Volume 75, Number 36 | January 25 - 31, 200


Eloise Ann Iliff, 79, stage actress and school teacher

Eloise Ann Iliff, a stage actress and public school teacher, died on Sept. 16 at St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village. She had suffered a stroke and complications. She was 79.

She was born in the small town of Hoopeston, Ill., about 100 miles south of Chicago. As a stage-struck young girl, she often traveled by train to the city to see a play, returning home before dawn.

Iliff was a speech and theater major at the University of Wisconsin. Before graduating, she took a summer sublet at 72 Barrow St. in the Village and was cast in the role of Emily in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which was being produced at the Maverick Theater in Woodstock, NY.

After college she moved to New York, worked at Macy’s selling hats and at the Art Movie Theater on Eighth St. as an usher.

She married and lived at 132 Thompson St. and later at 5-7 Minetta St. and then on Commerce St. for 51 years. She wedded twice, first to Kenneth Paine, the second time to John Schram.

Iliff performed under the name Ann Paine, at the Originals Only Playhouse on Seventh Ave. S., now the Actors’ Playhouse, playing Stella in the first off-Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She received a good review from Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times.

She studied acting with Herbert Berghof, Tony Marino, Robert Elston and William Hickey. She became the registrar at Greenwich House Music School in the 1960s and a few years later became a licensed school teacher, going on to teach first grade for 20 years, mostly at P.S.188 on Houston St. and Avenue D.

Iliff greatly enjoyed working with first-grade students, bringing her talents as an artist, poet, actress and musician to teaching them. She felt that elementary school-age children, despite moving from school to school or within a school, could bond together through a shared repertoire of favorite songs. She designed and edited a songbook, asking teachers in her school what their students’ most-loved songs were. “Early Childhood Songbook - Songs and Illustrations Compiled by Eloise Iliff at P.S. 188” was distributed to all the kindergarten and first- and second-grade classes in the 14 elementary schools in Commun-ity School District 1 at that time.

She studied the work of Sylvia Ashton Warner, who had developed the concept of key words, words that students choose as their own because they have a special personal connection to them. Her students enthusiastically took to using each others’ key words and relished shouting them out when they came across each other.

While teaching during the day, Iliff continued to act at night. She performed at the T. Schreiber Theater in the role of Grace in “Joe Egg” and in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “All the Way Home.” At The WPA (Workshop of the Players Art) she performed in “The White Devil,” and at the Hudson Guild Theater she performed in “Relief” in the part of Miz Green and as Mother Superior in “House of Blue Leaves.” She performed in “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln” at the Dorset Theater Festival. She also performed the roles of Queen Elizabetta in “Queen and the Rebels” and Linda Loman in “Death of a Salesman” among many other parts.

In the 1970s she was a member of Calliope, a poetry group founded by Ree Dragonnette that held poetry readings and workshops in Westbeth.

In 1988 she got her master’s of arts degree from Bank Street College in conjunction with Pratt Institute and further developed her work as a painter. She was a member of Craig Killey’s 14th Street Painters where painters share work space in a loft and enjoy a community of fellow artists. Later she rented her own painting studio in the Flatiron District.

After retiring from teaching she was a member of Book-Pals, an organization within the Screen Actors Guild through which actors read to school children across the city.

Iliff made a film about recycling — not yet finished — called “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do” and was also committed to animal welfare. Concerned about overdevelopment, she was often among the crowds of Villagers protesting the demolition of historic buildings, such as the Edgar Allan Poe House on W. Third St., and joined the recent successful protests against the high-rise luxury buildings along the Hudson River waterfront.

She is survived by her first husband, her two daughters, Emily Paine of Greenwich Village and Rachel Paine of London, England, and three grandchildren, Sebastian, Lydia and Joshua Wilson, all living in England.

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