- (1869-1948)Named for Shakespeare's Viola in Twelfth Night, Viola Allen was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. Leslie Allen, both stock company actors in the south. She was born in Huntsville, Alabama, and grew up performing with her parents. Much of her schooling was in Boston while they enjoyed long employment with the Boston Theatre company. At 13, she made her New York debut as a replacement for Annie Russell in Esmeralda at Madison Square Theatre (4 July 1882). John McCullough subsequently cast her as his daughter in Virginius, and she played the climax with stunning poignancy; the great tragedian then made the young actress his leading lady. She later played opposite Alexander Salvini, Lawrence Barrett, and Joseph Jefferson III. From 1893 to 1898, Allen was the leading lady in Charles Frohman's Empire Theater stock company, which toured annually.Allen formed her own company in 1898 in order to present The Christian by Hall Caine, followed by many more of the melodramas that dominated her repertoire. In the 1900s she turned to a largely Shakespearean repertoire, adding Juliet, Portia, Imogene, and both Hermione and Perdita in The Winter's Tale to her important roles. In 1907, her company toured The School for Scandal along with the Shakespeare plays; her father played Sir Peter Teazle in that company. In 1906, Viola Allen secretly married Kentucky horseman Peter Duryea; the wedding is sometimes erroneously reported as having occurred in 1918, the year she retired from the stage to live in Kentucky. During her 35-year stage career, she had played over 80 roles. According to Kansas City critic Austin Latchaw, Viola Allen's attributes included her personal beauty, well-modulated voice, and sincerity of characterization.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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