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Margaret Webster

Margaret Webster

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Margaret Webster was an American-born theater actress, producer
Theatrical producer
A theatrical producer is the person ultimately responsible for overseeing all aspects of mounting a theatre production. The independent producer will usually be the originator and finder of the script and starts the whole process...

 and director
Theatre direction
A theatre director or stage director is a practitioner in the theatre field who oversees and orchestrates the mounting of a theatre production by unifying various endeavours and aspects of production...

. Through her parents, she held dual US
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...



Margaret Webster was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, the daughter of two famous actors, Ben Webster
Ben Webster (actor)
Ben Webster was a British-born actor, and the husband of actress Dame May Whitty, and father of the British-American stage actress, Margaret Webster. His father, W. S. Webster, was the son of the famous actor Benjamin Nottingham Webster.Ben Webster was born on June 2, 1864 in London and married...

 and Dame May Whitty. She spent the early part of her career in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, where she became well known in the theatre. She worked for several established theatrical companies, including from 1929-1930 at the Old Vic
Old Vic
The Old Vic is a theatre located just south-east of Waterloo Station in London on the corner of The Cut and Waterloo Road. Established in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, it was taken over by Emma Cons in 1880 when it was known formally as the Royal Victoria Hall. In 1898, a niece of Cons, Lilian...


She returned to the US in 1937 and began an impressive run directing the play, Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

with Maurice Evans
Maurice Evans (actor)
Maurice Herbert Evans was an English actor noted for his interpretations of Shakespearean characters. In terms of his screen roles, he is probably best known as Dr...

 in the title role. They formed a partnership that lasted until 1942, with Webster directing Evans in Broadway productions of Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, Twelfth Night
and Henry IV, Part I. It was while she was directing Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

in 1938 that she began her long romantic relationship with actress Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne was a well-known actress, producer, and director, during the first half of the 20th century.-Early life and early career:...


When Evans joined the army, Webster continued to have success directing classical plays on Broadway, notably The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on...

(1944) starring Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne was a well-known actress, producer, and director, during the first half of the 20th century.-Early life and early career:...

, and her greatest triumph, Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

(1943), starring Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Paul Leroy Robeson was an American concert singer , recording artist, actor, athlete, scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the twentieth century...

 in the title role and Jose Ferrer
José Ferrer
José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón , best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director...

 as Iago
Iago is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello . The character's source is traced to Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's tale "Un Capitano Moro" in Gli Hecatommithi . There, the character is simply "the ensign". Iago is a soldier and Othello's ancient . He is the husband of Emilia,...

, which ran for 296 performances, by far the longest run of a Shakespearean production on Broadway, a record that has not been remotely approached since. She also played the role of Emilia in the production.

In 1945, she staged the longest-running performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

ever to play Broadway, with Arnold Moss
Arnold Moss
Arnold Moss was an American character actor.His son is songwriter Jeff Moss....

 as Prospero, Canada Lee
Canada Lee
Canada Lee was an American actor who pioneered roles for African Americans. A champion of civil rights in the 1930s and 1940s, he died shortly before he was scheduled to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He became an actor after careers as a jockey, boxer, and musician...

 as Caliban, and ballerina Vera Zorina
Vera Zorina
Vera Zorina was a Norwegian ballerina, musical theatre actress and choreographer.-Background:Vera Zorina was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin, Germany. Her father Fritz was a German and her mother Billie Hartwig was Norwegian. Both were professional singers...

 as Ariel. This production was only the second US staging of a Shakespeare play to feature an African-American actor in a prominent role among an otherwise all-white cast. The production played for 100 performances, then took a short break and returned to Broadway for 24 more performances.

In 1946, Webster and Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne was a well-known actress, producer, and director, during the first half of the 20th century.-Early life and early career:...

 co-founded the American Repertory Theater
American Repertory Company
The American Repertory Company was founded in the 1980s and continued on until 2004, when founder Manu Tupou died on June 5. Manu Tupou not only was the founder but remained artistic director until his final days.-Founder:...

 with producer Cheryl Crawford
Cheryl Crawford
Cheryl Crawford was an American theatre producer and director.Born in Akron, Ohio, Crawford majored in drama at Smith College. Following graduation, she moved to New York City and enrolled at the Theatre Guild's school...

, with Webster's staging of Shakespeare's Henry VIII
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

as its premiere production, starring Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne was a well-known actress, producer, and director, during the first half of the 20th century.-Early life and early career:...

 as Katherine, Walter Hampden
Walter Hampden
Walter Hampden is the artist name of Walter Hampden Dougherty was a U.S. actor and theatre manager. He was the younger brother of the American painter Paul Dougherty ....

 as Cardinal Wolsey and Victor Jory
Victor Jory
Victor Jory was a Canadian actor.-Biography:Born in Dawson City, Yukon, Jory was the boxing and wrestling champion of the Coast Guard during his military service, and he kept his burly physique. He toured with theater troupes and appeared on Broadway, before making his Hollywood debut in 1930...

 in the title role. The theater operated until 1948 http://www.glbtq.com/arts/legallienne_e.htmlhttp://www.collectorspost.com/cgi-bin/ShopLoader.cgi?Actors/margaret_webster.html, staging such plays as John Gabriel Borkman
John Gabriel Borkman
John Gabriel Borkman is the penultimate composition of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, written in 1896.-Plot:The Borkman family fortunes have been brought low by the imprisonment of John Gabriel who used his position as a bank manager to illegally speculate with his investors' money...

, Ghosts,
and a legendary production of Alice in Wonderland in which Webster played the Cheshire Cat
Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll's depiction of it in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Known for his distinctive mischievous grin, the Cheshire Cat has had a notable impact on popular culture.-Origins:...

 and the Red Queen.

In 1948, her affair with Le Gallienne ended, and she went on tour with her company, the Margaret Webster Shakespeare Company. The tour lasted until 1951, but she left in 1950 to become the first woman to direct at the New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1964 she directed Leo Genn
Leo Genn
- Early life :He was born at 144 Kyverdale Road, Stamford Hill, Hackney, London, England to a Jewish family. His father, Woolfe Genn, was a jewellery salesman and the maiden name of his mother, Rachel, was Asserson....

 in 12 Angry Men in London. She also directed Macbeth at the New York City Opera
New York City Opera
The New York City Opera is an American opera company located in New York City.The company, called "the people's opera" by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, was founded in 1943 with the aim of making opera financially accessible to a wide audience, producing an innovative choice of repertory, and...

. Her remaining years were spent in various aspects of the theatre and opera, until her death from cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 in 1972, aged 67 http://www.collectorspost.com/cgi-bin/ShopLoader.cgi?Actors/margaret_webster.html.

External links