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Brown, John Mason, Jr. (03 July 1900–16 March 1969), critic, author, and lecturer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of John Mason Brown, a lawyer, and Caroline Carroll Ferguson; they divorced when Brown was two. John and his older sister were brought up by their mother and maternal grandmother. Brown became stagestruck at the age of eight, when he saw the aging ...

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Burnett, Alfred (02 November 1824–04 April 1884), entertainer and journalist, was born in Bungay, Suffolk, England. The names of his parents and other facts about his early life are unknown. In 1828 he was sent to live with an aunt in New York City. After four years of schooling in Utica, New York, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1836. He later became proprietor of a confectionery business and by 1860 owned three such establishments....

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Eaton, Walter Prichard (24 August 1878–26 February 1957), critic, theater educator, and author, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the son of Warren Everett Eaton, a schoolmaster, and Mary Prichard. His lifelong involvement in theater arts was kindled in his formative years by viewing performances of actors such as ...

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Flanagan, Hallie Mae Ferguson (27 August 1890–23 July 1969), theater educator, administrator, and director, was born in Redfield, South Dakota, the daughter of Frederic Miller Ferguson, a businessman, and Louisa Fischer. Throughout her childhood, Hallie’s father encouraged her to believe in her uniqueness and individual potential, while her mother instilled in her a selflessness of putting others before herself. These conflicting ideas would haunt Hallie throughout her life as she tried to balance a career and a family. She sometimes believed she had failed as a wife and mother because she had devoted too much of herself to her career....

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Freedley, George (05 September 1904–11 September 1967), curator of the New York Public Library theater collection, drama critic, and author, was born George Reynolds Freedley in Richmond, Virginia, the son of George Washington Jacoby Freedley, a manufacturing executive, and Maude Reynolds. He grew up in Richmond, where his grandfather and father were prominent in the city’s commercial life; he attended Richmond Academy and John Marshall High School, from which he graduated in 1920. He received a B.A. from the University of Richmond in 1925 and studied with ...

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Gassner, John Waldhorn (30 January 1903–02 April 1967), critic, educator, and author, was born in Szeged, Hungary, the son of Abraham Gassner, a furrier, and Fanny Weinburger. Until age eight he was educated at home while the family moved to Budapest, Vienna, and Rotterdam, emigrating to the United States in 1911....

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George, Grace (27 December 1874–19 May 1961), actress, director, and translator/adapter, was born Grace Doughtery in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of George Doughtery and Ellen Kinney (occupations unknown). She changed her name to Grace George in 1892 for professional reasons. George attended a convent school in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In 1893 she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She made her professional debut in 1894 as a schoolgirl in ...

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Hamilton, Clayton (14 November 1881–17 September 1946), educator and drama critic, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of George Alexander Hamilton, a merchant, and Susan Amelia Corey. Christened Clayton Meeker Hamilton, he deleted his middle name before he reached age twenty-one. His interest in a life of letters began during his youth. He received a B.A. from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1900 and an M.A. from Columbia University in 1901. Hamilton married Gladys Coates in 1913; they had two children....

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Hume, Samuel James (14 June 1885–01 September 1962), scene designer, director, and educator, was born in Berkeley, California, the son of James Bunyan Hume, a law enforcement officer, and Linda Murison. He attended the University of California at Berkeley and became interested in theater. Before completing his degree, Hume went to Europe to study scene design under one of the most outspoken visionaries of the early twentieth century stage, Edward Gordon Craig. Craig insisted that the modern theater had become mired in what he called “photographic realism.” He proposed a visual theater that merged action, scene, and voice with scenic pictures that heightened the emotional aspects of the play. Hume studied for nearly a year at Craig’s Arena Goldoni School in Florence, Italy, before the outbreak of World War I forced the closing of the school. However, the influence of Craig on Hume was significant enough for him to return to the United States a confirmed devotee of Craig’s theories. It became Hume’s goal to bring the “New Stagecraft,” which was becoming predominant in Europe, to his homeland....

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Le Gallienne, Eva (11 January 1899–03 June 1991), actor, director, and translator, was born in London, England, the daughter of Julie Norregaard, a Danish journalist, and Richard Le Gallienne, an English poet. Her parents separated when she was four, and Eva was raised by her mother and schooled in Paris and London. Her feminist mother, who had been influenced by literary critic Georg Brandes and playwright Henrik Ibsen, gave her daughter an aesthetic education and taught her independence. By the time she was seven, Eva knew Paris, London, and Copenhagen and read and spoke French, English, and Danish. After seeing Sarah Bernhardt perform and then meeting her, Eva decided to dedicate her life to the theater....

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Eva Le Gallienne, c. 1916–1920. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-1293-C).

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Macgowan, Kenneth (30 November 1888–27 April 1963), drama critic, director/producer, and theater educator, was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, the son of Peter Stainforth Macgowan and Susan Arletta Hall. Before he graduated from Harvard in 1911 he was already working as an assistant drama critic for the ...

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Mackay, Constance D’Arcy (1887–21 August 1966), playwright, director, and educator, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the only child of Robert S. Mackay, a realtor, and Anne D'Arcy. Mackay lived with her parents in Minnesota until she was fifteen; she traveled extensively in Europe during her childhood and was educated in both public and private schools. In 1903 Mackay enrolled as a special student (a student that is not working toward a degree or plans to graduate) at Boston University. Mackay's years at the college were productive. Between 1903 and 1905, she penned the first commencement play ever produced at the college, ...

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Matthews, Brander (21 February 1852–31 March 1929), author, scholar, and teacher, was born James Brander Matthews in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Matthews, a prosperous broker in cotton, real estate, and railroads, and Virginia Brander. Educated privately in Europe and in New York City, where his father settled the family when Matthews was seven, he received his B.A. (1871) and M.A. (1874) from Columbia College. In 1873 Matthews married British actress Ada S. Smith; they had one daughter. That same year, he completed a law degree at Columbia, in preparation for managing the fortune he would inherit. However, when the financial panic of 1873 destroyed the family wealth, Matthews was left largely free to pursue his literary interests, particularly his enthusiasm for the theater. Although he worked for several years as a lawyer in his father’s New York City office, he devoted what time he could to studying, writing, and reviewing drama. “From my youth up, my strongest literary ambition was to write plays,” Matthews recalled in his autobiography, ...

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Mayer, Arthur Loeb (28 May 1886–14 April 1981), motion picture exhibitor, art film importer, and cinema historian, was born in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Simon M. Mayer, a small-businessman, and Rachel Bernheim. Although born into an affluent German Jewish family in the South, Mayer spent most of his youth in New York City where his mother moved after his father’s death. Mayer attended private secondary schools and graduated with honors from Harvard College in 1907. An uncle introduced him to aspiring movie mogul Sam Goldfish, who hired Mayer as an assistant and trained him in motion picture publicity and ballyhoo. By the time Goldfish took the name ...

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Morgan, Anna (24 February 1851–27 August 1936), speech and drama teacher, was born in Fleming, New York, the daughter of Allen Denison Morgan, a gentleman farmer, and Mary Jane Thornton. After the death of her father in 1876, Anna moved with her family to Chicago, where she studied elocution at the Hershey School of Music. She soon earned a local reputation as a dramatic reader with a naturalistic approach that contrasted with the current fashion of more stilted and stylized speech. Her repertoire included selections from plays by Shakespeare, Schiller, and Maurice Maeterlinck, and poetry by authors that ranged from Robert Browning to ...

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Odell, George C. D. (19 March 1866–17 October 1949), theatrical scholar and college professor, was born George Clinton Densmore Odell in Newburgh, New York, the son of Benjamin Barker Odell, a businessman who served as mayor of the town, and Ophelia Bookstaver. His older brother Benjamin Odell, Jr., served as governor of New York state from 1900 to 1904. George received his early education at Siglar Preparatory School in Newburgh and went to Columbia University, his choice of colleges being largely dictated by his desire to be close to the New York theater scene. He completed his B.A. in 1889, his M.A. in 1890, and his Ph.D. in 1893; both graduate degrees were in the field of literature. His study of English and Scottish ballads was published during the final year of work on his doctorate, and a little later he became the editor of school editions of ...

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Price, William Thompson (17 December 1846–03 May 1920), author, teacher, and drama critic, was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the son of Joseph Crocket Price, an attorney, and Susan Meade. He left public school in his teens to join the Confederate cavalry during the Civil War, serving with the raiders of ...

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...