Margaret Webster

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Margaret Webster_table_infobox_0

Margaret WebsterMargaret Webster_header_cell_0_0_0
BornMargaret Webster_header_cell_0_1_0 (1905-03-15)March 15, 1905

New York City, New York, USMargaret Webster_cell_0_1_1

DiedMargaret Webster_header_cell_0_2_0 November 13, 1972(1972-11-13) (aged 67)

Sydenham, England, UKMargaret Webster_cell_0_2_1

OccupationMargaret Webster_header_cell_0_3_0 Margaret Webster_cell_0_3_1
Partner(s)Margaret Webster_header_cell_0_4_0 Margaret Webster_cell_0_4_1
ParentsMargaret Webster_header_cell_0_5_0 Margaret Webster_cell_0_5_1
RelativesMargaret Webster_header_cell_0_6_0 Benjamin Nottingham Webster (great-grandfather)Margaret Webster_cell_0_6_1

Margaret Webster (March 15, 1905 – November 13, 1972) was an American-British theater actress, producer and director. Margaret Webster_sentence_0

Critic George Jean Nathan described her as "the best director of the plays of Shakespeare that we have". Margaret Webster_sentence_1

Life and career Margaret Webster_section_0

Margaret Webster was born in New York City, the daughter of two famous actors, Ben Webster and Dame May Whitty. Margaret Webster_sentence_2

She was their second child, her older brother died in infancy. Margaret Webster_sentence_3

Her birth was announced on stage at the theatre her father was performing in during a Shakespeare play. Margaret Webster_sentence_4

The family travelled extensively during her formative years as her parents moved between the US and UK with various touring theatre companies. Margaret Webster_sentence_5

At 13 she became a boarder at Queen Anne's School, Caversham, an independent school in England. Margaret Webster_sentence_6

Given her unique parentage, she was allowed time off school to act in performances with her parents. Margaret Webster_sentence_7

This included being on stage alongside the renowned theatre actress Ellen Terry. Margaret Webster_sentence_8

Terry and her family including her daughter Edith Craig were good friends with the Websters. Margaret Webster_sentence_9

Upon graduating in 1923, she turned down the opportunity to attend Cambridge University in order to pursue her acting career. Margaret Webster_sentence_10

She went on to attend Etlinger Dramatic School, London, England where her mother Dame May Whitty was a manager and acting coach. Margaret Webster_sentence_11

She spent the early part of her career in England, where she became well known in the theatre. Margaret Webster_sentence_12

She worked for several established theatrical companies, including from 1929–1930 at the Old Vic. Margaret Webster_sentence_13

She returned to the US in 1937 and began an impressive run directing the Shakespeare play, Richard II with Maurice Evans in the title role. Margaret Webster_sentence_14

They formed a partnership that lasted until 1942, with Webster directing Evans in Broadway productions of Hamlet, Twelfth Night and Henry IV, Part I. Margaret Webster_sentence_15

In 1941–42, she directed Evans and Judith Anderson in a Broadway production of Macbeth. Margaret Webster_sentence_16

It was while she was directing Hamlet in 1938 that she began her long romantic relationship with actress Eva Le Gallienne. Margaret Webster_sentence_17

Webster was also believed to have had a brief off or on relationship with the actress Mady Christians during this same time frame. Margaret Webster_sentence_18

On Broadway, Christians played Queen Gertrude in Hamlet and Lady Percy in Henry IV, Part I, staged by Webster. Margaret Webster_sentence_19

Webster and Christians became close friends: according to Webster biographer Milly S. Barranger, it is likely that they also were lovers. Margaret Webster_sentence_20

Webster was said to be devastated by Christians death from a stroke in 1951. Margaret Webster_sentence_21

Webster was part of a small but influential group of lesbian producers, directors, and actors in theater (a group that included Eva Le Gallienne and Cheryl Crawford). Margaret Webster_sentence_22

When Evans joined the army, Webster continued to have success directing classical plays on Broadway, notably The Cherry Orchard (1944) starring Le Gallienne, and her greatest triumph, Othello (1943), starring Paul Robeson in the title role and Jose Ferrer as Iago, 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. Margaret Webster_sentence_23

Webster played Emilia in the production's initial year (she was replaced by Edith King in 1944). Margaret Webster_sentence_24

In 1945, she staged the longest-running performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest ever to play Broadway, with Arnold Moss as Prospero, Canada Lee as Caliban, and ballerina Vera Zorina as Ariel. Margaret Webster_sentence_25

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. Margaret Webster_sentence_26

The production played for 100 performances, then took a short break and returned to Broadway for 24 more performances. Margaret Webster_sentence_27

In 1946, Webster and Le Gallienne co-founded the American Repertory Theater with producer Cheryl Crawford, with Webster's staging of Shakespeare's Henry VIII as its premiere production, starring Le Gallienne as Katherine, Walter Hampden as Cardinal Wolsey and Victor Jory in the title role. Margaret Webster_sentence_28

The theater operated until 1948, staging such plays as John Gabriel Borkman, Ghosts, and a legendary production of Alice in Wonderland in which Webster played the Cheshire Cat and the Red Queen. Margaret Webster_sentence_29

In 1948, her personal affair with Le Gallienne ended and she went on tour with her company, the Margaret Webster Shakespeare Company. Margaret Webster_sentence_30

The tour lasted until 1951, but Webster left in 1950 to become the first woman to direct a production at the Metropolitan Opera. Margaret Webster_sentence_31

Her debut production of Don Carlo served as opening night of the 1950–51 season and began the tenure of Rudolf Bing as general manager. Margaret Webster_sentence_32

Her subsequent productions were Aida (1951) and Simon Boccanegra (1959). Margaret Webster_sentence_33

Around 1953 she met the British author Pamela Frankau with whom she fell in love and by 1957 they were living together at 55 Christchurch Hill in Hampstead, London. Margaret Webster_sentence_34

In 1964 she directed Leo Genn in 12 Angry Men in London. Margaret Webster_sentence_35

She also directed Macbeth at the New York City Opera. Margaret Webster_sentence_36

Frankau and Webster frequently moved between London and Webster's home in Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard. Margaret Webster_sentence_37

They remained together until Frankau's death from breast cancer in 1967. Margaret Webster_sentence_38

Webster dedicated her first autobiography "The Same, Only Different: Five Generations of a Great Theatre Family" (1969) to Pamela. Margaret Webster_sentence_39

In 1968 Webster began a whirlwind romance with a married but separated American woman named Jane Brundred. Margaret Webster_sentence_40

She moved into Webster's Aquinnah home but within a few short months was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Margaret Webster_sentence_41

Brundred bequeathed money to Webster in her will despite her family being against their relationship. Margaret Webster_sentence_42

The money was used for a memorial sculpture in Brundred's memory in a Shakespeare garden at Aquinnah public library. Margaret Webster_sentence_43

The remainder of the money helped Webster permanently relocate to London after her own cancer diagnosis 2 years after Brundred's death. Margaret Webster_sentence_44

The final play she directed was George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs Warren's Profession", where she directed the actress and singer Mary Ellis in 1970. Margaret Webster_sentence_45

Webster died from colon cancer at St Christopher's Hospice, 51 Lawrie Park Road, Sydenham, England in 1972, aged 67. Margaret Webster_sentence_46

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: Webster.