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Mary Antoinette Perry|
June 27, 1888
June 28, 1946 (aged 58)|
New York, New York
|Occupation||Actress, stage director and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing|
|Spouse(s)||Frank W. Frueauff (1909–1922)|
Born in Denver, Colorado, she spent her childhood aspiring to replicate the thespian artistry of her aunt and uncle, both of whom were well-respected touring actors. She appeared opposite David Warfield in Music Master in 1906 when she was only 18. Her career was on the rise, yet she left the stage a star in 1909, to marry Denver businessman Frank W. Frueauff and start a family. Years later, her daughters would follow in her footsteps, likewise pursuing careers in the theatre, Elaine as a producer and Margaret as a stage manager.
Following Frank Frueauff's death in 1922, Perry returned to the stage, appearing notably in George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Minick. She took up directing in 1928. In partnership with Brock Pemberton she produced several successful plays, including: Divorce Me Dear, Ceiling Zero, Red Harvest, Strictly Dishonorable, Personal Appearance (Lawrence Riley's breakthrough hit), and Kiss the Boys Goodbye. Their most famous production was probably the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mary Chase classic Harvey, which Perry directed and which enjoyed enormous success on Broadway and as a film starring James Stewart.
Perry helped found, and was chairwoman of the board and secretary of, the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteens during World War II, providing entertainment to servicemen in several American cities. After her death, her friends and colleagues took action to memorialize her contribution to the high standards of American theatre. Brock Pemberton suggested that the American Theatre Wing create a series of awards to be given in her honor. Since 1947, the Antoinette Perry Awards have been given annually for distinguished achievement in theatre, and are one of the theatre world's most coveted honors. They are universally known by their nickname, the Tony Awards.
In 2011 Perry was featured as an historical figure when The Neo-Futurists devised a show about the longest-running failure in Broadway history, J. Frank Davis' The Ladder. The Neo-Futurist show was called Chalk & Saltwater: The Ladder Project. Chalk and Saltwater explored the individuals involved in the failed show (this included Edgar B. Davis, the play's backer and "angel", Brock and Murdock Pemberton, and J. Frank Davis) and their lives before and after The Ladder's 789-performance run. Perry was a member of the original cast of The Ladder, but left the production prior to its close.