The Theater: The Trouper

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When she was a little girl in Philadelphia, Shirley Booth invented a game called "Talking Balkan" that she played on streetcars. Shirley would jump on ahead of her mother and race to the front of the car. When her mother took a seat, Shirley would come dashing back, babbling ecstatically in a homemade, foreign-sounding tongue. The game had everything a fledgling actress could want. There was a captive audience of nice, admiring old ladies ("What an enchanting child!"). There was a touch of mystery ("What language is she speaking?"), a touch of...

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