Krause, Alvina, -1981

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1893-01-28
Death 1981-12-31

Biographical notes:

Alvina Eloise Krause was born January 28, 1893 in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, to Charles Frederick and Caroline (Tesch) Krause. She attended Northwestern University as a student, and in 1930 became an instructor at the University. Krause went on to become an Associate Professor. Her teaching methods and administrative efforts did much to revamp the drama program at Northwestern, establishing its reputation nationally. Krause retired in 1963, but remained active in theatre. She died in 1981.

The youngest of five children, Krause grew up on the family farm near New Lisbon. She attended high school there, where a declamation contest first revealed her interest in drama. She graduated from high school in 1912. After briefly attending the University of Wisconsin, she enrolled at Northwestern University's School of Oratory (now School of Communication) in 1914. She graduated from the two year program in 1916 and began teaching high school drama that same year. She taught in Seaside, Oregon, where several of her siblings then lived, and in Springfield, Missouri. In Oregon, in addition to the dramatic productions she led, she proudly coached the girl's basketball team to a state championship.

In 1925 Krause returned to Northwestern University to complete her education. After receiving her Bachelors in Science from the School of Speech in 1928, Krause taught for one year at Hamline University in Minnesota. While there she produced a play for a college drama competition held at Northwestern University. Her student group won the competition and Krause was subsequently asked to join the faculty of her alma mater. She was appointed an Instructor of Voice and Interpretation in 1930. Krause received her Masters in Science from Northwestern in 1933. Her Masters Thesis, entitled A Study of Creative Imagination, attempted to use scientific method to define the creative process. She became an Assistant Professor in 1941 and an Associate Professor in 1957. Krause taught at Northwestern for more than thirty years, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1961 and continuing as a lecturer until 1963.

During her early years at Northwestern, Krause's primary responsibility was giving students private instruction in voice and interpretation. In the early 1940's, the School of Speech was forced by budgetary constraints to drop its private instruction program and Krause was appointed to Assistant Professor, responsible for the one year basic acting course. Over the next few years, Krause revamped the basic acting program, transforming it into a three year program. The first year focused on developing student's artistic skills, including work in voice and movement, and cross-disciplinary work in other artistic fields. The second year, students worked on developing their dramatic skills, using classical dramas and characters to understand the art of playmaking. During the third year, students focused on principles of “style” - developing their own sensibilities and polishing their communications skills. Krause's approach to teaching acting through this three year program became a model for the field and continues at Northwestern to this day.

In addition to her contributions to the form of acting courses at Northwestern, Krause was known for her innovative teaching methods and style. She forced students to develop their dramatic skills from the inside out, using physical and emotional exercises to get students to understand the inner techniques of acting. Students in her courses were required to keep detailed journals of their work that she would then comment on and grade. She was a hard task-master in her classes, allowing no laziness or unprofessional behavior. She strongly believed that college-age students could become polished actors, and designed her classes to produce such actors. Her high expectations were in large part responsible for the high level of performances given by students at the University and the reputation that Northwestern's acting program developed, both on campus and throughout the U.S. Many of Krause's students went on to have stellar acting careers including: Richard Benjamin (1959), Charlton Heston (1945), Patricia Neal (1947), Paula Prentiss (1960), and Tony Roberts (1961).

Krause was actively involved in developing and running the University Theatre program at Northwestern, realizing her goal of providing her students with a wide variety and number of performance opportunities. To further this goal, in 1945 she developed a summer program at a small theatre in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania for selected Northwestern students. For twenty summers she ran the Eagles Mere Playhouse with her lifelong friend Lucy McCammon, leading students through an intense production schedule of nine plays in ten weeks. A summer spent at Eagles Mere became the goal of many acting students at Northwestern.

Krause retired from Northwestern in 1963, eventually moving to Pennsylvania with McCammon. For many years, she was unconnected with any school or theatre group. She and fellow Northwestern professor John Van Meter started the Harpur Theatre in Chicago. She traveled and gave lectures, participated in smaller projects, and for two seasons directed plays at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts. In the late 1970's, Krause began work on developing a new local theatre group in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Her work resulted in the formation of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in 1977 [http://www.bte.org/about/about_bte.htm]. The last years of her life were devoted to making this ensemble, and its acting programs for public school students, strong and viable.

Krause received many awards during her life for her professional work, including the President's Medal for distinguished service from Northwestern University (1981); the Centennial Award from the American Association of University Women; the Hazlett Memorial Award for excellence in theatre; and an Honorary Doctorate from Doane College in Nebraska.

Alvina Krause died on December 31, 1981. Memorial services were held in various locations across the country including Bloomsburg, PA; the Alvina Krause Theater in New York City; and at Northwestern. On January 15, 1982 friends, coworkers, and former students gathered in the auditorium of Annie May Swift Hall, the School of Speech building, to remember the work of Alvina Krause and the contributions she made to Northwestern's acting program. In 1984, the Alvina Krause Theatre was dedicated at the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in Pennsylvania.

From the guide to the Alvina E. Krause (1893-1981) Collection, 1929-2003, (Northwestern University Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Acting teachers--Illinois--Evanston
  • Women college teachers--Illinois--Evanston
  • Acting--Study and teaching (Higher)--Illinois--Evanston
  • College teachers--Illinois--Evanston

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