Rachel Crothers (KRUHTH-urz) not only wrote about but in many ways was the “New Woman” of the 1910’s and 1920’s. While she is best known today as a playwright, she was also an actor, director, designer, producer, and administrator. The youngest child of Dr. Eli K. Crothers and Marie DePew Crothers, Rachel was born in 1878 (although one recent source argues for 1879). She may have spent much of her youth with an aunt in Massachusetts, especially while her mother studied medicine before becoming, in 1883, one of the first women doctors in Illinois. Rachel graduated from Illinois State Normal University High School in 1891 and enrolled in the New England School of Dramatic Instruction in Boston, from which she earned a certificate the following year. After four years at home in Bloomington, Crothers moved to New York and attended the Stanhope-Wheatcroft Dramatic School, where she stayed for five years: a semester as a student, the rest as teacher and coach. In 1899, Stanhope-Wheatcroft students produced three of Crothers’s one-acts at the Madison Square Theatre. Crothers also appeared as an actor in several New York productions in the early 1900’s.
Her real professional debut as a playwright came in 1906, when The Three of Us played at the Madison Square Theatre for 227 performances and subsequently toured the Midwest. Critics hailed the play for its subtle realism and its tight structure, features that were to become hallmarks of Crothers’s dramaturgy. In 1908, Myself Bettina was directed by...
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