Lewisohn, Alice

(1883-1972) and Irene Lewisohn
(1892-1944)
   The sisters—Alice, a director and scene designer, and Irene, a producer, designer, and choreographer, both best remembered as cofounders of the Neighborhood Playhouse—were the eighth and tenth children of Leonard Lewisohn, a Germanimmigrant founder of American Smelting and Refining Company and Amalgamated Copper Company, and Rosalie (Jacobs) Lewisohn, from a family of New York bankers. The death of both parents at the turn of the century left over $2 million dollars for each of the 10 children. Their father had encouraged Alice's and Irene's artistic inclinations and had also exposed them to philanthropy and social work at New York City's Henry Street Settlement House, where they formed a friendship with Lillian D. Wald. Irene traveled to Asia with Wald, while Alice studied acting with Sarah Cowell Le Moyne and made her professional debut in 1906. In 1912, Alice organized the Neighborhood Players at the Henry Street Settlement House, and the amateur group produced several plays.
   In 1915, the sisters opened the 390-seat Neighborhood Playhouse, with construction financed by them, and modeled upon theatres they had visited in Europe. For 12 years, the company produced plays from the international repertoire, turning professional in 1920 and garnering particular acclaim from critics for The Little Clay Cart (1924) and The Dybbuk (1925). Alice married designer Herbert E. Crowley in 1924; they were later divorced, but she is often referenced under the name Alice Crowley. Irene remained active in theatre after the Lewisohns closed the playhouse in 1927 due to unsustainable financial losses. She also founded the Museum of Costume Art, which was later absorbed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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