowing doctor had left a patient just as that patient was recovering enough to be able to thank the doctor properly.  It was as if suddenly the beloved places of my life—the hills at the horizon that comforted always during my troubled childhood in Pennsylvania, that magic lake in Evanston that has sustained me through eleven long years of teaching, and that amazing house at the end of Second Street in Bloomsburg where I learned to live and first truly came to life—it was as if these places had left me.  When Alvina Krause died it seemed to me that one of humanity’s rare proofs of what it can achieve, given the passion and the will, had died with her.
            Well, I have survived and I will thrive.
            Alvina Krause left the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, it seems to me, in its needful childhood.  Today we meet to dedicate its theatre.  We meet without  Alvina Krause whose dynamic drive provided the life force for this theatre.  Somewhere in all those letters to me she said,
Theatre fulfills a need in humanity as fundamental as sex:  the need to work the imagination, the need to feed our hunger for revelation, for understanding—to stimulate our growth as rational beings and as responsible members of society.  Are not the performing arts, and theatre in particular, as significant to a country as the national defense on which we spend billions every year? For the performing arts defend our beliefs, our ideals, our achievements, defend the creative mind and imagination.  And on that we spend so little.

            There is only one thing left for me to do and that is to strike the keynote.  I went through the journals and through all of those letters, and it seems to me that the keynote of Alvina Krause’s life was the power to believe and the determination to work to achieve those beliefs.
            The BTE exists, it struggles, and it must thrive.  The continued health of the community depends upon it.
            I will always cherish the way Miss Krause ended one particular letter to me, written at a time when I thought I would quit teaching and go away forever.  The letter said, “Chin up, spine erect, eyes bright, stride into the future like Renaissance Man”.  That advice sustains.
            Thank you.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: October 6, 1981

Krause had been told to stop working because of the possibility of heart failure. She had refused. "What's the point of living if you're not doing," she said.
"My heart!" she said to me once. "I thought if would be this [pointing to her head], but not my heart [palms to chest]".

David, I have been hospitalized again. Recuperating, but not able to do biography now. [I had been asked to write a brief bio for a reference work -- DD]
But I am angry with you, very angry! Why didn't you tell me the Dean had threatened you with dismissal if I spoke what they did not want spoken. What are they afraid of? That school was my life -- My life! I brought distinction to it during a rotten regime -- At home and abroad -- My work was recognized with distinction. What are they afraid of? I would never have appeared on that platform if I had known of that threat to you. I shall never appear there again. Such a dirty, low down deed! What are they afraid of?

AK, Lucy told me later, said the next time she would go into the hospital, she wouldn't be leaving alive.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: February 1981

Your petits fours were a sweet Valentine. They let me feel all cozy and warm, and coddled and loved. I like it! Thank you! I eat them slowly with great relish and gloat over all the wealthy people in the world who will never enjoy the deep satisfaction in one box of petits fours.
I know you have been told that X is taking the summer off. I can understand why: he must prove to himself that he is master of himself. Ridiculous, but he needs that self assurance. And that cancels our first production for there is no one else in the company who can charm an audience as X can -- and there is no one else who can sing as X can and the entractes absolutely require it. So we are without an opener. I do not want to direct, especially in a season that is going to demand so much of me. I do not want to direct. But this is a crucial season: we are asking for donations of a quarter million dollars. I thought "Alvina Krause Directs" might be a proof of our [sic -- a word not written? -- DD] I do not want to direct Lady Audley's Secret, but this is a crucial year. We must have a show that makes the whole audience laugh together, enjoy together, go out into the lobby hobnobbing together -- and the committee comes up with no such comedy. So I choose Lady A -- believing X would be here. So -- we must find another X or another comedy that will achieve the same results. Have you got an X that you would lend us for a while? Or a comedy like Room Service or Something Happened on the Way --- cast must be small -- Who wants life to be easy?
My cast comes off tomorrow I hope -- I'll be normal again! We should throw a whale of a party!
Happy Presiden't Day! Isn't that a laugh in this Carter -- Reagan -- Haig day?
Greetings to your Candida people.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: November 1980

Note to DGO Subscribers
If you read Krause's letters via the email sent to you by Feedburner, please check the actual blog post of Friday January 18 for a video of Krause's remarks accepting the President's medal.

Letter of November 1, 1980
Congratulations on Candida. Tell your cast I am proud for them. Now they can move on to even greater achievements. Bravo!
Doll's House was a success too. Good houses of people new to our theatre. Julie did a terrific performance of Nora. She is a true actress. And how the audience loved Ibsen! They were spellbound for three hours. One man said -- mind you: a man -- "that wasn't written 100 years ago! That's today!" Do you think Ibsen heard that?
I have a group coming today for a three hour session on acting -- Next weekend we go to NY for the dedication of a little off-off Broadway theatre which will bear the name "The Alvina Krause Theatre" -- two more days of celebration of my name in light in NY!
On your next visit to the Dean could you just subtly insert the words that we are working, striving, begging for $25,000 down payment on our theatre. The irony of it! I witnessed all that money thousands, millions tossed about at NU and BTE is begging for $25,000 down payment.
You are on the crest of a wave: ride it!


Letter of November 21, 1980
Is NU Speech restored to normalcy?
I spent a weekend in NY for the dedication of Neal Weaver's The Alvina Krause Theatre. A tiny little theatre on a top floor, but oh, the love! They had invited former students of mine -- I couldn't believe it! There was Priscilla Weaver, one of the three original founders of E.M.! [Summers at The Playhouse, Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, started in 1945. Patricia Neal was among the original group -- DD] I had not seen her since she left EM in 1946. And there we stood holding hands and saying over and over "Oh, Priscilla, Priscilla!" "Miss Krause"! And George Furth broke in -- George Schweinfurth who couldn't act "but you can write, George. Write." And "Twiggy" made him rich -- and there was the fabric of my life -- Norm Larson [Not sure of either the spelling or the identification -- DD] came up from Washington -- You know the real story that should be written about me? "AK actors who became writers, teachers, leaders." They are every bit as important as Charlton Heston, Patricia Neal, etc etc. It was a wonderful two days I had with them.
Thank you for the clippings. I especially appreciated the Evanston Review article and picture. Or isn't it called "Evanston Review" any more?
BTE has accumulated $15,000 toward the down payment on the Columbia Theatre. They have a few days left to collect the rest of the down payment. Did Dean Wood mean it when he said "I can do something about it"? By the way, is he going to pay my plane fare? I have not heard from him --
We are deep in Christmas Carol --
Beautiful letter from one of your students --

Friday, January 18, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: October 1980

October 11, 1980. The gala celebrating the opening of the Theatre/Interpretation Center. (Sometime during the summer, Krause had telephoned, wanting information ["The Dean hasn't told me anything"] -- the only time in the almost ten years of our relationship that she called me.)
Months earlier, in an effort to ease Krause's concern that she was being used by the university, the Dean had told her that the school was planning to give the President's Medal to her and to Lillian Gish and to Agnes de Mille. ("Lillian Gish," Krause said. "A has-been actress. I'm still doing things"). In the weeks after Krause (finally) agreed to attend, mention of Gish and de Mille disappeared.
I will be Alvina Krause's official university escort for the weekend.

To corroborate: We, Lucy and I, arrive Oct 9, on US Air flight 205 at 9:10 am. As I told the Dean we will stay at John Van Meter's. We depart Monday, Oct. 13 at 7:50 am -- Some BTE members insist they are driving to Evanston for the event. I am trying hard to discourage them. In this TV Spectacular [It was being taped as a television special -- DD] could they expect to meet anyone? Is there any place for Alumni in this gala? Alumni who do not have $1000? I hope Lucy is included in the Gala attendance.
I shall be wearing my strongest armor and pray to keep my cool. If you see friends who want to see me tell them Thursday night. Friday before late afternoon, or Friday evening. John Van Meter will be in Indiana until Thursday, I think.


The presentation of the President's Medal to Alvina Krause October 11, 1980. Charlton Heston, Dean Roy V. Wood, President Robert Strotz.

Krause's Remarks (She altered them a bit here and there)
Thank you, Mr. President. My gratitude is deep -- especially deep since Northwestern was my home...for most of my life.
But who is this Alvina Krause you honor? A myth? A legend?
A few weeks ago I loitered in the front yard of my Pennsylvania home. A car drove up -- I think you would call it a car -- with a New York license. A young man leaped out.
"Hello, Alvina!" And he kissed me!
Keep your cool! Keep your cool! This is 1980! And I grinned up at him. What did this young young man from New York say to this old old woman in Pennsylvania?
"Teach me!"
And suddenly it is 1914 -- Yes 1914! And I a stringy-haired, freckle-faced, undersized, runt of a girl am sitting -- at last -- in the auditorium of Annie May Swift. Dean Dennis is introducing -- as only Ralph Dennis can do it -- the founder of the school, Robert McLean Cumnock!
I know there were a hundred or more students in that room, but I swear the great man looked straight into my eyes as he said,
"Stand up! Tell me who you are, where you came from, what you have done."
"St. Paul, Minnesota, and I --"
"Boston, Massachusetts, and I --
"Portland, Oregon, and I --"
"Los Angeles, and I played Juliet in 'Romeo and Juliet' --"
"Tallahassee, and I played Rosalind in 'As You Like It' -- "
And I stood up and blurted out
"Alvina Krause, New Lisbon, Wisconsin" and I sat down. Nobody from Nowhere, who had done Nothing! That was my beginning in this famous school!
It is years later. I am sitting in the Dean's office in Annie May Swift. I try to tell him that first year of teaching in St. Paul, Minnesota, was not so bad. I -- and I heard the Dean's voice:
"I am inviting you to join the faculty of the School of Speech!"
Blackout! Complete blackout until I heard
"Well, Alvina Krause, do you accept?"
Did that Cumnock voice of mine ring out in jubilation? My mouth opened -- closed -- not a sound! Reflex action wagged my head up and down!
Now, fifty years later -- yes, fifty years -- I stand here holding the President's honor in my hand --
Who is this Alvina Krause?
I am a teacher!
And this teacher has a creed which must be spoken now. No, this is not the senile babbling of an octogenarian. This is the creed that has been the backbone of my teaching -- the spine that kept me erect through the long years.
I believe. I believe in Michelangelo. I believe in William Shakespeare. I believe in Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and all the great artists that preceded them -- and that followed them. And most of all I believe in that combination of the arts we call Theatre. I believe, in spite of all that has been committed in that name, I believe that Theatre can -- if we but serve it truly -- I believe the Theatre can illuminate the lives we live even in the darkness which is today.
I am a teacher. Ralph Dennis made me one, as did those students, thousands of them, who drove me, questioned me, challenged me every inch of the long road up to this moment.
And a teacher must ask questions. We are here to celebrate the dedication of this Theatre/Interpretation Center. To what -- to what do we dedicate this Center?
And deep within me there is still a faint voice which insists
I believe!

Krause insisted that artists must learn to make the ideas of others their own thinking. She did it always. Here is a quote from Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma:
I believe in Michael Angelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of color, the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting, and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed. Amen. Amen.


The weekend came and went.

You were an heroic escort all the way. Thank you! I have not yet recovered enough to objectively view those incredible four days. Will anything ever be the same at NU? Do keep me informed of the aftermath.
If any write ups in papers come your way, do send me copies. I keep wondering how it all looked to outsiders. And besides my sane relatives like to keep track of their mad aunt. Surely such an extravaganza never was held on any other campus! How did the press view it. What did Kup [Irv Kupcinet, long-time columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times -- DD] think, I wonder. What's the Dean's viewpoint now?
The Doll's House [the next play Krause was directing with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble -- DD]
seemed very promising today. Was it by contrast?
Remind your Candida cast I love them. And those two who crashed the party remind them of their promises now and then.
Will we ever be the same again?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: June 1980

I was scheduled to direct the play that opened the fall 1980 season at NU -- the first production in the Louis Theatre of the new Theatre/Interpretation Center.

In cleaning my desk of a month's accumulation of unanswered mail I found your last letter. In haste I write: if you are going to do Candida for the first show next year God help you! You better begin work on it now -- hard work. It is the most difficult of all Shaw's plays to direct unless you have "natural" actors for the leading roles! In all my years of teaching I found only one person capable of creating Candida and only one Marchbanks. Mind me: go to work on it now -- and hard, comprehensive intense work. I would never do it with the company I have here and they are skilled actors!
Will you please send me McBurney's address? I need to reach him --
The tumult and the shouting dies ---- thank God! Eventually I can get to work again -- perhaps --

I'm don't remember what "the tumult and the shouting" was about, but I think Krause and the BTE people had spent the spring wrangling over organizational issues.


A few days after the letter, this postcard arrived. I must have said something to Krause -- perhaps on the phone -- about helping the actor playing Morell to gain more physical flexibility.
Dean Wood had invited Krause to come to the to-be-televised gala in October dedicating the new Theatre/Interpretation Center.

Morell must have the strength and inner charm of a John Kennedy. Remember Candida loves him, Prossy loves him, his congregation loves him. He has warmth and sincerity. He has everything as human being that Marchbanks lacks -- but he is not a poet! He is open, direct, understanding. He is not stiff and he is angry only when Eugene draws blood. This fine balance of character is most important -- Dedication? I don't know.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: February 1980

Krause's eighty-seventh January 1980 birthday.

Pink roses and purple heather! They make me almost forget that another year has been subtracted. I love them! You are a special person who remembers. No doubt someone has told you of the exciting, beautiful birthday party at Joanne's. What greater gift can there be, greater than love that asks nothing in return? Now we can begin classes again on Tuesday with a free, joyful expectation. I am a most fortunate person: in a world of violence I am supported by love. Would I could take my message to Washington, to the Kremlin, to Iran!
I was disturbed that the TV program did not reproduce the points I really tried hard to make: that theatre must survive if civilization is to survive. Where church and schools have failed theatre could illuminate if we disassociate theatre from "show" business. Be sure you send that home in your classes: theatre is an Art, a great Art; in ordinary times it could be served as an art, great as the dance, as opera, as symphony; but these are not ordinary times; these are days of survival; theatre by its very nature can illuminate these times, perhaps save us from the ultimate disaster. Don't dare teach Hamlet without creating that lascivious world which destroyed him. "The rest is silence". What is that silence? Take your students to a grasp of that silence. "King Lear" Oh dear God! Shakespeare saw it all: a world fallen into the hands of money-mad Gonerils and Reagans! You are teaching at this hour, David, and theatre could be more powerful than -- the bomb? God be with you!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1979

The roots go deep; the passions persist.

I am most curious. The theatre department, the School, received notices of the Theodore Fuch's [Design Teacher 1932-1970 (Chair of Theatre 1940-1951) -- DD] Collection on Theatre Technology going to Brigham Young University. Incredible! NU let that collection go to another university? It is absolutely invaluable! A master craftsman, artist, teacher has assembled the material of a lifetime and the School he served for a life time ignores the colossal, vital work of that life time! What are your bases for the claim: "a great school"? Dean Wood dares to write me he "loves" the School -- Love isn't words; it is acts, deeds, manifestations. It is incredible that the tale of destruction continues to unfold. Does everyone believe a new building will make a new school? I read with deep interest the plans for the dedication of the new building. Interesting the names of people involved: Martha Hyer, who left NU in her sophomore year, Charlton Heston, who never came back after his Sophomore year, etc. etc. Ralph Dennis gave his life to that School, and not one Dennis student is considered in the New. McBurney grew fat, married his son's wife, destroyed that School and his era is honored! Yet Dean Wood "loves" that School! What does he love? ---- And I take it out on you!
Another matter. When are you going to return to the requirement of Theatrical Backgrounds as prerequisite for all acting students. How dare you give theatre degrees to graduates who know nothing about the literature of the theatre? What, in God's name are they studying? Speech graduates do not know what a play is! Daily that fact confronts me. BTE must select plays for next season. Where do they begin? They grab at straws, They fumble in the dark. They have no criteria. What makes a good play? All they have is what you gave them in specialized fields. J decides we must do our own dramatization of Christmas Carol. It is driving me mad! Not one person in the company ---- and they are highly intelligent! ---- knows anything about the construction of a drama. They turn in dialogue from the book. "Dialogue isn't drama!" I cry. They stare. And now J is going through the torments of hell because as a graduate of theatre school she does not know what makes a play. And she is a bright girl! Why do you offer courses in dramatic literature if they have no importance to your own students. Does anyone "love" the School enough to tell the truth?
You are wise to plan a new course, your course. Get it in the schedule next year. Go your own way positively; students will follow. Hope that Sam or a new teacher will support you. I don't know what you can build on rotten foundations -- better build new ones. But don't acquiesce! You have tenure!
Integrity: is it a lost word?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1979

Because she wanted me to have full directorial control of the production of Misalliance, Krause stayed away from rehearsals. And because I wanted it to be perfectly the production she would have directed, I paralyzed myself creatively. By the time we got to tech week, the production was failing.
It was at the first tech or dress rehearsal that Krause finally appeared. And she came back every night until opening. She was eighty-six years old. At first she was on stage prodding, cajoling, teasing -- doing everything she could to spark Shavian comedy in my beleaguered actors. And when they caught fire, she was in the theatre house shouting, scolding, compelling those actors to communicate Shaw out into the audience.
The production succeeded magnificently and I learned mightily. In the realm of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", that week-long profound and concentrated experience in creating theatre vitalized my teaching ever after.
In the fall, I began my seventh year at Northwestern and Krause and the BTE started work on their Theatre in the Classroom project.

Are you as busy as we are? We are a few weeks deep in Theatre in the Classroom and BTE is realizing the job they undertook so blithely. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Importance of Being Earnest, Pygmalion, Our Town -- Discovered to their great astonishment that Our Town (oh so trite and easy!) was as difficult as Chekhov if it is to be done with meaning. Suddenly they wake up and exclaim: "It's beautiful"! Oh David, do go after the real force of drama! Actor, playwright, director, technicians working together to create an art that can be a mighty force in this dying world! You can't, you must not teach acting for itself alone. You must teach theatre. Don't be pigeon-holed! If there is no one in the department big enough to do it, then you must. Do you want to spend your life teaching a dead art? Well that's where theatre is going if people like you do not rise up and fight the trend. Your acting class should inspire playwrights. Does it? Well -- so be it -- go your way: let the nuclear forces turn you into rubble. For me I shall fight to the end. The life force refuses to die in me, and those who come my way, better realize it!
Do you watch the TV P.M. show? If you do, you may see me on Friday of this week. What excerpt will be shown out of three hours of class and a two hour interview, God knows. If as the blurb in TV Guide indicates it focuses on "stars" I taught, I shall blow up. That bit came at the end and I tried to toss it off in a hurry. Why won't they focus on what's important! -- Last week I spent two 8-hour days with the Hugh Downs people [The weekly television magazine Over Easy -- DD]. They got quite excited but what will come out of that. 16 hours reduced to 7 minutes. Why do I do it? BTE needs the publicity. Pass the news on to the Interp department. The Hugh Downs won't be shown until March!
Carry on,

Monday, January 7, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: May 24, 1979 and June 2, 1979

I remember urging recently-graduated students to go to Bloomsburg and to show up at Krause's doorstep.

Why did these three people come here? Why! I told you that I was teaching no more. Didn't you believe me? I am teaching no more! I am tired -- I do not want to take on another group. It isn't the time, it isn't the hard work although the hard work is part of it. I can't take the nervous strain, the worry. It's final. I am not teaching!
So why did these three come? I found them interesting, sincere, dedicated. But what could I do? With no study with me, what could they do here? I suspect whomever they talked to were as at-a-loss as I. If we were producing plays during the winter there might have been a valuable place for them. But we are not. Any time I have must go to the "theatre in the classroom" project -- which just may be vital. True: the group needs some strong actors. They recognize that fact. But they need leaders not people like themselves. They need a strong vital actor -- man or woman -- who is a crystallizing force, someone they can admire, respond to with strong return of creative energy. I do not know where to find such a person -- but that is the need.
I am most sorry about this. The visit of your students troubled me no end. I did not want to say "No", but I must.
I think you may be pleased about the summer. Be definite about the set. Do not let it take precedence over the production.



What a mass of misunderstandings!
In the beginning: why did these three students come here? You knew I would take no more students. I was terribly distressed that these three people came expecting me to accept them. I was impressed by their positive qualities. I hoped that by referring them to the BTE group they would learn why I could teach no more! The BTE program for next year is a heavy one: it will tax my strength. That referral was the source of the mistakes that ensued. BTE could only reiterate: the only teaching done next year will be by BTE members ----- and they are not seeking students! Many misinterpretations followed. The apprentice program is the only learning program available now. No pressure is put on anyone to join that program. I regret deeply my referral of your students to BTE. It was a mistake, but an innocent one. ---- But I still ask: why did these three people come, knowing that I would not accept new students. I am tired. I have had enough! True BTE needs talent. They need a truly strong leading actor -- and they know it. But I am not going to give classes to train that actor! He -- she -- will come with training, or he will learn by participation. No more classes for new people! True BTE will meet with me regularly to work on their Theatre in the Schools project: Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw. It will be a heavy study program and I will give it my best. I have every reason to believe we will be able to send out a strong program. That will be my -- our -- goal or the coming year. I can do no more --
Everyone is keen about Misalliance. They will play many roles for you and they realize the difficulties of production. No characterizations will be complete and relationships will not be finalized before casting. Will R be prepared to try out for you with the others? (By the way: does R expect to stay at Mrs. Wilson's? If so he should write her immediately!) I know from experience the play is difficult to direct -- much more so than other Shaw. Have you sent in floor plans, furniture and prop requirements? When you come we will be deeply involved in two other productions, you know. Time is at a premium here --
C has been through a horrendous growing up experience. She is responding sanely. I hope the aftereffects will be healthy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: May 9 and May 29, 1979

May 9 -- My visit to Bloomsburg to direct Misalliance looms. Nothing further is said about the spring Alumni Meeting at NU -- see letters of March 1979.

If you have any persuasive power at your distance better get busy. So far there is only one person I would consider for Misalliance and that is R. They don't work! They sit back and wait for me to create their characters and the play. I am willing to do my share but no endurance ordeal as Sea Gull was. Will you get word to them that you expect characters developed before you come, relationships established, the Shaw debate started. Say you will stage what they bring. "Tell them you expect Shavian-British speech -- No Americanisms! and hit that last hard! They seem not to realize how little time they have. Sets and costumes must be built and they will have teaching programs. Do what you can or we will be in bad trouble. Both plays must have perfect style, and they haven't even got a grasp of the obvious elements of each drama. No one -- except J -- was prepared with anything today. I had to push and prod and pull to get anything out of anybody. This is something I simply do not understand: this do-nothing except under pressure. Why?
By the way -- Misalliance is a debate. How do you plan to stage a debate? Now don't you dare leave that to me!


May 29 -- I write asking, among other things, if characters and relationships had been established.

"Characters established", "relationships established" -- in six class sessions? Divided between "Milkwood" [They were also producing Dylan Thomas's Under Milkwood -- DD] and "Misalliance"! You are expecting too much, David! I think it best to warn you: you will have much to do with regard to character and relationships as a director when you start work here. We have achieved a grasp of what Shaw is up to but we have not yet put that in theatrical form -- that is a director's job. We have a grasp of what Shaw is trying to do through character, but this has not gone into dramatic action -- that's your job. Character relationships develop slowly. We have the beginnings. We will go as far as we can in the brief time remaining which is divided with Milkwood.  Keep in mind: only L, J and M have played Shaw and M says she was pretty inadequate to. The spirit is good and they love the play. In casting you will have several decisions to make and I shall leave it to you and BTE.
I was quite serious in my question: how are you going to stage it. Two and a half hours of debate in terms of theatre -- on one set on our small stage! Better have your blocking set definitely before you start. You won't need to spend time discussing the play: You will start right in on the staging -- no improvisations will be needed except the ones you do outside of rehearsals with development of character. Plan to start with a very sure directorial hand. In all rehearsals play the play fully. Be specific. And stick to the text. Permit no improvisations during rehearsals.
C has great difficulty playing her laughs -- as do others. If you use her you will have to direct her and others in this technique. Shaw's laughs must be landed and played.
What I am trying to say is that your directorial job must be very positive and secure. These people are excited about the play, they are doing good work, but they have two other productions to play and to construct. Time is precious.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: March 1979

The Dean continues to woo.

Do tell me whatever you can find out about the Alumni celebration in May. Why is the Dean suddenly eager that I appear on that occasion? I think I told you that he had invited me by mail. Then this week he telephoned. Would I come? Consider it seriously? I stuttered (hate telephones!) and he urged further and I answered, "Where Speech School is concerned I am an alien." That stopped him for a moment. then, yes, he knew, he understood. If only we could meet and talk, etc. etc. for half an hour. I said, "Alumni Days can be lonely experiences. I do not choose loneliness."
"You won't be! We have plans. There will be people there -- David." So what goes? Who will be there? I know no one. McBurney successfully cut all Alumni ties. So why should I come to the Centennial Alumni Day. When Muriel and Vera consulted him before Christmas about something in my honor, he was very cool and they decided to give nothing. What happened after that? I would do anything if I could believe there was serious intention to restore the School to the honor of the Dennis-Cumnock days. But I refuse to be a pawn in a fund raising campaign to promote the work of Coakley, Schneideman, [another colleague's name -- DD] and their ilk. It was not easy to stand for quality in those McBurney days, but I did it. I do not care to compromise now. If you can give me any clues as to what goes on, please do.
Am I a nuisance?
A. K.