Annie Russell

The concert last night was held in the beautiful, old Annie Russell Theater at Rollins College (which is on the National Register of Historic Places).

I’m always fascinated by places that were named after someone most people have never heard of today. How many streets and buildings in your town are called “John Doe Avenue” or the “Jane Smith Memorial Library”? Who were they? They must have been someone at one point (or rich enough to buy a building with their name on it).

Annie Russell was a big star on stage in England and in America the 1880’s and 1890’s. By age 19, she was sick of being typecast as the “young ingenue” and quit. When she came back, she was more in control of what she was doing and took on more meaty roles. For the last six or seven years of her career (until 1918) she organized and ran the Olde English Comedy Company, directing and acting in various plays by Shakespeare and others. Her friend, Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist (who founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia) dedicated the theater in Annie’s memory.

Shakespeare’s plays were a major source of entertainment in the days before radio, movies and television. I found a really cool site that uses postcards as a study of theater at the turn of the twentieth century. They have postcards showing the plays and the players, including a couple of Annie Russell as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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