News of the Collegespring2007

A Life in the Spotlight

  Mrs. Leslie Carter image

Theatre professor Craig Clinton has plumbed the history of the American stage in his new book, Mrs. Leslie Carter: A Biography of the Early Twentieth Century American Stage Star (McFarland and Company, 2006). The book recounts the career of Leslie Carter, a Chicago socialite who turned to the theatre to make a living after a scandalous divorce in 1889 left her penniless.

“I thought it important to recover the career of the actress known, in her time, as ‘the American Sarah Bernhardt,’” Clinton explains.

Clinton says he was interested in spotlighting a moment in history when theatre was still a mass medium for Americans. “At the beginning of the 20th century—Mrs. Carter’s heyday—the American theatre was emphatically centered in popular culture,” he says. “This was a period of considerable importance to the evolving American theatre, for it represents a theatre in the throes of change and also a theatre that reached, in a variety of intriguing ways, a high-water mark before film captured the popular audience.”

—Josey Duncan ’06