- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

NEW HAVEN, Conn. —People who do not know Margaret Holloway often divert their eyes as the homeless woman shouts and gestures on the streets around Yale University.
But it is hard to ignore her voice, booming with the precise diction of a trained stage actress. Her expressive face, with high cheekbones, bright eyes and lovely teeth, is equally engaging.
Her performances can be masterful. Miss Holloway is known to recite a Shakespeare soliloquy, or the Greek alphabet, or the prologue to "The Canterbury Tales" in Middle English.
She is a Yale-educated dramatist whose bright career was cut down by schizophrenia nearly 20 years ago. She says she has lived on the streets ever since, performing scenes from classic drama on the sidewalks for loose change.
Now she has gotten a movie role: playing herself.
Richard Dailey, who knew Miss Holloway in the 1970s and now is an artist in Paris, was visiting New Haven in 1999 when he ran into her. His 15-minute film about her life premiered at a charity benefit for her Dec. 9.
"I think it's neat to acknowledge not only her humanity, but also her great artistic talent," says Steve Ecker, a friend who helped organize the benefit.
Miss Holloway, 50, used some of the money raised to buy warm clothes and a safe place to sleep. She also bought a small indulgence: a tube of burnt-orange-colored lipstick.
Mr. Dailey wanted to put Miss Holloway's name in the film's title. But she refused. Her title idea? "God Didn't Give Me a Week's Notice."
"I could not have thought of anything that good in a million years," Mr. Dailey says.
Miss Holloway says she suffers from a "very bad mental health condition" and suffered a brain injury in a beating during a gang rape. Her father died several years ago, and friends say she is estranged from the rest of her family. She has no children, and apparently never married.
Miss Holloway likens her illness to being tormented by "tactile demons."
"I'm being raped 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she says in the film.
The daughter of a minister in rural Georgia, Miss Holloway attracted the attention of A Better Chance, a nonprofit group that provides education to promising young black students, Mr. Dailey says.
She was educated at a private school for girls in the Northeast, then at Bennington College in Vermont, where she was well-known on campus for her talent, intellect and looks.
She went on to Yale, earning a master's degree in directing from the drama school in 1980. Three years later, schizophrenia invaded her brain. After a few months, her landlord evicted her.
She spent time in institutions, but she ended up back on the streets of New Haven. She panhandles around the city, often in front of a coffee shop that serves as her impromptu stage.
When she scrapes together $20, she sleeps in what she calls a "crawl space" above a bar; other times, she sleeps on the streets or with friends.
Her street performances enthrall and sometimes frighten people, especially her portrayal of Medea, waving invisible bloodstained daggers.
A nurse from a state-run social service agency visits her daily to administer medication. A lawyer keeps the money raised by the film and writes checks to Miss Holloway as she needs them.
Her friends hope the film will raise awareness about the plight of the homeless and the mentally ill.
"I went to Yale myself," Mr. Ecker says. "Not everyone ends up living in Greenwich. That should be recognized, too."

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