Ann Buckles, W&M Class of 1951
Ann Buckles arrived at William & Mary in 1949. During her time at the College, she acted in a series of plays and joined Pi Beta Phi.
After graduating in 1951 with a Bachelors of Arts in Theatre, Buckles moved to New York to continue her acting career, acting in various plays, on Broadway, and in commercials. Then, she joined a spiritual movement entitled “Moral Re-Armament” for seven years. Shortly thereafter, Buckles worked as the Director of Public Relations for Harper’s Bazaar and served as an Alcoholics Anonymous Counselor. Buckles later returned to acting in plays and on television.
In her interview, Buckles recalls how she initially traveled to William & Mary to act in a play called “The Common Glory.” Her experience convinced her to transfer to the College in 1949 to pursue a degree in Theatre. She reminisces on her positive memories both with the theatre department and with her sorority, Pi Beta Phi. She stresses that the mentorship she received from Althea Hunt was integral in her growth as an actor at the College. Buckles describes her career post-William & Mary through different anecdotes and asides. In particular, she often returns to a movement she joined called Moral Re-Armament, which she remained a part of for seven years. The movement’s “four standards” of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love have guided her throughout her career and life choices, and she credits these standards for her success. While Buckles has criticisms for the contemporary state of William & Mary, she still holds her college education responsible for her continued success.
William & Mary
Interviewee: Ann Buckles
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: November 19, 2018
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt. I’m the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently a little after 10:00 a.m. on November 19, 2018. I’m sitting with Ann Buckles, class of 1951, at her home in Williamsburg. So Ann, can you start by telling me the date and place of your birth?
Ann: I was born in Kingsport, Tennessee in 1928, on the cusp of the Depression.
Carmen: That’s right. A year, right, just a year before. And what years did you attend William & Mary?
Ann: I came to William & Mary in ’49 after two years at Mary Washington. I came here to do “The Common Glory.” Do you want me to…?
Carmen: Sure, yeah.
Ann: Well, okay. I came down to do “The Common Glory,” and got the part, and then came back here, and we had a ball. I loved…it was such fun. Everybody in it was fun.
Ann: And it was sort of a new place for me. I was also doing the plays for William & Mary during the summer. And then at the end of the summer I transferred to William & Mary. And the first show was “Little Foxes,” which I did. And I think that’s…I love that play. And after that my… Althea Hunt was head of the theatre department, and she was excellent. We even had special classes on Stanislavsky, just the two of us. But she took me to an audition for the Barter Theatre in Richmond, and they were giving an award to a Virginia person and a New York person, so I won the one for Virginia. So then I went to Barter the summer of my junior year and of my senior year.
00:02:00 And that was great fun except at first we used to do a play a week and make up everything I could make up. Once the director said, “You’re going on stage if you have to say the phone book.” So, I mean, we got some bad habits. But there I did an out of town tryout by Mary Chase, who wrote “Harvey,” and it was “Mrs. McThing.” And then I went to New York that fall. And I also went to see—and I can’t remember his name, but he was at the biggest agency in town beside MCA—a friend of Althea Hunt. She said go see him. So I went and saw him, and he was standing right close by, and I said, oh, I’m here, Miss Hunt”—he said, well, go do something to your hair.
00:02:58 And I said I can’t, I just washed it. And he said, well do something and go upstairs and see so-and-so. So I went up to see, and it was the director of the Herb [Tryler] Show, and I didn’t know anything about the camera or anything else. And he said, well, do a thing for me. So the crazy thing I took was gave him a mountain play that I’d done that summer with a mountain accent, stupid. And anyway, I got the part and got on and did it. And then the next television I did was—that was like October, and probably November. So there was a play called, a show called “Studio One,” and it was the best drama show, as a matter of fact, so I had an audition for that. Oh, I ought to also say that Robert Porterfield wrote letters, [top copy] letters, to everybody of any importance about me.
00:04:00 I could get an appointment with anyone. I also got in the best class with the Neighborhood Playhouse, which was with Sandy Meisner, and in it one of the persons was Grace Kelly, and I thought, well, you know. She was just starting out, too, though. But then I met—all right, got to go back to going to the audition for…and got the part in Studio One. And he said, well, they’re all over having lunch, just go on over and join them. And I said okay. And I’m in my school clothes, coming bopping over, and everybody was very friendly. I’m sure they said who is this bird who’s just arrived. And they were laughing and talking and one of them said something about a story, what is the hotel, you know, the…? Something Astoria, Waldorf Astoria.
00:05:00 And I said oh, what did you do at the Waldorf Astoria? And everyone laughed. And he said I was a busboy there. And I said oh, well I have a friend who’s a busboy there now. And they sort of laughed again. Anyway, we went back to rehearsal. And I played opposite him. And he made the part better, actually. So at the end of it he said, well, would you want to go to dinner sometime? And I said, well, yeah, you can call me.
I gave him the number of the Actor’s Studio—not the Actor’s Studio, the Actor’s Exchange. And I didn’t even have a phone. I was on the fourth floor. We had to go down to the lobby. Anyway, I did get a call and asked me to go to dinner. And I thought what should I wear? You know, I don’t know what to wear in New York. And I thought, well, I had this black velvet strapless dress, and just to my knee, and it was very simple, nothing on it or anything like that. Well, maybe I’ll wear that.
00:06:00 And so he just had on a suit and we went for dinner. And then he drove out—he said if you don’t mind I’m going into my hotel for a moment, would you like to come up or would you want to wait? And I thought I’m not coming up, I can tell you that. So he went up and he put on a black tie and we went to the Waldorf Astoria. And I was like, whoa. And he was right into the main table, and along comes my friend the busboy, and he went under the table laughing.
And anyway, it turned out he was really a good dancer. And part of my imaginations all growing up were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and I’d carry a sherbet and a phony cigarette and talk to it all the time. But he looked a lot like the man, the dancer. At any rate, he said to me don’t worry. I thought about what.
00:06:56 Because, see, when we grew up in Kingsport they made the B bomb and they brought in all of these engineers and everything from all over the world, and they had name bands, brought in name bands in Kingsport. And we used to slip in through the bathroom window to go. And this is where I started dancing. Because everybody was really good.
And so when I started to dance with him, it was like Fred Astaire. It was like who…? And he said don’t worry. And I thought about what? And anyway, we wound up doing a lot of dancing. And then shortly after that I had a call that they were going to open “Mrs. McThing” on Broadway with Helen Hayes, and I went whoa, and I got my part. So it was really very fortunate.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Ann: I guess we started like January or February, something like that, so I was there a short time.
00:08:00 And I remember calling home to my mother and said—I was going down to Palm Beach to do a play just to keep busy and I told Mother I’d come visit. I said Mom, guess what? I got a part on Broadway. And she said, oh, you’re not coming home? I went, sssssss. Well, at any rate, that was a year with Helen Hayes. It was really fun. And in the meantime I could do a lot of other things, too, I mean, commercials and stuff. So let’s see, what was next? Oh, I married and went to California. I did shows with like Red Skelton, Ernie Kovacs, Phil Silvers. They were all funny, good. And then I got a part in “Pajama Game.”
00:09:00 And that was really fun. Although I was really meant to do drama, but because my husband or whatever was in musicals. He had been a top musical comedy star at one year and I was very flattered by this and kind of, you know, into it. And so I went to California with him, and sort of broke into my routine myself. But then we came back and I did “Fifth Season” and I did plays. I continued to go down to Barter, too, but also played a year with Sammy Davis in “Mr. Wonderful.” And right at the end of that—I went to New York in ’51, did I say that? Yeah. And after that I was beginning to think gosh, is this all there is? Is this what it’s like?
00:10:00 Like I’d go to Sardi’s and I’d be looking over at somebody very famous and her husband and I’d say he’s gay and she’s whatever. And then this one, she’s having dinner with her dog and her hairdresser. And I thought oh my gosh, is that what it’s going to be like? And my husband was older, too. So I called this friend of mine who was the most unlikely person in the world. I said, well, what’s up? And she said, well, I’m going out to this place where there are lots of happy people. And I said oh, well I’ve got five days, I’ll go with you. And to Detroit you could go and make a commercial, back in one day, so…
Well, it turned out to be Mackinac Island. And I didn’t know where we were going, I didn’t hear anything, didn’t care, just, you know. We got off at the dock, because you can’t drive there, and I said to this person waiting, where am I? What is this?
00:11:00 And she said you’re at a summit strategy conference of Moral Re-Armament. And I said of what? And she looked me up and down very slowly and said Moral Re-Armament. I said what is that? What do you do? And she said we live here by four absolute moral standards: honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. And we believe that God has a plan for your life. If you want to get it, you can listen and obey.
And my first thought was what a relief it would be to be honest, and the second was well, I’m glad he has a plan for my life because mine sure hasn’t worked out very well. So I said, well, what do you do? And she said, well, we have meetings and so forth. And I thought, well, I’m not going to be here but five days, I want to see everything. So I went to a meeting at 7:30 in the morning, and it was between management and labor in Britain.
00:11:59 And I could hardly understand part of it. But one man came forward, a shock of white hair and a short leg, and he had marched the hunger march to London, and he said if you want to know what you really like, who you are, or what you want people to think of you, then stop and think about it, write down these four moral standards on a piece of paper, and then ask God to show you anything he wants to show you. And I thought, well, that’s what they do, I’m going to try it. I’m not going back, so…I’m not coming here.
So I did. After breakfast I went back, took a piece of paper and wrote down these standards, and I just said okay, God, if you have anything to tell me, you know. And in the meantime I had a new Broadway show signed for fall with George Abbott and Hal Prince.
00:12:56 I had a Kraft Hour television in five days’ time, which is why I could go out there and back. So a lot was going on. And also I was in the middle of a divorce. So all of a sudden this thought came to me, and it punctured my heart. I had a really bad relationship with my father, and I had told him as much when I went away to school. And this hit my heart and I thought what did I do? How could I do that? How mean is that? So it opened up a whole new thing.
Then also at that very time Muriel Smith arrived. She had been recording “South Pacific” in Hollywood. She played the part of the woman at the island. And she had three days, so she was going back to do her contracts at Covent Garden.
00:14:00 She had a beautiful voice and she was a big star in London. And someone arranged a breakfast. So at this breakfast was Muriel and myself and two young men from Cyprus, one Greek, one Turkish. And they had been at war with each other with guns. And one other person, a woman named Daisy Bates. So we all started talking, and the two from Cyprus started telling what they’d been doing, and Daisy Bates happened to be…take in the first child, black child, into Little Rock, and she herself was black. And she said can you lose your hatred and still have a passion to fight? And this kid started telling, and we all started talking about it. She said somebody ought to write a play about this.
00:14:58 Well, Moral Re-Armament was full of theatre, dance from all over the world and everything. The next day somebody started writing one. And it was based on the life of a Mary McLeod Bethune. She was the daughter of slaves and she started the Bethune-Cookman College in Florida, which is still going. She was also an advisor to Presidents Truman and I guess Adenauer—not Adenauer, that’s German—Eisenhower. And so this was about her life. And so she decided she was going to stay. She canceled her contracts at Covent Garden. And I said, well, is there anything in it for me? And they said yes. And the part was of the family that gave the money for the college and had become a top newspaper columnist throughout this.
00:15:56 So I said, well, I’ll stay, too. Out of the blue I canceled my contracts. And George Abbott kept calling me—what are you doing, where are you? Why don’t you—because I wouldn’t take the call. I didn’t know what to say. What are you doing? Well, finally I did take it. But just before that I was having lunch and I sat beside an Episcopal bishop and I said, well, I’ve decided to be absolutely honest. And he said there is no such thing. I said yes, there is. Yesterday I was 47. Today I’m 49. And he got [out an oh, Lord]. Well, anyway. I did call and break—finally when George Abbott called I did say. He said what are you doing? I said I’ve decided to live my life by four absolute moral standards.
00:16:59 And he had quite a reputation himself. So anyway, he said, well, that’s good if that’s what you’re doing. So at any rate, we started working on this play. And a family came, of blacks. So only two of us were professional, one who was a singer from Brazil. And this play, this was made up, volunteer, all of us. We didn’t earn any salary and we didn’t go by a union. So this play got written. And the first thing we did was open on the way down to Atlanta in Detroit. And then we went—am I going too long? Am I taking too long?
Carmen: No, not at all.
Ann: Okay, so we go to Atlanta, Georgia, 1958. Now I had said I didn’t want to go in a play around the country. “Pajama Game” I was offered right away and I said no, I want to stay in New York.
00:18:03 And here I am going to Atlanta, Georgia from Tennessee. Muriel was from New York. So the first night we opened in a boxing arena, and like 45 plainclothesmen the first night, the first three nights. But the basis of the play was the problem is not color, but character. So the manager of the one theatre, the legitimate theatre in town, came to see us and he said I came with trepidation, but I left with exaltation, and you may have my theatre. So we moved into his theatre. I mean, this was at the height of segregation. We couldn’t even…blacks and whites were still drinking out of different places and it was all absolutely segregated and at the height.
00:18:57 So we moved into the theatre, and the blacks had gone up an outside staircase to the third floor balcony. So we brought the [front] all down, sat equally on the first floor, not intermeshed, but equally. And as a matter of fact, Glenn Close was about eight years old, or nine, and her whole family was with us. They’re the first people I met when I went to Moral Re-Armament. So she would sit in it with the children when they were on the stage. And we played there for quite a while and we never had an incident. And we’d come down off stage and talk. People would come up to me because one of my lines was divorce and difficulties, and people would come up and say is it true, do you think you can really get back together?
00:20:00 And things started happening. From there we went to Washington to the National Theatre and we played there. We also did a cocktail hour play, and that was music, and it was kind of crazy. I was playing the woman who invited everybody, you know, I can’t think of her name now. But we played, I guess, the month. And then they built a movie place in Mackinac Island at this conference, so we all went back to Mackinac Island and this film was made. And it was incredible. It opened at the Warner Theatre on Broadway and the Warner Theatre in London.
00:20:58 Muriel and I went to the one in London. And this was a battle because we were standing for absolute moral standards and change in human nature. Well. the Communist Party was still blinking the hammer and sickle around through Europe, so it was quite a battle. And so a few times Muriel and I would go to, say, Holland, Denmark, Norway and back, and we’d be interviewed in each place, and the ones were like what is this, and the other one would be oh, that sounds wonderful, and another was well, what is this really about, where does the money come from? And each time—and we went back again on another trip—but each time the message was absolutely the same. The negative was the same in each place. And again—and it changed, but again in each place.
00:21:55 So we were fighting a battle. And we spoke after every film, Muriel and I. And in this film was the first segregated cast to get through the censor board of South Africa. And we went all over Europe and all through…not into Africa yet, but it went all over, Japan, everywhere. And then later went through South America with it, and we went to meet the presidents at each place because Peter Howard was running it, because Frank had died, Frank Buchman, who started it. And he said…Peter took us, that five of us, to meet the president of each country. And throngs of people meeting us. And he said he wanted me to do the press. And I said I don’t know anything about it. He said I do.
00:23:00 And, I mean, I asked him one time in the lobby—I was going to Brazil. We were somewhere. I think he said…I said I want to write something. And he said what do you want to write? You want to write a play? Just walking through the lobby. I said no, I just want to write a newscast. He said oh. One thought to a sentence, put the best fruit in the front window, stick to adjectives, not…stick to nouns, not adjectives, and develop your own style. And from that I started writing. And everywhere we went it was wide open, wide open television. We could walk in and say we’re coming in with the… Oh, come in, come in. They just started television.
00:23:58 So it was really exciting. And one person with us was the head of the MacLeod clan, Dame Flora MacLeod, and her son was there, and he was the youngest member of parliament at that time in Britain, and he was saying, he had lunch one time with the president of Britain, whatever you call him, and he said to him, well, what is absolute purity. And he said, well, it starts with honesty. So he was along. Dame Flora brought her piper. He used to pipe us all in and pipe us on the TV.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Ann: I mean, it was just crazy what opens up, you know. People really hungry. Okay, so then I guess that brings me up to… Oh, I came back to New York after seven years. We traveled all the time.
Carmen: All because of that five day trip?
Ann: All the day, five days, I stayed seven years.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Ann: Am I what? [Laughs.] I mean, God just absolutely took me by the hand.
Carmen: It changed your whole trajectory.
Ann: So I went back to New York and I thought, well, what am I going to do? So I started doing a lot of commercials. I hated commercials. They had to be exact, and I could never be exact, as you can probably tell. So one time I was holding a Cascade box and I was the only one speaking, but there were about 30 men lined up around the room, and all waiting to come and clean the glass. Each time we did a take they’d clean the glass.
00:25:56 And he said oh, look at her hands. Oh, put it in the other hand, the director said. I put it in the other hand and he said oh, God, just get a hand model. And I thought wait a minute, I didn’t come up here to do 480 commercials. I must be able to do something else. And I thought well, I’ve been a lot in the public, I’ve had a lot of relations, I must be able to do public relations.
Here’s how flukey New York is. So this friend of mine had a husband who was like senior vice president at Hearst. She said go over and see him. I went to see him and he said go over and see John So-and-so at public relations. So I went over to see him, and he had been an old newspaper guy, and he was really fun, and he said now if you will… Got out a big yellow pad and started writing. He said, now if you’ll keep your mouth shut and tell you what I say, don’t open your mouth, you’ll get this job and be bored out of your head in two weeks.
00:27:02 And he wrote down everything. And when I said this part about Moral , seven years, he said well, I think we ought to maybe change that or drop that. I said that’s the most important years of my life. He said well, we’ll strengthen that, then. He does this… And then Hearst sends out my resume on the Hearst line all over, and I never paid for any stamps or anything else. And he’d say, well, do you want to work in town or out of town.
At any rate, I got the job, and it was public relations with “Harper’s Bazaar.” I knew nothing about fashion. I’d never done public relations. I just went and sort of played the part. And at one point the man came, the head of it, called and he said Ann, get this this in Eye, and I said oh, okay, a snip. And I went out to his secretary and I said what’s Eye? And she fell under the desk.
00:28:00 She said it’s the most important column in women’s wear. I’d never read it. But I could go anywhere. Talk about cushy. I could go to any restaurant in town and take anybody. And once I said to the publisher I need a raise, and he said, well, put it on your expense account. But I did get bored, but not after two weeks. But it was after two years. And I thought my life is…this is ridiculous. I’m not doing anything.
So I went back and took aptitude tests that one of my professors here at William & Mary had told me about. He took his children in. So I said, well, I better find out what I should be doing before I make another move. So the only thing I can remember about it was that I had good tweezers dexterity, but not good finger dexterity. And that has come to be. I drop everything I pick up.
00:29:00 So anyway, I became director of public relations at “Harper’s Bazaar.” So I gave my notice. And it was because I decided after these tests that I would go and teach. I did get a master’s already at NYU on theatre, which meant nothing. And then I came and I said to Chris Moe was his name, and he was the head of the theatre department at Southern Illinois, and he was in my class. We were in the same class. And he was also in the first play. So he said…I said what do you do if you want to get a master’s? He said come here and you can have all your classes free, you can have a place to stay and a stipend, and you just have to be in the plays, but you don’t even have to be in all of them. I said it’s a deal.
00:30:00 So they had PR for Hearst send out this interview saying she’s leaving, and got all the [great], so she’s going back to higher education. In the meantime I get married instead. Idiot. [Laughs.] No, then that’s when I went to get my master’s for theatre, which as I say was—
Carmen: What year?
Ann: That was… I got married in 1966. And I got married at William & Mary.
Ann: And that was the first time I did that. Well, anyway. My mother and father were very much against my first marriage. He was older. And so when we came here to get married at Wren Chapel.
00:30:58 And the pictures of my mother looked like she was at a funeral. She was like… And then at the rehearsal dinner Dad said, well, I lost a daughter, but I have gained a brother.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Ann: Everybody was laughing. And anyway, I’m losing my place.
Carmen: Sorry, I took you off track. You were telling me about your second marriage and you were getting your master’s simultaneously.
Ann: Okay. I continued doing commercials and stuff while I was at “Harper’s Bazaar,” but as I said, I got married again. And at the end of my master’s, which was ’69, for theatre, I got pregnant, and we went on a big trip. No, I wasn’t pregnant at that time. We were adopting because we said we couldn’t have children. So we went on a very wonderful trip to Portugal, and Spain, and France, and England and back, and it was like wonderful.
00:32:01 I said, well, I better have a checkup that I don’t have cancer before we adopt a baby. And the doctor said no, you don’t have cancer, but you have a baby. And so I had my baby at 42. She has turned out pretty great. She now has three children. But my one weekend I came home from a weekend away and there had been a fire above me, and we got all of the water, two inches of water over everything—in the piano, in the lamps, in every handkerchief, shoe, whatever, and it was like ah. So I knew that I had to make a decision. And it was a great apartment on Park and 96th. I knew I could never find another rent controlled apartment. What am I going to do?
00:32:59 And I thought, well—Yvonne was then going to Chapin in New York, a wonderful school. But I realized that in third grade she had to start taking a bus and I thought I didn’t want that, because we were way on the west and that was on the east. At any rate I decided, well, I will go back to Williamsburg. So I had this friend who’d just moved and I said would I like Williamsburg? And she said come on back, you know. So I came. I’d put Yvonne in Walsingham. So we were going to go…go to the [May nines], you’ll get to go take classes, and you can have a dog. And so she went to Walsingham. But that was nothing like what she had known.
00:33:56 And I was walking the streets, and in fact it was nothing like…it was a great change from New York. I kept thinking oh my god, I’m going to go crazy. And nobody would understand because life is different.
Ann: So I decided I’d become a substance abuse counselor, because I used to go a lot to AA and all the meetings. I think they’re wonderful. And actually, they came out of Moral Re-Armament. It was called then the Oxford Group. The four standards went into the 12 steps, and it was the same routine that I’d always gone through. So I went to Rutgers and to VCU and became accredited, and became a substance abuse counselor. And then I was with my own. [Laughs.] And I did all kinds of groups, one time with only professionals—doctors, lawyers, pharmacists.
00:35:00 They were the hardest. They had to go the longest. But it was hard for them to accept the 12 standards, I mean the 12 steps. Okay, so I stopped… Oh. Then, when I ended that, I decided to go to the jail. So I spent eight years in the jail teaching women, and I basically was using the 12 steps and Moral Re-Armament. So there was so much alcohol, drugs. And I stayed there three years.
00:36:01 And everybody there was…I mean, I was a part of the place because I volunteered, but I was working with women. And that was a terrific time. So I just kept at it because a lot of times we have to start out with all right, today we’re going to… Well, anyway, we really went on the four steps, the 12 steps, and they didn’t know the difference. But it was the best work I ever did.
Ann: I loved it. It was so vital and so real. And I was doing a writing course. So it was…they just started to write and they didn’t know particularly why or how. So I just, you know. And it was all based on the four standards. They didn’t really know that. So I’d say, you know, we’d just…more and more and more people started to change. And I could never use the name, my name either, but it was the most satisfying thing I ever did. And that’s pretty well what I did. Wow.
Carmen: Well, so what years were you working at the jail? No, that’s amazing. I have so many questions.
Ann: Eight years.
Carmen: Okay, you were there eight years. What year was it?
Ann: I started…I’m going blank. As soon as I stopped working. I guess it was in the ‘80s.
Ann: And I didn’t say what I was doing. I mean, I just went. So it would be honesty. What did you do? What could you say? Well, write about it. So they started writing. And amazing things came out on dishonesty, on how they lost their job or who attacked who. And at that point they were all under five years and up, and they had all been alcoholic and…what am I trying to say?
00:39:12 They changed. I mean, they began to change. And particularly writing about it. And become honest. Came through to get purity. And looking at unselfishness. And things started changing. Lives started changing.
Carmen: Wow. So you’re saying it essentially, it was a writing course, but it essentially worked like an AA meeting, or even before that like the Moral Re-Armament.
Carmen: Oh, that’s amazing.
Ann: That’s all I did. And finally one reason I stopped after three years—no, eight years—my brain has left over there, too.
00:40:00 But one mother complained about her daughter getting into the classes, because I said hey, nobody had to come, and that was it. You come and you listen or you don’t. But this mother wanted her daughter to do this. So it was based on the absolute moral standards. I was going to say well, what are you writing about, what are you going to write about, that kind of thing. And they complained about having moral standards. The mother. And I fought it in the jail, but they said that was it. A lot of people started changing, I mean, started finding it and writing about it. And the most amazing things would come out.
00:40:59 The lives they’d gone through. And at such a young age. And then there were some there who had been married several times. But the ones keeping the children of these people were the grandparents, because that was two generations back.
Carmen: Wild. Your trajectory is just…oh, that’s amazing. And if you don’t mind, I would like to work backwards, I guess.
Ann: Oh, anything.
Carmen: Okay, great. Well, that was wonderful. Thank you for walking me through kind of your whole career trajectory.
Ann: I can’t believe I said it.
Carmen: No, that’s amazing.
Ann: I never forget my own name.
Carmen: For how much research I could have and did do on you, I couldn’t have found any of it, a lot of that, so…
Ann: No. Well, that isn’t usually, it’s which plays did you do, who did it, that kind of thing.
Ann: I gave you my resume. But this was the best thing.
Carmen: Yeah, that was the work that was most meaningful to you, and I think that’s incredible. Okay, so if we can go all the way back, and I have a couple questions for you.
Carmen: So you were born in Kingsport.
Carmen: Did you grew up in Kingsport?
Carmen: Can you tell me a little bit just about your family and what it was like growing up in that area?
Ann: Yes. I had a brother two years older, and my parents both worked, and it was right after the Depression when I was born, and that really knocked my father. Then Mother started to work. So I was alone a lot.
00:42:56 And I played make believe a lot. And I just had these stories going in my head. And part of them was I’d have a phony cigarette in one hand and a champagne glass in the other and I’d go through all this stuff, acting, drama, whatever. And then when my mother would say…I’d say something had gone wrong she’d say what did you do to start it. And I thought I haven’t got a chance. And so I did do everything, and I was on the most popular. I was voted, you know, the [May court] and the… But never… Oh, and I was the…represented the football players and the band. So there was a lot, a lot, a lot of stuff.
00:43:57 But I never really took it in because my parents would always say what did you do to cause that. Well, damn it, I didn’t do anything. Sorry. I just can’t win. So I’ve been a long time growing out of that.
Ann: But that’s what I did. I did the drama classes and things like that.
Carmen: So would you say that really that time alone as a child doing make believe is what got you started on the path toward theatre or toward drama?
Ann: I think it did, because I lived a drama. I mean, everything was make believe. And it was all sorts of different stories, different families. And it stuck with me. And I’d do the plays, but it wasn’t…I wasn’t… You know, I remember when my parents came to see the first show I did in New York.
00:45:03 And I said but Mom, don’t you want to see my show? And she said, well, we’ve already seen that. It was at Barter. And it wasn’t even with Helen Hayes. But that was just their lives. They were very…they weren’t in… When I went to Barter, I told you that.
Carmen: Yeah, in Abingdon.
Ann: And they loved being there, but they never let me know it, or never said anything to me, but I knew they said it to other people. Now you asked me a question and I went off.
Carmen: No, I think you brought it full circle. I had asked if those early days of playing alone and playing make believe had led you in this direction, and you mentioned that your own life was the drama.
Ann: It was. A single…yeah.
Carmen: Great. So when did you start thinking about college, then, and how did you land on that?
Ann: Well, you know, you just went to college. I went to Mary Washington, and another friend had gone there or something. And that was all girls, as you know. So I had a friend at Annapolis Naval Academy, and I’d just go there on weekends, but I didn’t particularly care about him. And then I went to University of Virginia for parties. But one time my date disappeared. He’d been hanging in a closet by the back of his collar.
Carmen: Oh, no.
Ann: There was so much drinking going on. And just going on weekends, mostly. So when I came down to audition for “Common Glory”—
Carmen: At William & Mary?
Ann: It was really fun. Did you have another question?
Carmen: Well, sure. Well, I would love to know what your very first thoughts of Williamsburg and William & Mary were, what it looked like, or felt like, or smelled like.
Ann: Oh, it was a small school, and I loved it. And getting into “Common Glory,” it was a wonderful, crazy group. I mean, fun. And we lived in a barracks and propped the windows open with…it didn’t matter, we were all burning up, but never noticed. And we had more fun at night, and we went all over town. We were playing everywhere. And so we… Then during that time I started to school. And I had no idea I would get in if I hadn’t been doing this kind of thing. Because I did all of the plays that summer for William & Mary.
00:48:01 And it was fun and easy. And anyway, going to, you know, when I switched over to come to school here, that was wonderful fun. I still kept going to other schools, too, though, for weekends. But the first play I did was…oh, my god. My mind’s going now.
Carmen: I think I have a couple of them listed here. I don’t know if they’ll be the ones you were participating in.
Ann: The first one was—
Carmen: There was “Little Foxes.”
Carmen: “Little Foxes.” And it was a perfect one for me. But I still managed to go on weekends, which, Althea Hunt was the teacher. She wasn’t too keen on my going.
00:49:03 But I also did classes with her alone on Stanislavsky. She was really very good. And then Will Leach, who became—you probably know about him. He wrote a play, and essentially—he was here that first summer I worked in “The Common Glory,” too. Essentially it was for me. I mean, my part was in it. I was good in it. And Miss Hunt didn’t think I should be able to do that. No, you shouldn’t do that. Well, I did it. And it was a wonderful play. And I can’t remember the name of it. But he was a really gifted man. And you probably know about him. He did all kinds of things in New York.
Ann: And we remained friends until he died. And he was a good friend.
Carmen: Great. So you mentioned Althea and different professors you had as being impactful. Were there any other members of the administration or faculty when you were on the William & Mary campus that you have any—
Ann: That I still talk about?
Carmen: Yeah, that you have memories of or that were impactful.
Ann: I don’t want to talk about Howard Scammon, because he was a rotten—excuse me. Well, I knew him very well up until he died. And he was doing “The Common Glory.” But he was not in the theatre when I was here then. And the theatre was actually, she was actually very good. And it was a deeper level.
00:51:00 And I was fortunate to have had her. As a matter of fact, she’s the one that, she called one of the ones who had worked here—now I can’t think of his name. He was a theatre agent, and he’s the one I went to see, and he said go do something with your hair.
Carmen: What did he want you to do with your hair?
Ann: I don’t know. I had just washed it and I don’t even know what it looked like. I can remember how we wore—or you’re probably not like that. You look terrific. But anyway. I did get the part.
Carmen: Yeah. But you were able to make those connections, though, and otherwise through your time at William & Mary.
Ann: Oh, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah. Great.
Ann: That was actually Althea Hunt who told me about him.
Carmen: That’s great.
Ann: And then also Bob Porterfield, who had the Barter Theatre, wrote about 30 some letters to everybody in New York.
Carmen: That’s excellent.
Ann: I wish I’d kept what I had leftover, but I didn’t. So I could get appointments. And it was very lucky that… Oh, and I had “Mrs. McThing” for a year. Then I did things like I told you, I went to California, with Red Skeleton. And he was so funny. But…what was the other one I was telling you about? I can’t remember. My mind is really…
Carmen: Oh, I don’t believe it for a second. We’ve been talking for almost an hour and you’ve been filling me in on all sorts of things from your history and your career trajectory. I have some more specific questions about William & Mary, and so we can see if—
Carmen: —let’s see what your memories of these things are. So we were talking a little bit about different individuals who were on campus when you were here, including the president, John Pomfret. His presidency was a little controversial. He left the year you did, or resigned the year you graduated because of a scandal with football grade changing. I don’t know if you have any memories of that.
Ann: I didn’t even know that. I liked his daughter a lot. We used to go out some. But I didn’t really know him. Just to, you know. But I didn’t even know that that happened.
Carmen: Sure. I think a lot of it was written about in the aftermath, so you might not have, since you had graduated and were well on your way to New York by that point.
Ann: Yeah, but I was pretty much in my own self.
Carmen: Well, what about Wilfred Lambert? He was the dean of students. Or Catherine Jeffers, who was the dean of women? Any memories of either of them?
Ann: Lambert would just…I had a…I remember getting my transfer when I went to NYU to get a master’s. He just wrote a note on my paper with all my grades on it. I don’t know how it got anywhere, but anyway. But as for who else did you mention?
Carmen: Catherine Jeffers, the dean of women.
Ann: Oh, Miss Jeffers. She was a very nice person to me. And one time I was doing a show in Boston. What was the name of it? Well, anyway. And she came backstage.
Carmen: Oh, that’s wonderful.
Ann: But it was, I think there was something rather risky about it—risqué. She said something like I don’t believe in that or something like that, I don’t know. It wasn’t all that bad, but…
Carmen: But she came to see you perform in Boston.
Ann: She came to see me, yeah. Well, she was in Boston, must have been. She didn’t come to see me, I’m sure.
Carmen: But still she made the time when she was up there.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Carmen: That’s great.
Ann: I had a lot of…yeah. And Will Leach was—did you ever hear about what he did? He went on to do a lot. Yeah, and he was a good friend. And Bill Harper.
00:55:00 But Chris Moe went on to be head of the theatre in Southern Illinois. And that’s where I was going to go. And got married instead.
Carmen: So I have a question because you mentioned when you started attending William & Mary, even though you were doing the plays and Miss Hunt didn’t like it, you were still traveling on the weekends to different schools. So how did that work with the different social rules and regulations that were going on on campus at the time?
Ann: Well, I was in a sorority, Pi Phi. I don’t remember it being any problem. But I can’t remember traveling all that much. Certainly did at Mary Washington. But I guess I was here a lot because I did a lot of shows, but not every show.
00:55:59 And one time I had to do one with a small part and I was rather embarrassed to go back to Mary Washington and have a small part. But I was pretty much involved. It was my last two years. So I lived in a sorority house the last time, but I used to live also very close to the theatre which was now, I think, what is languages or something, I can’t remember. It’s Phi Beta Kappa. Then it moved up to the other place.
Carmen: Yeah, it moved and now it’s being renovated.
Ann: Right. That was a wonderful old theatre.
Carmen: Right, absolutely. Well, so there were—even if you didn’t leave often there were a lot of social rules and regulations during your time at William & Mary—dress code, rules about when you could or couldn’t leave the dorms.
Carmen: Do you have any reflections you could share on this?
Ann: Oh, yeah. Well, that didn’t seem to bother me. I mean, when you’re in the theatre you don’t have people that are that interested in social affairs, particularly the men and women. But… What was the question?
Carmen: Just if you have any reflections on the type of social rules or dress code.
Ann: Oh, yes. We didn’t wear pants. And we didn’t have anyone in our rooms. And I think that is really good sense. I think it’s crazy to open up a whole dorm to men and women sharing everything. I mean, you have a hard enough time keeping yourself straight without having that every other minute. At that time they could not come above the first floor. And it was okay with me. Because I was really, as you know, going with people from outside, mostly.
Carmen: Right. Well, do you remember any collective pushback from the women at the college against those rules and regulations, or any daring attempts to come in after curfew or anything like that?
Ann: No, I don’t. But maybe I just didn’t hear them. But we were pretty much…we were pretty much on the level for doing it right. Except secretly, I guess. And as far as dating and that kind of thing. But I kept pretty much… I kept pretty much to the rules, I think. Maybe later I’ll think of something else.
Carmen: That’s fine. Well, if you do, feel free to bring it up. So you went to William & Mary ’49 through ’51, so in the postwar era. Men had come back onto campus after being at war. It was a really interesting time in the broader United States and world. McCarthyism was kind of on the rise, the red scare.
Carmen: So even before you got there there had been an article in the “Flat Hat” by the editor, Marilyn Kaemmerle, who wrote an article “Lincoln’s Job Half Done.” And there had been a lot of pushback from the administration at the time—this was in ’45—against it. The whole premise of the editorial was that the school should be integrated. And she was removed as editor, almost expelled. There were newspaper articles across the country writing about this. And the students on campus, whether or not they agreed, by and large they were against her being removed because of the censorship.
Ann: What year was that?
Carmen: That was ’45. I don’t know if you heard about that at all when you arrived on campus.
Carmen: So it was a big to-do.
Ann: I graduated in ’46, right?
Carmen: From William & Mary you graduated in ’51.
Ann: Oh, ’51.
Ann: I don’t remember anything of that.
Carmen: Well, so what I was going to say, kind of to bring this full circle, is in ’51, the summer of ’51, so after you graduated, the first African American student, Hulon Willis, started attending William & Mary. And I was going to ask if you remember anything of the racial climate around Williamsburg when you were there, or conversations about integration, anything like that.
Ann: Oh, okay. No, I don’t remember there being that much difference. But then again I was always with white students. However, we were very much around town all, I mean, students. I remember being in the basement of the Episcopal church with a man who was going to be a minister and did become that, and we were down there drinking, you know, all the time.
01:01:02 So, I mean, there was drinking. But I don’t remember much about any blacks. However, I never had something against it. I don’t…anything else about... No, but—and when I came it seemed to me that things were pretty regular, but then I could have been out of it. I just did theatre, mainly.
Carmen: Right, sure. You were with the theatre and then Pi Phi, right, and—
Ann: And why I don’t know, and whatever.
Carmen: Well, I was going to ask what your very favorite memories of your time at William & Mary were, whether they pertained to the theatre or your social life outside of that. Do you have some favorite memories that you can share?
Ann: I think it was probably mostly the theatre. And I wasn’t much of a sorority person. Although it was the thing to do, and it was difficult. But I almost went another place. I almost went Kappa and then I thought this…Pi Phi had a lot of crazy people in it, I thought, fun. And so I used to do it. And at the same time I was working for CW in doing plays. Excuse me. Yeah, I did a play. They arranged a play here for CW. But also I would go model. I mean, like on the golf course or somewhere. We were always interplaying, and I was always trying to find other people that would go and do it, and nobody was—they were all too lazy and didn’t want to be bothered.
01:03:00 But I’d make $25 or something like that. And so that’s what I did a lot of my time. But it wasn’t a lot. It was just…I mean, it didn’t take a lot of time. You know, we’d go down to the Palace and be photographed, or on the golf course, something like that.
Carmen: Sure. Well, of all the plays you were in or helped produce or direct, what was your absolute favorite during your time at William & Mary?
Ann: My favorite was the first one I did, and now I can’t think of the name of it. “Little Foxes.” I really like that play. And I did quite a few others, but I can’t remember. I did some Chekhov, some Ibsen.
Carmen: I have a couple different ones written down as well. “Dr. Last,” “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
Ann: They were all CW.
Carmen: Those were all CW? But “The Little Foxes” stands out to you as being a favorite?
Ann: I wish I had…that was the college. But I wish I had some of the pictures. They’re over in the archives. We wore these terrible wigs. And I remember they used to have to do, when we’d be doing the plays for CW, and I would draw in here to make it look… We did all kinds of crazy stuff trying to… And so that’s about…I don’t remember much. I just did a lot of plays, but…
Carmen: Yeah. It sounds like it kept your time pretty full while you were at William & Mary.
Ann: I was. And I think I went away a lot, too, but I don’t remember, really.
Ann: Because I kind of behaved.
Carmen: Well, so I wanted to ask if you have any memories of difficult experiences or harder times at William & Mary that you would like to share.
Ann: Harder times. I can’t remember. I never went to football games. Maybe I went to two. So most of my time was in or around the theatre. Sometimes I went to…I used to go a lot to other schools when I was at Mary Washington. But here I pretty well—I went to Virginia two or three times, but mostly… Tell me the question again.
Carmen: No problem. I was just wondering if there were any moments or experiences that were difficult for you during your time at William & Mary.
Ann: Oh, I’m sure there must have been difficult because I always thought I was not worth it, which, I had early training in thinking like oh, I did something wrong, you know. Whatever.
01:06:00 But it was all…I think I had a pretty good time. Now wait a minute, because Mary Washington was just, you know, preparation.
Ann: I didn’t do too much there except, you know, whatever. I didn’t get into too much trouble. So ask it again. This is where I’m going.
Carmen: It’s all right. I just wanted to know if there were any difficult experiences for you or times that you recall specifically at William & Mary.
Ann: Yes. Was that here or not? I was thinking of one time I was reported to the principal, but that was high school. I know there were times.
01:06:59 I didn’t…I wasn’t terribly social. I went, but not to a lot of dances. Probably because I made funny faces. I’m kidding. I don’t know. Ask it again.
Carmen: Well, it’s fine. If there were difficult experiences that you remember specifically you could bring them up, but if not, that’s fine, too.
Ann: Oh, difficult.
Carmen: Yeah. Or moments you remember as being particularly hard to get through.
Ann: Classes, exams. We used to go to the beach between exams. And one time I got so burned I couldn’t take my exam because it was all burned back here.
Carmen: Oh, no.
Ann: But actually, I had a pretty good time because I knew faculty, probably from the summer. They had all done “The Common Glory,” or they knew.
Ann: So I know there must have been times when I didn’t get what I wanted or… I don’t know. I kind of draw a blank. Tell me again.
Carmen: Well, it’s fine. So sometimes memory works like that, right? Like we don’t hold onto some of the negative—
Ann: Sometimes it doesn’t work at all.
Carmen: [Laughs.] But if you don’t have any particularly specific difficult moments that stood out—you mentioned that courses were tough and exams were often tough.
Ann: Anything that stood out…
Carmen: And if not, that’s fine, too.
Ann: Must have been. Maybe I didn’t get a play I wanted. Miss Hunt, she was very strict with me because I took classes alone with her.
Carmen: Right. Was that typical or was it just the setup you all had?
Ann: No, that was…she set it up because I did Stanislavsky.
Ann: And also sometimes I couldn’t be counted on to learn the lines, and that would be annoying. But I can’t…I’m sure there must have been places where I didn’t… I’m sure I always felt deep down no one liked me, which was a lie, but that’s what I was trained to do. So no, I can’t think of…
Carmen: That’s okay. Well, you just mentioned something about feeling maybe that no one liked you. I’m wondering if there were any ways you felt particularly supported at William & Mary or if there were areas you didn’t feel supported in at William & Mary.
Ann: Oh. I was supported pretty well because I was not a scholar. I always got by. But Miss Hunt was very strict with me and actually, she got me my first job because she was the one that wrote the man at the agency.
Ann: But I just can’t think of any… I probably wiped the bad things out of my mind.
Carmen: Sure. We definitely do that sometimes.
Ann: I’m always the most popular and the best of all, you know, whatever.
Carmen: Well, maybe that’s how it really was.
Ann: [Laughs.] I think it was, in a way, but not really.
Carmen: Okay. Well, so I’m wondering if you had an idea that you definitely wanted to go be an actress following William & Mary. Like what were you thinking about post graduation? What were your plans?
Ann: Funny enough I always thought of acting.
Ann: And as I say, I grew up acting to myself. But I didn’t do much at Mary Washington. So coming here and getting into “The Common Glory” was so fun, and lots going on, and a lot of interesting people, older, too. But, I mean, who had done things. And then after, it was just…I had lovely people here. They were always nice, fun to me. And that might have been out of pity, but I don’t know.
Carmen: They might have just been nice, too.
Ann: I couldn’t say that, but… But everything was fun. It was all working. And I was not much of a sorority person, although I was there. And I remember having to sing one time, and it must have been awful. And sometimes they’d ask me don’t sing. Then I’d get into some crazy thing and go, you know. But I had a lot of fun. It was a lot of crazy.
Carmen: So I wonder if you could tell me—and we started out this interview with you giving me your career trajectory, which is so amazing—so I’m wondering if you could tell me how you saw your William & Mary experience play out after you graduated? Like how did attending William & Mary prepare you for or play out in your life?
Ann: Well, it was at William & Mary that I went to audition in Richmond for Barter, so my junior and senior year were with Barter Theatre, and even though I wasn’t Equity at the time, but most everybody was, so I was playing in a professional theatre. And I loved it. And we had to play a week—the first time I was there we played a play a week. And I thought… No wonder I couldn’t remember anything. So I’d just make it up.
And one time I remember I was doing a show and it was very long. What was the name of it? “Born Yesterday?” I can’t remember. And I would like be ready to go, and I didn’t know any lines, and the director said you’re going out there whether you say the…whether you say the phone book, you’re going. And I was like oh, god. And I probably did say the phone book, because you had a lot of lines, and—
Carmen: I can’t imagine.
Ann: —it can develop bad habits.
Carmen: Well, it seems to have still worked out for you pretty well, though.
Ann: It did, but I’d make up stuff. And I continued to do so. But it was a lot more fun to be at William & Mary. And it was a lot going on. No particular love affairs because most of them were in the theatre and they weren’t really into it. But I’d go to fraternity every now and then.
Carmen: So you ended up moving back to Williamsburg, which was very different after your time in New York and your time traveling around for seven years and all of that. So can you tell me what changes you’ve seen in Williamsburg or at William & Mary over time?
Carmen: Well, the change was starting when I was still here. I am very much for the division with men and women. I think we’ve got so much on our minds, to be free to do anything you want to do would have…[I’d have been] out the wall, you know. And I remember that you…we just, we didn’t…I don’t remember playing around much. Now I know it was going on. But I was with people who weren’t terribly interested in it, I guess. And I stopped sort of being interested in going to Virginia.
01:16:07 But there was one thing I was going to say. It’ll come back. This one is gone.
Carmen: I don’t believe it for a second. Well, so you’ve noticed changes then definitely in social rules, being able to have coed dorms and all that. That’s occurred, that’s different.
Ann: I think that’s crazy. I mean, I’m completely against it. Simply because it’s too easy. It’s too easy to take… You’re doing things that a lot of the time it’s not right anyway. By not right I mean… I remember when I first came back I spoke at a few places, theatre places, and I thought—oh, sorry.
Carmen: You’re fine.
Ann: The thing about being able to do anything you wanted, so many things that you want don’t get done. And I lose my mind all the time, my train of thinking. Having the regulations, I think, were of real value because the stuff that I wanted to do would not have helped me to be the person I wanted to be, because I like playing. And playing the four standards and guidance really brought, was the first time I ever looked at that, as I say, was the quiet time after I went to Moral Re-Armament.
01:18:00 And I remembered that I had really hated my father. And the last thing I said to him when I went away to school was I hate you. And I had no compunction. And that went all the way through ten years. And when I stopped to think, to listen, and I wasn’t listening about anything in particular, that thought came to me. And that was a very deep relationship in my life. And I was able to see that and put it right. And it was very painful. But it was probably the most real experience. So with the four standards you come into the real thing. Does that answer you?
Carmen: Well, it kind of went in two directions. One was definitely talking about the changes you’ve seen at William & Mary and another was talking about how that when you went to the…you were on the island and you went for those five days and you started reflecting on this that you recognized some injury there with your—
Ann: My father.
Carmen: —relationship with your father. Was there a moment—
Ann: I hated him.
Carmen: Was there a moment of reconciliation for the two of you?
Ann: Yes, after that, on my part. I don’t know how much he was able to accept what his part was. He accepted me, as far as I know. But the thing of…the changes were vital for me. And when I kept applying I saw many, many places where I used somebody, I told a lie, I went in the wrong direction. Just any time I went off those standards I got into trouble.
Carmen: And then at the end of your career, really, when you were working in the jail you were able to see those play out in your writing courses you were teaching.
Ann: Absolutely. Because actually those four standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love became 12 steps of Moral—
Carmen: For AA.
Ann: Of AA. And they will transform in many ways your life. And applying that in school, even, it sort of began. But it… I’m losing it. I’m losing it! Help!
Carmen: It’s okay.
Ann: It’s lost. I think anything that makes you look deeper—well, when I was studying Stanislavsky, for instance, then my work became more of that depth, a [vocation]. And these four standards brought it even more into truth. For instance, the fourth step is you measure your life and you look at the whole life and see what you would want to do differently. Well, that just really opened your mind. You think of what you did, for what reason, where it comes out, and then you get on down to living your life to help other people find it. And that’s the 12th step. So I applied that.
Ann: In acting. And particularly with Miss Hunt here I hadn’t gotten into it that deep, but that’s what Stanislavsky’s doing. And even, and in one place he finally—I found the place where he came and he said the spiritual thing is what does it. Now before it was be sure that you apply all of being real, being…all…whatever, I can’t think of anything. But the main thing is looking at the truth, it gives you a whole ‘nother perspective. Even in college.
01:22:56 So that if you’re living like the 12 steps and you have an audition, these things are applicable.
Ann: And they took me further. And then that continued on into legitimate theatre. But then when I was in the first class with Sandy Meisner, who is the best, and I still think the best, and I got into that through the agent who had my resume and knew what I’d been doing, put me in that, and Grace Kelly was in that—am I repeating myself?
Carmen: Some of it, but I think if I could, if I might, what I’m hearing is—so I asked a couple questions ago how you’ve seen your William & Mary experience play out—so what I’m hearing is William & Mary kind of, with, you know, the connections you made with Althea Hunt and otherwise, gave you your start into your professional acting trajectory.
01:24:06 In that professional acting trajectory there was a moment where you ended up taking these five days and that propelled you into this four step thing which then played out in every level of your career. Even when you returned to Williamsburg and started working in different fields—
Carmen: —that played out throughout the rest of your—
Carmen: So it really was different connecting points all the way around that brought you full circle right back here to Williamsburg.
Ann: It’s true. You’re brilliant.
Carmen: No, I’m just repeating what you’ve told me.
Ann: It is exactly because once you know that basis, it’s with you, and you can use it or not use it, because I went way off for quite a while—morally, spiritually, whatever. But yes, learning this with Miss Hunt was applicable in every way.
01:25:00 And so going back to an interview or whatever, going up for a show, I have all those things to fall back on and getting mainly to what’s real. And only when I got off of that is when I started getting in trouble. And it happened with the man I met on the television show I think I mentioned. It was…it’s gone out of my head now. It’s in a routine. He was a dancer and a star, and fun, and I had flowers every night, which I’d give—and Ernie Kovacs was right practically next to me.
01:26:04 And different people I’d just give them to. One was…his name I’ve forgotten. He was also at Barter. It’ll come back to me. But all the way through this relationship with him, even though I was in the show the whole year, I was dancing, I knew everybody, met all kinds of people. He had been a star, was at Sardi’s all the time and all these… And that really sort of took me over. So my great determination to act, to be real at it, was where I was with Sandy Meisner. But then it got so I deviated, and mostly it was this personal relationship and different standards.
01:27:05 So I decided I would leave there and then I started taking dance, music, singing, everything. And I did do musicals, but they were not anything of the depth that I really enjoyed. And I’m only many years later coming to that. I could have gotten into “Pajama Game” to do the tour around the country first off. I said I don’t want to travel. But I just…I took less. I mean, I did musicals. And probably one of the most difficult was in “Mr. Wonderful,” which was black and white.
01:28:00 And I played the lead right when…after I had understudied. But it was never fulfilling. So going into the real thing came back out at the jail.
Carmen: Yeah. That’s great. That’s wonderful, Ann. So I have a couple more questions for you if you don’t mind.
Carmen: So are you still involved with William & Mary in any way? And if you are, why?
Ann: Well, I’m not really. And I have to think why. I know that probably Howard Scammon had a part in that because I wasn’t going his way. I don’t know for sure, but I think so.
Ann: And so that when I went to New York I went for the kind of things I wanted for a while. Now wait a minute, I’m off your subject. Tell me again.
Carmen: It’s fine. I was just asking if you were still involved with William & Mary. You said you weren’t really.
Ann: I’m not anymore. One of the reasons being some of the things that were going on that I didn’t really go with. And that had a lot to do with being excluded from the theatre part. My standards were different. I had one professor ask me to speak at the acting classes and I did somewhat.
01:30:04 But I was mainly saying, there too, that don’t boggle up your mind. Drinking is not going to add to it. And the thinking is not going to add to it until you’re thinking into the right things. And so I would go through the four standards, in a way. I’d say can you really be honest. And if you can’t be honest, you can’t really work, you don’t act, quote. Are you honest? Well, if you’re not honest, you can’t make it work.
01:30:55 You can do it in musicals, but not… Unselfishness. Well, no, that doesn’t work either unless you’re working it. And I can think of all the times I wish I had worked it, particularly thought of other people. Sorry. Did I mess it up?
Carmen: No, you’re fine. Nope, it’s good.
Ann: And then it’s like loving. Well, you can have a lot of reasons to hate when you get into business. If you aren’t clear about yourself—and I grew up without this, and maybe not using it, but my attitude was bad because it was not honest. Well, I say that. But it’s true in everything. So what was the question? [Laughs.]
Carmen: Just talking about the ways you have remained or have not remained involved with William & Mary. You mentioned you went back to speak to the classes.
Ann: Oh, okay. I did go back and help some at Pi Phi, but not much. But my situation there was with Howard Scammon. And like one time they came to interview me, or they wanted me to do something, but it was innocuous. It was stupid. And I said no. And then another thing they came to ask me to do something. I can’t remember what it was now. But I said no, I don’t want to do that. So someone came to interview me, and I said the truth. I mean, I said what I was thinking. It never was printed.
Ann: And I found out later that it had been stopped.
Carmen: They had killed the piece. Wow.
Ann: So I ran into that after this, after this situation where I didn’t… But I went to do readings with Howard at Charlottesville in the garden of a house that…I can’t remember now. And I had a lot of long dresses which I had just had, and so I would use them. And I think he—I probably shouldn’t say this—but I think [he] was jealous with my clothes or something, I don’t know. So anyway, we did these readings, and I don’t think he was very pleased.
Ann: And perhaps he had a reason. But I didn’t think so. I mean, I might lose my lines, but when I’m reading them I can’t lose it. Anyway, it just sort of went that way.
Carmen: Okay. Well, how did you come to the decision then to put some of your papers in Swem Library’s archives?
Ann: Well, the way I did that was…God, what’s his name?
Carmen: Jay Gaidmore?
Carmen: Jay? Jay Gaidmore, the director?
Ann: No. Oh no, I put them on way before that.
Ann: I met Jay later. It was…my gosh, my mind is off. He was a student here and he came back, and he was always into acting. Ben Bray. Crazy. And do you know him? Did you know him?
Carmen: I did not.
Ann: And so I went over to put my things in because I went to help with things that he had had, because we went to school together. He was—no, I didn’t, he was ahead of me, but he was in “The Common Glory” for years—years and years. And his twin brother. And his twin brother’s wife. So they were, you know. And funny. They really had a funny sense of humor. We all laughed the whole summer long.
So when I came back I was sort of involved with…I mean, I knew him. So when we were putting his things in that he wanted to go to the college, I helped him, and the person who was head of it, I can’t remember her name, but she was really terrific. And she said to me something about what about you? And I said, well, yeah, I can think of things.
01:36:00 So she said, well, think about it and get me some things, get what you want to go in. Excuse me.
Carmen: You’re fine.
Ann: So I pulled together all the stuff that I had from the time at college, all the pictures and that kind of thing, and I gave them to the college. So what was the question.
Carmen: Well, no, you answered it. That’s how that came about. I wondered how you made the determination to put your stuff in the archives.
Ann: Oh. Well, that was really why.
Ann: And it was later that I did even put more in. And then I met Jay. And he saw some of the stuff around. I think he was interested in the blacks. And I’m thinking having done “Mr. Wonderful,” which was all black and white, as I already told you this.
01:37:00 But it was a challenge because at the same time “My Fair Lady” opened. But Sammy Davis was quite amazing, and very real, and understanding in ways that not everybody did. And I remember coming into the theatre one night late—not late—but they were all standing around, most of his crowd, and Sammy, and I came walking in going across and he said, hey, rebel. And I didn’t associate it with what he was talking about and I was kind of annoyed. I got annoyed easily. And I turned around and I said—I won’t even say what I said.
01:37:59 What do you want, boy, or whatever. And it was dead silence, because I had offended blacks. So I went on to my dressing room and in a very short time there was a knock on the door. Sammy came in and pulled a chair out backwards and sat by me and apologized to me. And I said oh, no. And he said he had appreciated the fact that I was doing the show, which was crazy. I mean, it wasn’t crazy because there were whites in it, too. So my apology was not very deep, and I just said gee, I’m sorry, you know.
01:38:56 I just didn’t realize. And of course when I went into Moral Re-Armament suddenly the real things came out and I said something of it to him. But he was so open. And I was later able to say my apologies because being black and being white, I mean, we were…it was the first show in New York, practically, that had that big a cast with both colors. And I went through…well, I don’t know what now. I don’t know what I’m talking about. But that was kind of a big moment when he came in there—
Carmen: Yeah, it sounds like it.
Ann: —and apologized to me. Which, I later apologized and just said it was my lack, my understanding, you know.
01:40:01 And I’ve always loved—and when you say I love black—well, that sounds phony. But it’s true. I mean, we… There’s a lot of realness with colors and white, black and white. And I think it’s when… One of the reasons, when I went to Mackinac and met with Muriel, who was black, and her friend from Atlanta who was black, and I had more compassion, and I’m more understanding and real. So I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
Carmen: Well, I’ve enjoyed going on the journey of your stories with you regardless. Well, I really just have one more question before I open it up to you, and that question—
Ann: It’s been open.
Carmen: Well, that question is we are in the midst of celebrating the 100th anniversary of coeducation. That’s part of the reason we’re doing this oral history project. So can you tell me what you believe to be the value and contribution of women?
Ann: Of women to what? To the world or to the school or what?
Carmen: You can say to the school or the world at large, either way, whichever way you’d like to go with it.
Ann: Tell me the question again.
Carmen: What you believe to be the value and contribution of women.
Ann: Well, I believe women have tremendous gain, tremendous ways to help the world. And I remember—I can’t think of her name right now—who wrote “Harvey.” Mary Chase.
01:41:58 Was saying how fighting blacks and whites were so minimal, so unavoidably bad. I don’t even know where I’m going with this, but I do know that the reason why I think it’s important for women… It’s actually through finding moral standards that I became the woman, more the woman I wanted to be. It’s hard to go in the world and succeed, if you can call it that, with those principles, in a way. Now if I had stayed with…I can’t think of his name.
01:43:05 I could have…I would have been able to be more open about everything. I think I’m getting off the [beam] here because one of the things I feel mostly is the phoniness between black and white, women particularly. I mean, I feel like we can’t…we almost…it’s…and part of the world is almost to be ashamed of being a woman. And being a woman who cares, who loves people, who wants to do the best for someone, who wants to stand for the best is pushed aside, pooh-poohed. No, in my mind I became a person when I began to apply moral standards to everything.
01:44:03 And believe me, I didn’t live them all that well. And it was only when I began to work that I could see the difference. And also I made probably two bad marriages. In my place was I was not enough who I really was. And I think that’s what does interfere, when you’re against anything like black and white. I think it’s the things I learned through the blacks that prepared me for reality. And that’s from way back, childhood on up. And when I forget that, like when I was—where was I going for some show, and I thought, you know, I want to play it with honor for both and myself.
01:45:09 It was not always done. I mean, God, to say a little. Excuse me. Whatever makes you real. I mean… And the battle with men and women is absolutely absurd—absurd, absurd. And I got into that for a while, into women’s lib. And realized, a little late, that the same thing applies to both men and women. And when you’re trying to beat out somebody else with some phoniness in yourself… For instance, after playing in “Mr. Wonderful,” before that it was all, everything was…to do it was good to be white.
01:46:03 But that was a thing where I think wait a minute, you have to live with the truth. And that brought me more into reality of having black and white in the plot as well as in the characters. I remember one time early on this black girl came up to me and she said I have something against you. And I said that’s funny, I don’t feel a thing, and walked off. It was only later I thought wait a minute, what did she have, what did she feel? I didn’t give it a chance. So separating men and women. We are different. It’s silly for women to have to play the men’s role and the men have to play the women’s.
01:46:56 That is…men can’t play who they really are. Half the time they’re not who they really are. Because I remember going to an AA meeting in New York once, and this was just coming about where women and men were beginning to say the truth. And a man started to hold her hand or something, and she said don’t hold my hand, you know. And he said I was shattered. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
And I started looking at him and thought that’s what’s happened. We have these things built up against us in our own minds against each other that have nothing to do with who we are, who we believe, what we think, how we work. And it’s just… After doing the play in Atlanta that had men and women, Moral Re-Armament, you start learning what did this do that caused this.
01:48:01 And how many times do you think you just have to break your own [way to] and honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, and you have to start looking at it in yourself and realize wait a minute. And I remember when—I told you that, though. Mainly coming to grips with the truth and reality you meet and know so much more. And so women—is that what your question was, about women? I think the struggle to try to be top dog, if you want to call it that, there’s no top dog. You’re two people under God with the same kind of standards, but with different meanings, different applications.
01:49:09 And it’s too bad that it’s become so separated. It’s men against women. And that’s one thing that Mary Chase was saying, who wrote “Harvey.” I was talking about her earlier. This playing against each other forces you to be unreal. And it’s hurtful.
Ann: But, you know, you can do that to yourself even without…with bad principles even about yourself. You can be ugly to yourself as well as to anybody else.
Ann: And believe me, I stand here as a [thing] of that. So…
Carmen: I can definitely tell, absolutely, that these four steps have played out so much in every aspect of your life, for sure.
Ann: It did without my knowing early on. But I went to Sunday School, and the thing I remember as very small, although it wasn’t in my family, there wasn’t a lot of kindness, wasn’t a lot of openness, but there was a teacher who sang over and over “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible”—that one. We sang it and sang it. And I think it would deepen me so that I was more open and understanding different kinds of people. It was just if anybody got in my way that they had to suffer. I was so selfish. So coming out of that was…that was a complete waste of time. And in acting, and in good drama, like with Sandy Meisner, it’s just real.
Carmen: There was more depth, as you said.
Ann: There’s more of the real thing in you, the more… You don’t have to lie and cheat and pretend.
Carmen: Great. So Ann, I wanted to open it up to you now that I’ve finished my list of questions. Is there anything else that you want to share on the record? Is there any other memory we didn’t have a chance to cover? Is there anything you thought I’d ask that we didn’t cover?
Ann: Good Lord, I don’t think there is. [Laughs.]
Carmen: We have been talking a while. We covered a lot.
Ann: We did.
Carmen: Well, if there is nothing else, I just want to thank you so much for participating. It’s been a joy to sit down and talk with you, and this will be a great addition to our archives.
Ann: I want to thank you. And I thank the school because it was there that Althea Hunt—is that right, Althea Hunt?
Ann: She had such principles and such honesty, and so even though we were all white, we were growing more in truth, which is then what happened with Sandy Meisner. It was really truth. And that’s what I’ve most gotten out of going to school here, I think.
Carmen: That’s great.
Ann: Is that what I was talking about?
Carmen: Yeah. You did. You were just giving some final thoughts.
Ann: You didn’t ask me how old I am.
Carmen: Do you want to talk about how old you are?
Ann: I’m 90.
Carmen: That’s wild.
Ann: I mean, even the fact that I remembered my name is kind of a good—it’s a biggie.
Carmen: Well, you remembered a lot, almost two hours’ worth of material.
Ann: I have?
Ann: Oh, my gosh.
Carmen: But anyway, thank you so much, Ann. It’s been great.
Ann: It’s been great meeting you.
Carmen: Thank you.
Ann: From the South.
Carmen: That’s right.
Carmen: Close by each other. We grew up in close proximity, sort of.
Ann: And coming out of that there is a certain thing you have to hold to and give to.
Carmen: That’s right. Well, thank you again.
Ann: Thank you.
01:53:12 [End of recording.]
©William & Mary Libraries. Acknowledgement of William & Mary Libraries, Special Collections Research Center as a source is required.
Non-Commercial Use/Fair Use
Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries welcomes non-commercial use and access that qualifies as fair use to all unrestricted interview materials in the collection. For more information about fair use, see William & Mary Libraries guidelines here.
The researcher must cite and give proper credit to Special Collections Research Center. The preferred citation is as follows:
[Interviewee name], interview with [Interviewer name]. [Interview date], [Name of Collection], Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
Example: Powell, Michael K., interview by Carmen Bolt. June 12, 2017, 50th Anniversary of African Americans in Residence Oral History Project, Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
For commercial use of any sort, including reproduction, distribution, derivative works, public performance, and public display that goes beyond fair use, the researcher must obtain written permission from SCRC by contacting SCRC by email here. Permission will comply with any agreements made with the interviewee, interviewer, or donor of materials. This permission is valid only insofar as Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, as owner or custodian of the material, has any rights in the matter. This permission does not remove the responsibility of the author, editor, publisher, or broadcaster to guard against infringement of any rights, including copyright that may be held by others. The researcher must cite and give proper credit to SCRC. SCRC reserves the right to refuse the right for commercial use.
For most unrestricted interviews, copyright has been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries. When the copyright has not been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, copyright is retained by the interviewers/interviewees, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
SCRC works to uphold the obligations and legal commitments made to interviewees, interviewers, and donors of material. Some interviews have restrictions imposed by the interviewee, interviewer, or donor; restricted interviews are clearly marked. In such cases, it is the researcher’s responsibility to uphold the restriction appropriately and completely. Researchers may, for example, be required to obtain written permission from the interviewee or interviewer to quote from the interview. Contact SCRC with any questions about restrictions by email here.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries and William & Mary assume no responsibility.
If an interview has been transcribed, researchers should quote from the transcript. If no transcript is available, reference to material in the interview should be taken from the audio recording.
For preservation purposes, use of audiotapes or videotapes will require production of listening or viewing copies. If a researcher requires the creation of a listening or viewing copy, the researcher will be responsible for the cost. For more details about audio/visual reproduction policies at the SCRC at William & Mary Libraries, contact the SCRC by email here.
If you are in need of any accessibility accommodations that require the creation of a listening or viewing copy of material, please let us know prior to your visit. You can also find information on the library’s accessibility services here.