January 28, 2009
Media contact: Stephanie Page Duesing, office: 407-646-2203, cell: 407-721-4633
WHAT: Since 1932, the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College has been a beautiful tribute to actress Annie Russell. As the heart of the Department of Theatre and Dance, this building has kept the legend and legacy of Annie Russell in the limelight. This Thursday, Rollins will honor Annie Russell once again as a stone is placed along the Walk of Fame to recognize her many achievements and contributions to theater.
WHEN: The stone-laying ceremony will take place on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 12:30 p.m. on Mills Lawn. Faculty, staff, students and the community are invited to attend.
BACKGROUND: The darling of both British and American stages, Annie Russell was a household name in 1883. After 900 performances in the title role of Gillette and Burnett's immensely successful Esmeralda, she stepped off the New York stage to recover her health and her calling. Her return to the stage in 1894 heralded a period of great creative success in her life, playing in a number of new plays. In 1905, Russell returned to the London stage as the heroine of Shaw's Major Barbara in its first production.
From 1912 until her retirement in 1918, Russell organized the Olde English Comedy Company, in which she directed and acted. Russell's retirement in Winter Park was not a quiet one. Her good friend Mary Curtis Bok Zimbalist convinced her to become involved in the dramatic arts program at Rollins College. The collaboration of these two powerful friends became the spiritual foundation of the current program and the literal foundation of the Annie Russell Theatre (the “Annie”). Built in 1931 with funding from Zimbalist, the “Annie” serves as the heart of the oldest theater program in Florida and one of the most prestigious in America. In 1998, the National Parks Service named the theater to the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its architecture and its role in education and the performing arts. Annie Russell died in 1936. However, the Annie Russell Theatre continues to serve as the artistic home for a community of learners.