Minnie Maddern Fiske



  • (Marie Augusta Davey; 1865 - 1932) US actress, who championedHenrik Ibsen's plays in New York. At a time when Ibsen wasshocking America, Mrs Fiske called him "the genius of the age".

    Born in New Orleans, she began acting at the age of threeunder her mother's name of Maddern. By the age of five she had madeher New York debut; at 13 she began to play adult parts. She retiredin 1890 on her marriage to her second husband, Harrison Grey Fiske(1861 - 1942), the wealthy owner of the New York Dramatic Mirror.However, she soon reappeared in a charity production of Ibsen's ADoll's House (1893), returning to the professional stage the followingyear in her husband's play Hester Crewe. She again played inA Doll's House in 1894 and took the title role in HeddaGabler the following year. Her reputation was firmly establishedby her performance in Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles in 1897.In 1899 she played the title role in Becky Sharp, a dramatizationof Thackeray's Vanity Fair, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. Becauseshe fought with the all-powerful Theatrical Syndicate, whocontrolled the theater, they evicted her in the middle of the successfulrun. In 1901 her husband bought the Manhattan Theatre, where Minnieplayed in Hedda Gabler (1903) and in Ibsen's Rosmersholm(1904). They left the Manhattan three years later.

    In 1915 Harrison Fiske became bankrupt and she was forcedto tour. His subsequent infidelity effectively ended the marriageand she devoted the rest of her life to the theater and animal rights'campaigning.

    Although Mrs Fiske was greatly admired for the intensity shebrought to her roles, her delivery was sometimes criticized, as notedby Franklin Pierce Adams:

    Somewords she runstogether
    Some others are distinctly stated,
    Somecometoofast and s o m e t o o s l o w
    And some are syncopated,
    And yet no voice - I am sincere -
    Exists that I prefer to hear.