COMPANION

Viola Tree

Viola Tree (1884–1938), English actress, singer, playwright, and pupil of F. M. Alexander.

Life

Tree was born in London, the eldest of three daughters of Herbert Beerbohm Tree and his wife, the actress Helen Maud Tree. Her aunt was author Constance Beerbohm and an uncle was Max Beerbohm.

Tree made a successful London debut in March 1904 as Viola in Twelfth Night. For the next four years she appeared in her father’s productions at His Majesty's Theatre. In 1919, Tree took over the management of the Aldwych Theatre. Her last Shakespeare role was Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1923. In 1930–31 she was in the US, appearing on Broadway and on tour. Through the 1930s, Tree continually played in light comedies in the West End. She also featured in four films.[1]

She was an early and strong supporter of the foundation of a National Theatre.

Connection with Alexander

In an advertisement flyer F. M. Alexander quotes a letter received from Viola Tree:[2]

His Majesty’s Theatre, 23 January 1907

Dear Mr Alexander,

I hope to begin my lessons again soon, so as to prepare my voice and get in good condition for ‘Joan of Arc’. I think your method the true one, because it entails no effort and is entirely natural. I think it specially useful for singing, because the breath can be taken imperceptibly, and this is so necessary in music – in long phrases. It would be an enormous boon to all singers to study your system of breathing quite independently to their other work. I am sure it builds up and strengthens our general health, and is great help in resisting colds in the head and throat. Now that so much is said on the subject of breathing exercises and their great importance, I hope your method will be put into general use – in the theatrical world and in all worlds.

(Signed) Viola Tree

In an advertisement flyer F. M. Alexander also quotes a letter received from Viola Tree’s father, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, on the effect of Alexander’s methods on Viola:[3]

His Majesty’s Theatre, 23 January 1907

Dear Mr Alexander,

I have great pleasure in saying that I have received assurances from several members of the profession to the effect that they have benefited most surprisingly by your treatment.

Among others, my daughter Viola has greatly strengthened her voice by your method. (Signed) Herbert Beerbohm Tree

A signed picture dedicated to F. M. Alexander is now in private possession. (Reproduced by permission.)

Writings

A short biography of Viola Tree was published in The Alexander Album by Francesca Greenoak.[4]

Viola Tree *17 July 1884 – †15 November 1938.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_Tree. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
[2] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), back of jacket.
[3] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), back of jacket.
[4] The Alexander Album by Francesca Greenoak (STATBooks, 2014), p. 53.