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Throwback Thursday: The Play was Her Thing

At left, Agnes Futterer's 1916 yearbook photo. At right, longtime professor Futterer engages Arthur Lennig BA '54, MA '56 — who himself went on to a long and distinguished career as UAlbany professor of film and well-published film historian — in a 1955 dramatic duel. Fellow acting student Donald Duclos, BA '54, MA '55, looks on. (Photos courtesy of UAlbany Archives

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 23, 2017) —There is a Futterer Lounge in the Performing Arts Center because Agnes E. Futterer ’16 is one of the major reasons UAlbany has a performing arts center.

The 41-year professor of dramatics at the then-New York State College for Teachers was described by her students as “inspired,” “inspirational” and “formidable” because, behind the graceful presence seen in the portrait that graces the lounge, was a dynamic woman who made the college only the third in nation to offer formal classes in drama.

In 1919, she established the College’s Dramatic & Art Association. It offered two plays a year by students who largely came from her Elementary and Advanced Dramatics classes. The Theatre Department grew out of these courses, plus her others in modern drama and playwriting. She also spearheaded lectures from prominent luminaries and organized spring trips to New York City theatres and museums.

Among her most famous students were film and television actor Harold Gould ’47 and the director of Broadway’s The Sound of Music, Vincent Donahue. Her own dramatic talents were notable: She gave frequent solo recitals and traveled throughout New England performing staged readings from any of 27 plays she had completely memorized.

The visionary nicknamed at various times “The Dutchess,” “The Queen” or just “Aggie” was inspired to create a theater program by a dramatics course she took in the college’s department of English in 1915. After a post-graduation year of study at Columbia University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she was ready to return to Albany college in fall 1917 and lead it to a new and dramatic path.

Her qualities were captured, at least in part, by her Pedagogue yearbook caption:

"Twenty-one years ago a sound rang out upon the quiet of Albany — a sound which is still heard — a laugh they call it. It belongs to a tall, stately, Titian blond, an actress who makes proud the footlights which shed their rays upon her peerless art."

After retiring from teaching, she took classes at her alma mater, which by then had become the University at Albany, and continued to give readings. She died in 1973 and the lounge was dedicated to her memory the following year.

 

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