Texas Women and Theatre: People, Places, and Performances
The proximity of Houston to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans led to the first Texas professional theatre performance in 1838. As popularity grew, participation of women did as well. Women can be found in the roles of performers, managers, content creators, monetary contributors, and promoters. This exhibit aims to highlight the works of Texas women as well as their support of the theatre community.
Waco roots are well represented in this display, but that does not discount representation from cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and El Paso. Some of these women have also flourished in areas outside of Texas, including Ohio, New York, and Washington, DC. Their contributions have been documented in a variety of ways and provide insight into the various opportunities afforded throughout their careers.
Opportunities to relive a performance are integral to the theatre experience. Photographs, posters, ticket stubs, programs, books, and recordings share the rich and diverse story of female representation in Texas Theatre. Whether it’s teaching, management, or advertisement, these items document the occasions and create historical and cultural context for future generations.
Culture has always been present in Texas theatre. Spanish Colonial presentations in the early 1800s as well as German immigrants in 1850s Fredricksburg and New Braunfels. During the Mexican Revolution many performers ceased touring in Mexico and South Texas, some even taking up residencies in the state. Many cities have played host to the Black experience as well as represented religious diversity.
Exposure to theatre comes in many forms. Throughout it all, women have always been involved. As you visit the exhibit, learn how Texas Women have impacted the theatre on stage, behind the curtain, and in the audience.
Pauline Breustedt was born July 3, 1898, in Waco, Texas, to William and Jean Breustedt. Pauline’s early education was in Waco schools followed by Miss Wright’s School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Pauline also attended finishing school in France.
Throughout her schooling, Pauline was a regular on the stage, performing in shows at Miss Wright’s and Smith College. She obtained her first professional acting credit on Broadway, performing in the Broadhurst Theatre production of “Wild Oats Lane.” In 1925, she joined the Stuart Walker Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. She spent three seasons with the company and performed regularly in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio.
While Pauline Breustedt spent much time away for school, work, and leisure travel, she always claimed Waco as home.
Laura Wise Maverick was born on November 22, 1878, to William and Emilia Chilton Maverick in San Antonio, Texas. Laura attended schools in San Antonio and Massachusetts, and then returned to San Antonio, where she married Dr. Amos Lawson Graves in 1897. The couple had two children, Amos and Laura. Upon divorcing Graves, Laura and the children moved to New York while she pursued a career in music.
A mezzo-contralto, Laura’s New York performances soon brought opportunities to perform internationally. She spent time in Europe studying and performing, and upon returning to America in 1912, she debuted with the Russian Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. In August of that year, Laura wed Carl Hahn, the director of the San Antonio Orchestra and an accomplished violoncellist. They toured together, performing joint recitals. Eventually, Laura became one of the first performing artists of her status to incorporate the music of Mexico into her repertoire.
Laura passed away in 1956 and is buried in San Antonio, Texas.
Annie K. Randle
Annie Keeling Randle was born in October 1887 to Ben and Arie Keeling. The family moved to Waco in 1906 where she attended Central Texas College and took courses in sewing, millinery, and music in addition to her regular education. During this time, she was also introduced to theatre work.
In her oral history, Annie recalls being one of several students chosen for drama and speech lessons at her school. The students practiced and performed plays, dramatic readings, and other programs at the school and local churches. She described this activity as one of her favorites, an activity she would have pursued professionally if there were opportunities. Instead, she began working for the City of Waco Recreation Department. However, through this work, her passion for the stage was recognized by the Superintendent of Waco Schools. He was insistent to offer these opportunities in the Black schools of Waco.
Around 1932, Annie attended Baylor University to acquire the necessary training, studying under Paul Baker and Sara Lowrey. Although she did not receive credits, Annie was one of the earliest Black students to attend the university. She taught drama for 10 years in public and government schools.
In addition to teaching, Annie was also a playwright. Copies of her plays, “The Voice on the Wire” and “The Blood Calls Out” are included in the Annie Keeling Randle papers.
Gussie Oscar (1875-1950) was born the youngest child of Rudolph and Ella Oscar of Calvert, Texas. The Oscar family owned Casimir’s Opera House and Grand Hotel in Calvert, which likely influenced Gussie to choose music as a career and embrace the theater lifestyle. She trained in classical music and supported herself by playing weddings, churches, dances, and theaters. Once she settled in Waco, Oscar began playing piano in vaudeville and opera for the Majestic Theater and Waco Auditorium; the latter of which she would become manager.
Gussie was a popular manager and performer. In addition to the Auditorium, she promoted acts at The Cotton Palace and Waco Hall. She was, however, not always popular with the census board; she was twice arrested for opening the Auditorium on Sundays. Although the Auditorium closed in 1928, she continued to book local programs including Eleanor Roosevelt, Will Rogers, the Marx Brothers, John Philip Sousa, and William Jennings Bryan. Her work was responsible for much of the growth of the Waco theater scene in the first quarter of the 1900s.
Gussie is buried in the Hebrew Rest Cemetery in Waco, Texas.
Doris Goodrich Jones
Doris Goodrich Jones (1902-1993) was born in Temple, Texas to William Goodrich Jones and Zollie Luther Jones. Doris earned a degree in Music from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and a teaching certificate from Baylor University. She taught elementary school in Gatesville, Texas for a short time before turning her hobby of puppetry into her profession.
Doris traveled extensively in Texas performing for schools, churches, and libraries. Most of her plays paralleled folk tales and moral stories and featured her handmade puppets. Doris performed all tasks within the play herself: voices, sound effects, movements, and music.
Doris became nationally recognized as a puppeteer and was well-loved and respected. Her love of puppetry, which began in Chautauqua, New York, also resulted in over 20 years teaching the craft in the same town.
She passed in July 1993, and is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Temple, Texas.
Ima Joy Gandler
Ima Joy Chodorow Gandler was born October 25, 1929, in Waco, Texas. She married Jacob E. “Jake” Gandler on 1950 June 25 and they had three children; Sharlane Michaele, Laura, and Howard.
As an active member of Waco Temple Rodef Sholom, Ima Joy began collecting materials on Texas Jewish Culture in the 1970s. She began with a local archive to document each confirmation class at Rodef Sholom and moved on to document the history of the Waco Jewish Community as well as Jewish Communities across Texas. She was a founding member of the Texas Jewish Historical Society.
In addition to her religious interests, Gandler was also a patron of the arts and enjoyed travel. She regularly supported the Waco Hippodrome Theatre as a season ticket holder and visited larger cities in Texas, such as Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston, to attend shows as well. Visits to New York and Washington DC included stops on Broadway and the Kennedy Center, respectively.
Programs, Postcards, and Ephemera
Programs, ticket stubs, and postcards are often overlooked and kept as ephemeral items. As the case shows, these items can give access to a larger story. Programs provide names of performers and directors as well as dates and even valuable information about the venue. Ticket stubs can show habits of an individual viewer regarding the types of shows they are interested in or how far they are willing to travel. Travel for new places of interest is also depicted in postcards. The cards were not only a means of communication, but also a way to provide a peek at sights of interest away from one’s home. On occasion, they are also the only visual record of what once was or of a place that has been razed, destroyed, or remodeled.
Representation and Culture
Through founding the companies, creating content, and marketing, culture permeates the theatre. In early 20th century San Antonio, La CompañíaVillalongín and El Teatro Colon provided entertainment for the Mexican and Mexican American population. In the 1970s, the Sojourner Truth Players embodied the Black experience in Fort Worth, and Carol and Paul Kantor documented Jewish history in Cleveland, Ohio. More recently, individuals such as Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad continue to invest in the future of a diverse theatre culture.
People, Places, and Performances affect the stories told and how culture is represented on stage. Catering to a specific audience allows themes and ideas to inspire while also reinforcing the work it takes to succeed. Inclusion and support of many voices allows theatres to grow and evolve with their communities.
“Alamo Plaza History.” San Antonio Conservation Society Foundation. Accessed October 13, 2021.
“December 20 in San Antonio history… .” San Antonio Public Library. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.mysapl.org/Events-News/News-Media-Center/News/ArtMID/17281/ArticleID/19849/December-20-in-San-Antonio-history.
Edmonds, Randolph. “THE NEGRO LITTLE THEATRE MOVEMENT.” Negro History Bulletin 12, no. 4 (1949): 82–94. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44214440.
“Grand Opera House.” Emporis. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.emporis.com/buildings/1270034/grand-opera-house-san-antonio-tx-usa.
“History.” Casa Mañana. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://casamanana.org/history/.
“History of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.” Dallas ISD. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/1606.
Jones, Doris Goodrich. Interview by Betsy Oates. January 26, 1977, in Waco, Texas. Transcript. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, Tx. https://digitalcollections-baylor.quartexcollections.com/Documents/Detail/oral-memoirs-of-doris-goodrich-jones-transcript/1630372?item=1630374
“Nina Vance.” Alley Theatre. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.alleytheatre.org/about-us/history/nina-vance.
“Paramount History.” The Paramount Theatre. Accessed October 13, 2021. https://www.austintheatre.org/about-us/paramount-theatre/paramount-history/.
Randle, Annie Keeling. Interview by Rebecca S. Jimenez. April 19, 1983, in Waco, Texas. Transcript. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, Tx. https://digitalcollections-baylor.quartexcollections.com/Documents/Detail/oral-memoirs-of-anne-keeling-randle-transcript/1683397?item=1683401