Florence of America
University of Regina Press / 8 October 2019

Florence of America: A Feminist in the Age of McCarthyismby Florence Bean James, with Jean FreemanPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$24.95 ISBN 9780889776470 Florence of America: A Feminist in the Age of McCarthyism is the autobiography of Florence Bean James and her passionate struggle against oppression to establish quality theatre in North America. Part of The Regina Collection published by the University of Regina Press, Florence of America is a slightly condensed reprint of her earlier memoir, Fists Upon A Star. The new version has a more compact format – easy to carry in one’s pocket and handy to pull out while sitting in waiting rooms. In her memoir, Florence recalls her exciting life. Starting out at the end of the First World War was difficult for her and her husband, Burton. The bedroom of their New York apartment was so small that once they moved the bed in, they couldn’t close the door. Their rent was three dollars a week, plus quarters for the gas meter, and included cockroaches, which stayed rent-free. Working temporarily as a switchboard operator, Florence hid twelve dollars, her weekly salary, under some shelf paper in the kitchen cupboard. Next week, in…

Fists Upon a Star, Softcover

Fists Upon a Star: A Memoir of Love, Theatre, and Escape from McCarthyism by Florence Bean James with Jean Freeman Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $27.95 9780889774070 Fists Upon a Star is the memoir of a determined theatre director, Florence Bean James. It also chronicles the history of her theatre, the Seattle Repertory Playhouse. The book begins with the opening of the Playhouse, establishing a frank and journalistic voice. James establishes a sense of foreboding through the use of elegant foreshadowing right from the beginning. The reader already knows from the cover of the book that the Great Depression and McCarthyism would enter into the narrative at some point. She increases the suspense by backtracking to her upbringing and education. James decides to follow her teacher’s footsteps and pursue a post secondary education in Boston–quite a thing for a woman born in 1892 in Pocatello, Idaho. It was at Emerson College where she met her husband Burton James. Since they became such a dynamic duo, always working together, it is also difficult to separate her husband from her memoir, for the most part it is a memoir of them and their work. Surprisingly, the James’…

Fists Upon A Star

Fists Upon A Star: A Memoir of Love, Theatre, and Escape from McCarthyism by Florence Bean James, with Jean Freeman Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-260-1 “Speak up!” This was Florence James’s admonition to aspiring actors. It was something she often did herself, speaking up on behalf of the deprived and downtrodden. Fists Upon A Star is Florence’s autobiography, assisted by her former student and co-worker, Jean Freeman. The title comes from a poem by Stephen Vincent Benét. The book includes an index and 28 black and white photos of productions that Florence directed. Florence details the excitement and perils of live theatre. Once, dressed in a new gown – she always bought a new gown for opening night – she was waiting in the wings for the curtain to rise when the theatre caught fire. At its core, this is a story of love between Florence and her husband Burton, and especially the love they shared with live theatre. They were a dynamic duo acting in tandem, perfectly complementing each other. Together, they formed their own company, the Seattle Repertory Playhouse. They also made innovations that were ahead of their time, including…