Viola Allen

Viola Emily Allen
10/27/1867 - 03/9/1948

Viola Allen was a successful American stage actress, with a career spanning forty years. Viola Emily Allen was born in Huntsville, Alabama on October 27 1867 to Sarah Jane Lyon Allen and Charles Leslie Allen, both successful actors themselves. Allen's childhood was a normal one, spent away from the stagein school in Boston, then Toronto, and finally New York. At the age of fourteen, Allen made her stage debut as the leading lady in Frances Hodgson Burnett's production of "Esmerelda"at the Madison Square Theatre in July of 1882. Allen's sudden casting as leading lady in this production despite her innexperience may have simply been the result of proximity; both of her parents were already cast members.


Thus began Allen's long acting career in New York and Boston, spent playing only leading roles. Allen even formed her own acting company with her brother Charles W. Allen as manager in 1903, in which she headlined in several Shakespeare productions, including a production of "Twelfth Night" at the Grand Opera House in Seattle in June of 1907. Allen appeared in one film, "The White Sister", shot in Chicago in 1915, though her last stage acting performance, undertaken for war relief, took place in New York in 1918. In her retirement, Allen toured Europe with her husband Peter Edward Cornell Duryea, a weathly horse-breeder from Kentucky whom she had married in August of 1905. The pair had no children and after Duryea's death in 1944, Allen remained active in the American theatre scene, donating a collection of rare books on the subject to the Museum of the City of New York in 1946. Allen passed away on May 9, 1948, and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetary in Tarrytown, NY.

Cultural Identity: 
Alternate Name: 
Notable Roles: 
Esmeralda in "Esmeralda"
Headlining in "A Blot on the 'Scutcheon"
Mrs. Errol in "Little Lord Fauntleroy"
Gertrude Ellingham in "Shenandoah"
Lydia Languish and Cicely Homespun in "The Rivals"
Lydia Languish and Cicely Homespun in "The Heir at Law"
Glory Quayle in "The Christian"
Headlining in "In the Palace of the King"
Headlining in "Twelfth Night"
Headlining in "A Winter's Tale"
Headlining in "As You Like it"
Headlining in "Cymbeline"
Headlining in "Irene Wycherly"
Lady Macbeth in "Macbeth"
Mistress Ford in "The Merry Wives of Windsor"
James, Edward T. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971. Print.