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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Barbara Oliver


Barbara Oliver (1927-2013) has long been a bright star in the galaxy of Bay Area theater. Her commitment to the theater started at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University), where she majored in theater and was particularly drawn to the works of George Bernard Shaw.

Barbara made a bold move in her career in 1991: perceiving a dearth of appropriate theatrical roles for older women, she began developing a one-person play drawn on the literary correspondence between writers Gustave Flaubert and George Sand. For her new work she collaborated with writer Dorothy Bryant and together they created Dear Master.

After a series of public readings, Dear Master was produced at the Berkeley City Club and eventually toured to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. Positive audience response to this work indicated that Barbara had tapped into a need for the performance of a language-based play that showed the strength of the actors. Barbara built off the success of Dear Master, and incorporated the Aurora Theatre in 1992. At the Aurora Theatre, Barbara became a well-respected director, responsive to the actors’ perspective.

Audio Clip and Transcript

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