Annie Russell Theatre, Orlando, Florida


The Annie Russell Theatre was built in 1931 with funding from Mrs. Mary Curtis Bok Zimbalist and Annie Russell, herself. Ms. Russell was known through the late 1800’ and early 1900’s as the most talented stage actress of her time.

Annie Russell performed in such a way to allow the audience to become part of her show, not actually just viewing it. Her talent and charm were equaled by no other and she is known even today as a pioneer of the theatrical arts.

She performed in over 900 different stage performances of the production Esmeralda before finally giving way to exhaustion. After performing Esmeralda for almost 10 years, she had dwindled in her health and spirit to almost nothing. A performer that loses the will to perform is not quite a performer at all. Shortly later she returned to the stage again completely revived and ready to begin a new era in her acting career.

annie russell theatre, orlando

Over the next 10 years, she starred in some of New York’s legendary stage plays before returning to London in 1905. For the next 15 years, Annie Russell continued to play different roles on stage performing in a way that was all her own. Nobody in that time could compare to the artistic abilities of her amazing stage presence. Annie Russell retired to the Winter Park area at the end of her career looking for some well deserved relaxation. This time was short lived due to the urging of her best friend, Mary Curtis Bok Zimbalist, to become an active part of the Rollins College theatrical program. With much reluctance, Ms. Russell agreed to share her talents and experience with the students attending the college. This proved to be the turning point of the college’s theatrical department and the basis for which the Annie Russell Theatre was built. After all of these years, the Annie Russell Theatre still stands proudly on the college grounds. It has even become a historical landmark over the past years due to the quality of the architecture, but most importantly because of the contributions made by Annie Russell.

Ms. Russell left behind not only a magnificent piece of architecture, but also a legacy for all present and past students of the university. The students of Rollins College have the privilege of performing on the same stage of a dramatic, as well as comedic, theatrical icon of the 18th century. The school dedicates its theatre department to the vision of Ms. Russell and her dear friend.