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Brunoniana

From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:

Thomas Crosby

Thomas Crosby (1870-1947), professor of English and director of Sock and Buskin, was born in Newport on August 8, 1870. He became interested in the theatre at an early age, as he observed the road companies which staged plays in Newport during the summer. He graduated from Rogers High School and entered Brown in 1890. His dramatic career had a somewhat inauspicious beginning in his freshman year when he played a spear carrier in Julius Caesar, starring Edwin Booth at the Providence Opera House. Crosby’s toga became caught on Caesar’s bier, and, as he was unable to leave the stage, he shared Booth’s curtain calls. He did better as Ponce de Leon in the Hammer and Tongs production Florida Water, an operetta written by Edward W. Corliss 1895. After graduation in 1894, he stayed on as an instructor in English and earned a master’s degree in 1895. He taught at Worcester Academy and the University Grammar School before going to New York in 1898 to study at the Stanhope-Wheaton Dramatic School. He would have liked a theatrical career, but his parents were opposed to the idea, and he returned to Brown and the English Department in 1900. He advanced to assistant professor in 1901, associate professor in 1910, and professor in 1925. He helped to form Sock and Buskin, the Brown University Dramatic Society, in 1902, and the Players, an amateur group which appeared at the Talma Theatre on South Main Street, in 1909. He also acted in stock companies and summer theatre. One young actor who attracted Crosby’s attention was motion picture star Van Johnson, who as a child lived in a house in Newport owned by Crosby, and credited the professor with encouraging him to pursue a theatrical career by his appreciative attendance at Johnson’s backyard theatre. Crosby retired from teaching in 1939, but he continued to appear in plays. In a 1941 interview he estimated that he had directed more than 200 shows and acted in as many more. His last appearance on the stage in the Faunce House was as Nathan’l Berry in the alumni production of Shore Acres, which marked the fortieth anniversary of Sock and Buskin in 1941. He died on August 23, 1947 in Providence.

The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright 1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.


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