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Anna O Keefe



New Yorker Anna O'Keefe advanced into the front ranks of comic opera singers in the early 1890s by being a quick study and maintaining her health. She secured most of her early roles by being a stand-in when the star fell ill or fell out with management. She sought a career on the stage when her father died, leaving her mother in straightened circumstances. She approached the proprietor of the Casino Theatre, Rudolph Aronson, for a job, was initially rebuffed, but received a call back when the chorine understudy for the role of Cerise in "Ermine" fell ill in a road show. She worked diligently for four months until securing a credit in "The Brigands" at the Casino. She advanced to the lead when Lillian Russell, Fiorella, became sick and later took her vacation.

DeWolf Hopper saw O'Keefe perform and secured her services for his company in "Castles in the Air" (1892). She toured Europe with Hopper and played "The Panjandrum" to great applause in the major cities. In New York she made an impression as Irene in "The Lady or the Tiger." In the mid-1890s she joined the Whitney Opera Company and played in DeKoven's "Rob Roy."

Naturally serene and sensible, O'Keefe did not have the personality to be a prima donna, so thrived in supporting roles. After the turn of the 20th century, she left off singing and became a fixture in theatrical comedy, particularly in touring companies. David S. Shields/ALS