June 1, 1944
Actor and director Margaret Webster, whose Othello, starring Paul Robeson in the title role (1943), broke all Broadway records for a Shakespearean production, gave the fifth Helen Kenyon lecture, "Shakespeare and the Modern Theatre." The daughter of actors Ben Webster and Dame May Whitty, Webster directed the English actor Maurice Evans in several Broadway plays by Shakespeare and in 1946 co-founded, with Eva LeGallienne, the American Repertory Theatre.
"My own aim as a director of Shakespeare," she told her Vassar audience, "is to make the characters living human beings, to show for instance in Hamlet that Shakespeare was concerned with the kitchen as well as the battlements of Elsinore." A director, she said, "becomes a diplomatist, a financier, a pedagoge, a top sergeant, a wet nurrse, and a martyr, the kind of martyr who used to be torn into pieces by wild horses galloping in all directions at once."
Webster and The Margaret Webster Shakespeare Company, which she founded in 1948, were frequent visitors to Vassar, and her lecture was published by the college.