Scrapbooks of a Young Theater Fan

Cover, Scrapbook Vol. 1. Alma Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926, Mss. 84 F73.

Cover, Scrapbook Vol. 1. Alma Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926, Mss. 84 F73.

Alma Mae Clarke Fontaine (1909-1999) loved the theater. As a young woman living in New Rochelle, New York, she kept scrapbooks between 1923 and 1926 to document her trips into New York City to attend the theater. These erudite scrapbooks reveal a avid but thoughtful audience member. Her comments about actors’ performances demonstrate rather mature taste for a thirteen year old.

In February 1923, she attended a performance of John Barrymore’s handsome and brooding Hamlet—a critically acclaimed production and the hot ticket of the day. She wrote notes on Rosalind Fuller’s Ophelia, and pasted a cutting from a program or theater magazine, illustrating Fuller’s representation of Ophelia. A great deal of the first scrapbook volume is devoted to productions of Shakespeare. In one annotation she wrote, “My ambition, Diary, is to play Lady Macbeth.” In a note written on March 9, 1923, she bemoans that algebra is getting in the way of her passion: “If we wish to pass we will have to give up all Shakespeare and study horrible algebra. Isn’t it depressing?”

Barrymore as Hamlet. Scrapbook Vol. 1. Alma Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926, Mss. 84 F73.

Barrymore as Hamlet. Scrapbook Vol. 1. Alma Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926, Mss. 84 F73.

Fontaine pasted theater reviews from newspapers and tucked ticket stubs into her scrapbooks. She wrote notes about who attended each performance with her (“Edith, Mother and Kathryn”); in some instances she notated on a diagram of the theater where she had been seated for a performance. She also included playbills, which she annotated. For instance, beside the names of various actors listed in the dramatis personae for a performance of Romeo and Juliet, she wrote in the titles of other plays she had seen those actors in and the roles they had performed.

Detail, Scrapbook Vol. 1. Alma Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926, Mss. 84 F73.

Detail, Scrapbook Vol. 1. Alma Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926, Mss. 84 F73.

Alma Mae Clarke Fontaine’s scrapbooks represent the passion of a remarkable young woman and “Shakespeare Enthusiast.” Fontaine graduated from William & Mary in 1931. Later in life she served as the first woman elected to the grade school Board of Education in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

Alma Mae Fontaine Papers, 1923-1926

Mss. 84 F73

 

 

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