A Tribute to the First Lady of Atlanta’s Theatre, Mary Nell Santacroce

Mary Nell Santacroce, was the driving force behind DramaTech, as far back as 1948.  I believe the present Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech had its roots in the work of Mary Nell Santacroce at DramaTech.

Below is an oral history by Mary Nell Santacroce for a local interviewer, for any who are interested. (I was fortunate to have seen her perform both as “Miss Daisy” in “Driving Miss Daisy” and as the Dowager Empress in the play “Anastasia” in the Theatre-On-The-Square in Marietta, Georgia in the 1990s.  I had purchased a front row, center seat in that Marietta Theatre. I remember thinking I was in the presence of a great actress. It seemed she looked straight at me at times, as she performed.)  Director John Huston had called Mary Nell Santacroce, of Atlanta and Georgia Tech, one of the 3 or 4 great actresses in the world.


Georgia Tech has had an outstanding theatre program in its past.  One of Georgia Tech’s theatre directors, for 17 years, was Atlanta actress and director Mary Nell  Santacroce, who has also been called Atlanta’s First Lady of Theatre.  Her husband, Dante Santacroce, an architect by trade, had been a Georgia Tech student and had also acted at DramaTech.  He and Mary Nell Santacroce formed The Underground Theatre, a community theatre in Atlanta. (Link:http://www.atlantaintownpaper.com/2013/10/underground-theatre-close-44th-season/)

Mary Nell Santacroce, who had played Miss Daisy in “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Alliance Theatre before she died in 1999, had also played a supporting role in Hollywood director John Huston’s, film, “Wise Blood,” from a book by Georgia’s writer, Flannery O’Conner.  Mary Nell Santacroce is the mother of the outstanding Broadway and film actress, Dana Ivey.

(Originally posted on “Get Schooled” blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on November 13, 2014 by MaryElizabethSings)
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Why Georgia Remains a Republican State, According to Mary Elizabeth

“. . . . Democrats won approximately 23 percent of the white vote on Tuesday night. Which is about what Roy Barnes did in 2010. Nunn and Carter needed 30 percent of the white vote to be viable.”
(See link here to the full Atlanta Journal-Constitution article: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2014/11/05/starved-of-white-voters-tuesday-night-was-2010-redux-for-democrats/ )

There can be no doubt that Georgia is a regressive, racist state. That was true of Georgia 50 years ago, when I left this state because I felt its moral insensitivity and depravity and I did not wish to live in that kind of environment, and it remains so today. Shameful. Not a point of which to be rejoicing.

Conservative Republicans are good winners, but they were poor losers when President Obama won the Presidency. Their obstructionist intransigence will not be forgotten.

White Democrats probably did not vote for Nikki Haley in South Carolina because of a difference in their political ideology and hers; however I look at the overall voting trend as more indicative of movement in the South politically and racially than individual races. The overall red/blue county voting in Georgia is a disappointment to me.

I would like to add that, imo, a large part of the political ideology of white Southerners toward less government, especially less federal government “intrusion,” has a long history – handed down from generation to generation – in most Southern white families against the federal government’s power, especially since the Civil War. Racism, as I see it, is interwoven into that political history in the South. Racism is still prevalent today in the South, but it is diffused from being recognized by many Southerners because of that mixture of the “less government” political ideology with racism.

We must look deeper. Just as it takes generations to build the literacy of African-Americans who were denied literacy during slavery and Jim Crow, the racism toward blacks, as shown through lynchings and murders of blacks only 50 years ago, remains embedded in the hearts and minds of most of white Americans, often a result of perceptions inherited from family members of previous generations. The cruel venom and vitriol directed toward President Obama is exceptional and is indicative of that racism. We must not deny what is.

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Thoughts from the Outstanding Actress, Gena Rowlands


Photo of Actress Gena Rowlands

I am presently vacationing on Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia. Yesterday, I attended the screening of actress Gena Rowlands’ latest film, “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” October 28, 2014, in Savannah. This is an extraordinary film, made with keen sensitivity. It centers upon the growing relationship between the character played by Ms. Rowlands, the widow of a Southern Baptist minister, and her young dance instructor, a gay man.

The film is multi-layered and incorporates many dimensions of human interaction. Several lines, or perceptions, especially stood out to me. The young dance instructor mentions that the relationships one has with one’s family members must continue to evolve even after the death of one member. He says that that must happen or the surviving member will stagnate as will their relationship’s “raison d’etre.” Their sometimes hurtful relationship must be understood with greater depth and wisdom as the survivor of the relationship ages. In other words, human beings are not only able to go backwards in our minds in our memories of our previous relationships, but we can also reach into the future with our minds trying to help the previous relationships heal and evolve, even when one member is deceased. Amazing concept. Yet true.

Another insightful line is that, perhaps, people do not actually change over time, but that they, instead, simply reveal more of who they actually are. Another penetrating line in the film, humorously delivered by Ms. Rowlands, who lies about her age as her character in the film, says, “Shhh, don’t say your real age out loud, or your face will know.”

In the dialogue with the audience after the screening Ms. Rowlands acknowledged that she is now 84 years old, and her irridescent beauty is still evident on the screen. I asked her a rather personal question. I had thought about what I would most like to learn from her if I had one question to ask. In the film, it was obvious to me that Ms. Rowlands had not had facial plastic surgery. She looked like a woman in her late 70s to mid-80s, yet still fully aware and still mobile. I wanted to know why she had not had plastic surgery, but in awkwardly asking this question, my question came out, finally, as “Do you think that aging actresses need to have plastic surgery, especially in light of your response earlier that, ‘love is everywhere, that it is all around us,’ and in light of the director stating that you had never done a dishonest thing on film?” (Before asking this very personal question of Ms. Rowlands, I did have the forethought to tell her that she had been “brilliant” in her Academy Award nominated role in the independent film, “Gloria,” which was directed by her late husband, John Cassavetes. I told her that everything she had done in that film had been “flawless.”)

The director of this film, who had praised Cassavetes as having singularly paved a way for independent films once the U. S. Supreme Court had broken up the monopolies on films that the major studios in Hollywood had established. The director said that Cassavetes was not only an outstanding director and actor, but that he was a man who had the courage, energy, and intelligence to fight the major film studios in Hollywood and win in his battle to produce successful, independent films. This current exceptional director of “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” had jokingly answered (when I asked my question of Ms. Rowlands) that it was he who was in need of plastic surgery.

To her credit as a sensitive human being, Ms. Rowlands did not ignore my question as superficial nor laugh it off with the director’s humorous remark thereafter, but, instead, she attempted to answer publicly a rather awkward question of her. She started off saying that she has been afraid of plastic surgery. She said – I believe as her voice was low at times – that no one wants to see a really unattractive person on the screen. She did say that plastic surgery has made great strides in the last few years in being able to do simple and effective procedures. She said that it is very popular in California. So, she said she had nothing against its being done, but she said, “You lose something, too, when it is done.”

Those last few words told me so much about Gena Rolands. It seemed to me that she was implying that you cannot have everything in life. You may be able to look younger by surgery, but, in the process of having plastic surgery, you are denying who you truly are – an older person who has lived many years upon the Earth. I contrasted Joan Rivers with Gena Rowlands, in my mind. Joan Rivers, a consummate comedienne, recently died at age 80, and with the help of plastic surgery, had arguably looked 20 to 25 years younger than her chronological age when she died. Ms. Rowlands, on the other hand, is presently 84 years old, looks close to that age, and is still inspiring and touching souls through the sensitivity and depth of her acting performances – without having plastic surgery.

I would love for Gena Rowlands to have elaborated upon what it is that one may lose by having had plastic surgery, as she had said, but I perceived – as she attempted to answer my question with seriousness – that she is not a woman given to the analysis of the professor, but that she is, instead, a great actress with a heartfelt and sensitive interior life who translates what she has learned in life onto the screen, or stage, through making manifest her deep interior life which shows forth not so much through words (or analysis) but through her eyes, her expressions, her movements, and the rhythms of her sensitive interactions with other characters on the screen.

BRAVA to you, Gena Rowlands, not only for an outstanding performance in “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” but for answering my seemingly superficial question with depth, grace, and care. You are truly “one in a million,” as the film declares.

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Why I Will Be Voting for Michelle Nunn for U. S. Senator from Georgia

I will be voting for Michelle Nunn for U. S. Senator from Georgia. I watched the entire Atlanta Press Club debate for U. S. Senator from Georgia on Sunday evening, October 26, 2014. It was blatantly clear to me that Michelle Nunn has intellect, ethics, and wisdom superior to that of the other two candidates. She has inherited her father’s (former U. S. Senator Sam Nunn’s) leadership ability as well as his broad and deep intelligence.

Georgians will be foolish, indeed, to elect anyone but her to serve their best interests in the U. S. Congress. What a wasted opportunity to send an outstanding human being to the U. S. Senate from Georgia, if Georgians do not recognize what command and leadership she innately has and vote her into office. Michelle Nunn will serve Georgians very well. In contrast, David Perdue, in my opinion, will serve his own interests well, using the government to do so

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Politicians Need to Stay Out of Teachers’ Retirement Funds

Here is what I just wrote on Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog, regarding how inadvisable and wrong it is for politicians to think they can dictate how to invest TRS funds in Georgia:

“Before politicians get involved in my pension funds and the pension funds of other retired teachers in Georgia, they will have a legal battle on their hands.  And, I will do everything in my power, with my words and impact, to convince others that it is time for Georgia’s teachers to lead the way in establishing real unions in Georgia not only for teachers but for all of Georgia’s citizens who have jobs in labor.
No one, except teachers themselves, has the right to be discussing and determining how teachers’ own retirement funds are invested.  Teachers’ retirement funds were contributed from their own monthly paychecks – in a significant amount monthly – over the course of their long and stable professional lives.  Those funds were pooled together with the funds of all other public school teachers in Georgia and invested for all of those teachers by the financial personnel at the Teacher Retirement System of Georgia.  Georgia has one of the best TRS systems in the nation and one that is financially very sound.  Before the Great Recession, Georgia’s retired teachers funds were 100% funded by teachers’ monies.  Since then, 85% has been funded by teachers monies, with the difference contributed by approximately 7.5% by the school district in which the teacher had worked and 7.5% by the state of Georgia.
Teachers were paid during their working years for the services that they rendered to the students in Georgia, just as mayors and governors are paid for their services rendered to the public.  Georgia’s teachers have a defined-benefit retirement plan that is legally binding. It was legally binding when they began their careers and that defined-benefit plan is still legally binding today.
I started my teaching career 45 years ago. No politician has the right to rob my retirement funds for his or her own political advantage – morally and legally.  If Georgia’s TRS were not self-supporting, as it is today, then the taxpayers of Georgia would have to pay 100% for my retirement until I die, as was established legally nearly a half century ago, when I began my teaching career.  Georgia’s citizens should be astute enough and wise enough to understand this and join the GAE, PAGE and other teachers’ groups in Georgia, as well as the public school teachers themselves, in demanding that the outstanding professional financial agents at the TRS continue to make sound financial investments for teachers, using the teachers’ own contributed retirement funds to do so.  The rest of this venture capital argument, concocted by politicians who are as flightly and vapid in their thinking as some of their constituents, is only a way to start drawing funds from the TRS and teachers in Georgia will not stand for this.  They see through it and they will fight it as high and as long as it takes to secure their financial well-being, their rights, and simply for reasons of fair play.”
Link to that AJC article can be found here: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2014/10/19/teachers-retirement-system-heads-up-hands-off-and-suspicion-all-around/
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The Reason I Will No Longer Be Posting on the Blogs at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On October 5, 2014, I posted the following words on one of the blogs of the AJC in order to announce that I will no longer be posting my thoughts on all of the blogs at the AJC.  I do not wish for people to speculate as to why I am no longer posting my thoughts there.  I decided to state the truth for myself in order to avoid speculation.  Link to the remarks below can be found here:



“I came to blogging so that I could discuss ideas, not so that I could ‘debate’ negative, toxic people such as TD and Astropig.  I feel as if I want to take a shower to get clean, once again, after having had a dialogue with people on blogs such as they are.  As much as I enjoy the discussion of creative thought and ideas, I do not enjoy dialogue with toxic people.  Blogging is just not worth it to me since I have to deal with that caliber of person on public blogs.

I do hope many will remember what I have tried to communicate on various blogs over the years, especially regarding my thoughts that the world’s people are evolving into a more democratic, just consciousness.  It will simply take more time, but we, as a world community, will get to that level of understanding, one day.

I will continue to write my evolving thoughts on my personal blog.’


“I fully understand and sympathize. If only the AJC would limit people to one comment per article. ” 


“Thank you for your words of understanding, Wandering Tao.  I appreciate your taking the time to express your thoughts to me.”


Ralph 43@MaryElizabethSings:

“Please don’t abandon ship.  It suggests the scoundrels are winning.  We need your intelligent and well constructed thoughts on the blog and they so nicely counterbalance TD1234, Astropig, EdUktr, and the other right wing trolls. Take a breather and come back tough.”

Mary Elizabeth@Ralph-43:

“Thank you for your kind remarks, Ralph, but I have no intention of returning to blogging on any AJC blog.  I have had to deal with toxic people on all of the AJC blogs, not only on this one.  It is no longer worth it to me, at age 72, to put myself through this. Some of those who have spread negatives about me (for whatever motive) have been progressives, so the venom directed toward me comes not just from rightwing types although the rightwing posters are in the majority.

I made a public announcement because I did not want others to speculate about my reasons for leaving. I have always been proactive. I do not feel that anyone is running me away.  I am simply tired of spending time in my life (which is more limited now that I am older) engaging with toxic people, who have, yet, many lessons to learn which I learned many years ago, in the course of my long life. Each person must find answers for him/herself.

Thank you for your kind words.  That is so like you, Ralph. Please carry the torch for enlightenment forward on public blogs, for me.  I do not believe that my years spent in blogging at the AJC have been in vain.”


“I too read your posts of farewell here regretfully. I’ve read your comments for several years now, here and especially on ‘Get Schooled,’ and have always admired your forthrightness and bold expression of your idealistic viewpoint. I think this is what drew many of the “toxic” comments, for many here seem to want to squash any viewpoint different from their own. Many of the negative comments directed at you have made me wince, because they haven’t fought fair but have only sought to hurt.

You have a very interesting and important viewpoint to express, as a longtime teacher as well as a native white Southern liberal who lived through the Jim Crow era. Often, you have “borne witness” on this public forum to what you have learned about cloaked Southern racism in a way that’s valuable to us all.  I regret very much that your voice has been silenced….and still hope this is not a final decision. Keep lurking.”


“Thank you for your kind and perceptive comments, Original Prof.  I will probably continue ‘lurking’ to some minimal extent at first, but as time goes on, and as my life continues to take shape in a different, more positive direction, I will ‘lurk’ less and less, I am sure.  Much of what is written by posters on the blogs of the AJC are simply repetitive thoughts, posted by the same people whose perceptions never seem to evolve. Continuing to “lurk” would be counterproductive to what I am seeking for the remainder of my life.

It has been a pleasure to interact with you on many of the AJC blogs. I have appreciated your support, and I have enjoyed reading your in-depth perceptions.”

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Why Football is Destructive to Americans

In response to the thread entitled, “Three high school football players died in the last week.  Should we reconsider football?” written by Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist, Maureen Downey, I offered the following comments.  See Ms. Downey’s excellent article at the below link:



Mary Elizabeth: “Football is not good for America.  It fosters a muscular, ‘winning is all’ sensibility – lacking of compassion and intellect.  It creates a brutal American male who has little regard for the dignity of women nor any awareness of how to relate to an adult woman, as an adult male. Football creates men who have no idea of how to create a more humane society, and world.  Football creates adolescent men, well into their sixties or seventies.  It is sad for America, this obsession with football and its ‘manly’ projection of violence.

Mary Elizabeth: “It is not just the physical damage to the body of even one player to which I object.  It is the brutalization of the sensibilities of the society-at-large to which I object, also.

I had lived in NYC during the 1960s while I was attending and working at New York University.  The anti-intellectualism in the South is sad.  Football has become a way of life here, instead of valuing deeper thought and reflection.  As we have seen with the number of major league football players who beat up their wives and partners, violence can become a way of life.  The violence inherent in football is not good for the society emotionally and intellectually, as well as for the obvious physical damage it does, even decades later, to the players and to those they may abuse.

The South needs to become more humane, imho.  It has a long history of frustrated violence interwoven into its culture.  Football is a release of that violence.  We must find more productive ways to elevate the consciousness of the South, imo.”

Other poster:

“And there is absolutely no anti-intellectualism in the North?  You obviously, once again, see the South as a stereotype, and all stereotypes are based on hate and ignorance.”

Mary Elizabeth: “Of course, some value anti-intellectualism in the North and some in the South value deeper learning.  However, having lived in both cultures, I have found that the norm in the North swings much more toward the valuing of intellectual pursuits than does the norm in the South.  And, this variance shows up in how many in the South have voted, for far too many years, against their own best interests by buying into propaganda instead of seeing through it. “

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