School of Communication dedicates Alvina Krause Studio

December 21, 2009
Alvina Krause
Alvina Krause taught at Northwestern for 33 years. Photo courtesy of University Archives.

 

Eventually, it'll be known as "The Krause."

That's the prediction Tony Award-winning playwright and director Frank Galati made about the Alvina Krause Studio, a new black box theatre in Annie May Swift Hall on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University, during a dedication ceremony for the space Oct. 23.

The studio is named in honor of the legendary acting teacher whose methods of instruction helped create the highly successful acting curriculum at Northwestern. Krause taught at Northwestern for 33 years. Her students included Patricia Neal, Charlton Heston, Garry Marshall, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Robert Reed, Tony Roberts and many others who have gone on to fame on the stage and screen.

One former student was Frank Galati, professor emeritus of performance studies at Northwestern, whose memories of Krause were the highlight of the dedication.

Alvina Krause
A plaque in the Alvina Krause Studio features an image of Krause from her early days at Northwestern. Photo by Christopher Danzig (J08)

 

"Students, of course, clamored for admission to her classes," said Galati in his remarks to a crowd of school alumni. "She led us to believe that if we were going to be actors we had to be activists, that the purpose of theatre was to stir the heart and the intellect not just to self-awareness but to social consciousness."

The new Krause Studio is a "fitting place" to remember Krause, Galati said. Its flexibility matches Krause's wide curiosity. "She encouraged the study of art, history, philosophy, music, religion, languages, astronomy and the sciences, literature and literary criticism... Her own study was wide-ranging and eclectic."

Krause was an alumna of the Cumnock School of Oratory (now the School of Communication) at Northwestern; she received her diploma in 1916. She taught elocution and girls' athletics in high schools in Colorado and Missouri, then returned to Northwestern to earn her bachelor's degree in speech in 1928. She joined the faculty in 1930, earning her master's degree from Northwestern in 1933.

In 1945, Krause and her companion, Lucy McCammon, started a summer repertory theatre in Eagles Mere, Pa. In the next 20 years, Krause directed or supervised student direction of 180 plays. Most of the cast, designers, and technicians were students from Northwestern.

Krause's last production at Northwestern was Ionesco's Rhinoceros in 1963.

Alvina Krause
Krause leads a talk-back after her last production at Northwestern in 1963. Photo courtesy of University Archives.

In retirement, Krause taught master classes around the country, founded a repertory theatre in Chicago, and moved to Bloomsberg, Pa., in 1971, where she took on a few private students.

David Downs, professor emeritus in service at Northwestern, worked with her Pennsylvania and remembers the time with Krause as intense and life-changing. "She was driven by her passionate embodiment of the plays she loved and worked on. And she was determined to get her students to find their own way into such totality of comprehension and embodiment — regardless of what it took."

At the age of 85, Krause became the founding artistic director of the Bloomsberg Theatre Ensemble, a group started by her former students in 1978. The ensemble is still performing today—inside the Alvina Krause Theatre.

Krause died in 1981 at the age of 88.

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