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Antoinette Perry

Biography: 

(1888-1946)

Broadway director and producer Antoinette Perry came from a theatrical family, and enjoyed a brief career as a name actress from 1906 to 1909 in "The Music Master," "Lady Jim," and "A Grand Army Man." Marriage took her from the stage for fifteen years, and when she returned in 1924 in "Mr. Pitt" and "Minick," she had formed decided ideas about how works should be staged, characters portrayed, and dramatic themes foregrounded.

A woman greatly concerned with the poetics of dramaturgy, her transition from performer to director in 1928 was prompted by the stimulation of playing four roles in the extremely successful drama about the atavistic recurrence of character over time, "Ladder," and the challenge of playing "Elektra" in 1927. While the plays she tackled were sometimes not worthy vehicles for her talent, she did manage to helm two landmarks of popular theater, "Strictly Dishonorable" and "Harvey."

An idealist with a pragmatic turn, Antoinette Perry organized "The American Theater Wing," the sponsor of the World War II's Stage Door Canteen, and later the awards recognizing distinguished achievement in American theater, the Tonys (named after Antoinette). Few persons worried more about the health of the American Stage than Perry during the last decade of her life. David S. Shields/ALS