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Monday, December 31, 2012

Focus: Jerzy Grotowski

I was fortunate to have Jerzy Grotowski's amazing actor Anthony Abeson  arrive at the High School of Performing Arts in 1980 to teach us the work he had done with Jerzy Grotowski and had taught for Grotowski.  Jerzy Grotowski gave the address at our High School graduation. His work is detailed in the words and videos below.

 Ryszard Cieslak: A Look at Movement-plastiques/corporelles

Statement of Principles - Jerzy Grotowski
The rhythm of life in modern civilization is characterized by pace, tension, a feeling of doom, the wish to hide our personal motives and the assumption of a variety of roles and masks in life (different ones with our family, at work, amongst friends or in community life, etc.-). We like to be "scientific", by which we mean discursive and cerebral, since this attitude is dictated by the course of civilization. But we also want to pay tribute to our biological selves, to what we might call physiological pleasures. We do not want to be restricted in this sphere. Therefore we play a double game of intellect and instinct, thought and emotion; we try to divide ourselves artificially into body and soul. When we try to liberate ourselves from it all we start to shout and stamp, we convulse to the rhythm of music. In our search for liberation we reach biological chaos. We suffer most from a lack of totality, throwing ourselves away, squandering ourselves.
Theatre - through the actor's technique, his art in which the living organism strives for higher motives - provides an opportunity for what could be called integration, the discarding of masks, the revealing of the real substance: a totality of physical and mental reactions. This opportunity must be treated in a disciplined manner, with a full awareness of the responsibilities it involves. Here we can see the theatre's therapeutic function for people in our present day civilization. It is true that the actor accomplishes this act, but he can only do so through an encounter with the spectator - intimately, visibly, not hiding behind a cameraman, wardrobe mistress, stage designer or make-up girl - in direct confrontation with him, and somehow " instead of" him. The actor's act - discarding half measures, revealing, opening up, emerging from himself as opposed to closing up - is an invitation to the spectator. This act could be compared to an act of the most deeply rooted, genuine love between two human beings - this is just a comparison since we can only refer to this "emergence from oneself" through analogy. This act, paradoxical and borderline, we call a total act. In our opinion it epitomizes the actor's deepest calling.
Why do we sacrifice so much energy to our art? Not in order to teach others but to learn with them what our existence, our organism, our personal and unrepeatable experience have to give us; to learn to break down the barriers which surround us and to free ourselves from the breaks which hold us back, from the lies about ourselves which we manufacture daily for ourselves and for others; to destroy the limitations caused by our ignorance and lack of courage; in short, to fill the emptiness in us: to fulfill ourselves. Art is neither a state of the soul (in the sense of some extraordinary, unpredictable moment of inspiration) nor a state of man (in the sense of a profession or social function). Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.
We fight then to discover, to experience the truth about ourselves; to tear away the masks behind which we hide daily. We see theatre - especially in its palpable, carnal aspect - as a place of provocation, a challenge the actor sets himself and also, indirectly, other people. Theatre only has a meaning if it allows us to transcend our stereotyped vision, our conventional feelings and customs, our standards of judgment - not just for the sake of doing so, but so that we may experience what is real and, having already given up all daily escapes and pretenses, in a state of complete defenselessness unveil, give, discover ourselves. In this way - through shock, through the shudder which causes us to drop our dally masks and mannerisms - we are able, without hiding anything, to entrust ourselves to something we cannot name but in which live Eros and Charitas.
Art cannot be bound by the laws of common morality or any catechism. The actor, at least in part, is creator, model and creation rolled into one- He must not be shameless as that leads to exhibitionism. He must have courage, but not merely the courage to exhibit himself - a passive courage, we might say: the courage of the defenseless, the courage to reveal himself. Neither that which touches the interior sphere, nor the profound stripping bare of the self should be regarded as evil so long as in the process of preparation or in the completed work they produce an act of creation. If they do not come easily and if they are not signs of outburst but of mastership, then they are creative: they reveal and purify us while we transcend ourselves. Indeed, they improve us then.
For these reasons every aspect of an actor's work dealing with intimate matters should be protected from incidental remarks, indiscretions, nonchalance, idle comments and jokes. The personal realm - both spiritual and physical - must not be "swamped" by triviality, the sordidness of life and lack of tact towards oneself and others; at least not in the place of work or anywhere connected with it. This postulate sounds like an abstract moral order. It is not. It involves the very essence of the actor's calling. This calling is realized through carnality. The actor must not Illustrate but accomplish an "act of the soul" by means of his own organism. Thus he is faced with two extreme alternatives: he can either sell, dishonour, his real "incarnate" self, making himself an object of artistic prostitution; or he can give himself, sanctify his real "incarnate" self.
An actor can only be guided and inspired by someone who is whole-hearted in his creative activity. The producer, while guiding and inspiring the actor, must at the same time allow himself to be guided and inspired by him- it is a question of freedom, partnership, and this does not imply a lack of discipline but a respect for the autonomy of others. Respect for the actor's autonomy does not mean lawlessness, lack of demands, never ending discussions and the replacement of action by continuous streams of words. On the contrary, respect for autonomy means enormous demands, the expectation of a maximum creative effort and the most personal revelation. Understood thus, solicitude for the actor's freedom can only be born from the plenitude of the guide and not from his lack of plenitude. Such a lack implies imposition, dictatorship, superficial dressage.
An act of creation has nothing to do with either external comfort or conventional human civility; that is to say working conditions in which everybody is happy. It demands a maximum of silence and a minimum of words. In this kind of creativity we discuss through proposals, actions and living organisms, not through explanations. When we finally find ourselves on the track of something difficult and often almost intangible, we have no right to lose it through frivolity and carelessness. Therefore, even during breaks after which we will be continuing with the creative process, we are obliged to observe certain natural reticences in our behaviour and even in our private affairs. This applies just as much to our own work as to the work of our partners. We must not interrupt and disorganize the work because we are hurrying to our own affairs; we must not peep, comment or make jokes about it privately. In any case, private Ideas of fun have no place in the actors calling. In our approach to creative tasks, even if the theme is a game, we must be in a state of readiness - one might even say " solemnity". Our working terminology which serves as a stimulus must not be dissociated from the work and used in a private context. Work terminology should be associated only with that which it serves.
A creative act of this quality is performed in a group, and therefore within certain limits we should restrain our creative egoism. An actor has no right to mold his partner so as to provide greater possibilities for his own performance. Nor has he the right to correct his partner unless authorized by the work leader. Intimate or drastic elements in the work of others are untouchable and should not be commented upon even in their absence. Private conflicts, quarrels, sentiments, animosities are unavoidable in any human group. It is our duty towards creation to keep them in check in so far as they might deform and wreck the work process. We are obliged to open ourselves up even towards an enemy.
It has been mentioned several times already but we can never stress and explain too often the fact that we must never exploit privately anything connected with the creative act: i. e. location, costume, props, an element from the acting score a melodic theme or lines from the text. This rule applies to the smallest detail and there can be no exceptions. We did not make this rule simply to pay tribute to a special artistic devotion. We are not interested in grandeur and noble words, but our awareness and experience tell us that lack of strict adherence to such rules causes the actors score to become deprived of its psychic motives and "radiance."
Order and harmony in the work of each actor are essential conditions without which a creative act cannot take place. Here we demand consistency. We demand it from the actors who come to the theatre consciously to try themselves out in something extreme, a sort of challenge seeking a total response from every one of us. They come to test themselves in something very definite that reaches beyond the meaning of "theatre" and is more like an act of living and way of existence. This outline probably sounds rather vague. If we try to explain it theoretically, we might say that the theatre and acting are for us a kind of vehicle allowing us to emerge from ourselves, to fulfill ourselves. We could go into this at great length. However, anyone who stays here longer than just the trial period is perfectly aware that what we are talking about can be grasped less through grandiose words than through details, demands and the rigours of work in all its elements. The individual who disturbs the basic elements, who does not for example respect his own and the others acting score, destroying its structure by shamming or automatic reproduction, is the very one who shakes this undeniable higher motive of our common activity. Seemingly small details form the background against which fundamental questions are decided, as for example the duty to note down elements discovered in the course of the work. We must not rely on our memory unless we feel the spontaneity of our work is being threatened, and even then we must keep a partial record. This is just as basic a rule as is strict punctuality, the thorough memorizing of the text, etc. Any form of shamming in one's work is completely inadmissible. However it does sometimes happen that an actor has to go through a scene, just outline it, in order to check its organization and the elements of his partners' actions. But even then he must follow the actions carefully, measuring himself against them, in order to comprehend their motives. This is the difference between outlining and shamming.
An actor must always be ready to join the creative act at the exact moment determined by the group. In this respect his health, physical condition and all his private affairs cease to be just his own concern. A creative act of such quality flourishes only if nourished by the living organism. Therefore we are obliged to take daily care of our bodies so we are always ready for our tasks. We must not go short of sleep for the sake of private enjoyment and then come to work tired or with a hangover. We must not come unable to concentrate. The rule here is not just one's compulsory presence in the place of work, but physical readiness to create.
Creativity, especially where acting is concerned, is boundless sincerity, yet disciplined: i.e. articulated through signs. The creator should not therefore find his material a barrier in this respect. And as the actor's material is his own body, it should be trained to obey, to be pliable, to respond passively to psychic impulses as if it did not exist during the moment of creation - by which we mean it does not offer any resistance. Spontaneity and discipline are the basic aspects of an actor's work and they require a methodical key.
Before a man decides to do something he must first work out a point of orientation and then act accordingly and in a coherent manner. This point of orientation should be quite evident to him, the result of natural convictions, prior observations and experiences in life. The basic foundations of this method constitute for our troupe this point of orientation. Our institute is geared to examining the consequences of this point of orientation. Therefore nobody who comes and stays here can claim a lack of knowledge of the troupe's methodical program. Anyone who comes and works here and then wants to keep his distance (as regards creative consciousness) shows the wrong kind of care for his own individuality. The etymological meaning of " individuality" is " indivisibility" which means complete existence in something: individuality is the very opposite of half-heartedness. We maintain, therefore, that those who come and stay here discover in our method something deeply related to them, prepared by their lives and experiences. Since they accept this consciously, we presume that each of the participants feels obliged to train creatively and try to form his own variation inseparable from himself, his own reorientation open to risks and search. For what we here call "the method" is the very opposite of any sort of prescription.
The main point then is that an actor should not try to acquire any kind of recipe or build up a "box of tricks." This is no place for collecting all sorts of means of expression. The force of gravity in our work pushes the actor towards an interior ripening which expresses itself through a willingness to break through barriers, to search for a "summit", for totality.
The actor's first duty is to grasp the fact that nobody here wants to give him anything; instead they plan to take a lot from him, to take away that to which he is usually very attached: his resistance, reticence, his inclination to hide behind masks, his half-heartedness, the obstacles his body places in the way of his creative act, his habits and even his usual "good manners".
Before an actor is able to achieve a total act he has to fulfill a number of requirements, some of which are so subtle, so intangible, as to be practically undefinable through words. They only become plain through practical application. It is easier, however, to define conditions under which a total act cannot be achieved and which of the actor's actions make it impossible. This act cannot exist if the actor is more concerned with charm, personal success, applause and salary than with creation as understood in its highest form. It cannot exist if the actor conditions it according to the size of his part, his place in the performance, the day or kind of audience. There can be no total act if the actor, even away from the theatre, dissipates his creative impulse and, as we said before, sullies it, blocks it, particularly through incidental engagements of a doubtful nature or by the premeditated use of the creative act as a means to further own caree

Grotowski institute

Polish cultural institute: 


High School of Performing Arts graduation with Grotowski as speaker:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Focus: Sandra Seacat: Simply Untouchable

There is no higher level acting coach out there. She involves the heart, the intelligence, and the Spirit. She has deep intuition; she is a creator and a summoner. She has great power. I worked with her from the time I was 13 to the time I was 22. Sandra Seacat presents a way to do the work in a way that doesn't harm you, but actually evolves your being.... She is a mystic with technical prowess and you feel safe with her from the start. She does not publicize, she does not reveal who she works with, you can't find her easily and she is not cheap. But if you find her and work with will come closer to your potential than you ever have in your life.

"Actors use dreams to understand their characters" NYT

Workshop with Sandra Seacat and workshop with Greta Seacat

Sandra Diane Seacat (also known as Sondra and Sandra Kaufman) (born 1936) is an American actor, director and acting coach best known for teaching method-style acting. She was the first of three daughters born to Russell Henry and Lois Marion Seacat in Greensburg, Kansas.

Seacat began acting in theater in the early 1960s and was described with a fellow actor by the The Village Voice after a summer-stock production of Leonid Andreyev play The Waltz of the Dogs as "destined to bring many future stages alive."
She moved to New York and attended the Actors Studio, where she studied method acting under the studio's director, Lee Strasberg.
In the early 1970s, she led classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, City College of New York's Leonard Davis Center for the Performing Arts, and as a member of the Actors Studio, as well as teaching privately. Steve Railsback and Mickey Rourke, who told New York Magazine that Seacat was his mentor for six years,were among her clients during that period.
Seacat eventually worked in both New York and Los Angeles,coaching actors like Jessica Lange as Lange prepared for her role in the 1982 film Frances.About the same time, according to The New York Times, Seacat helped pioneer the practice of dream work, where actors study and play characters from their dreams. She also taught the method to her daughter, Greta Seacat, who is an acting coach. Seacat clients Melanie Griffith and Gina Gershon have credited Seacat's use of the dream method with improving their craft.
Acting teacher Alex Cole Taylor in 2010 told Backstage that he learned compassion for his students from Seacat. CNN's Todd Leopold, in a story about acting coach Elizabeth Kemp, coupled Seacat with Lee Strasberg as "legendary acting coaches."
Seacat is a faculty member of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Film Forum at the University of Arkansas.
She has commented over the years about actors she has trained, including Laura Dern, who thanked Seacat when she accepted a best actress award at the Golden Globe Awards in January 2012.
Other actors who have studied under Seacat include Chris Pine,Marlo Thomas,Lance Henriksen,Harvey Keitel, Isabella Rossellini, Rachel Ward, Treat Williams,Meg Ryan,Michelle Pfeiffer,Mikhail Baryshnikov,Peter Falk, and Lynda Carter.
Seacat directed one movie, 1990's In the Spirit. In reviewing the film, which starred Marlo Thomas and Elaine May, The New York Times called it "a nervous new-age comedy more notable for good intentions than good luck." The Boston Globe described the movie as "An Endearing Mess,"The Washington Post headlined it a "Grand and Goofy Comedy," and the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Spirit Loses Its Comic Flair Halfway Through." Variety, however, described the actors in the leading roles a "memorable screen odd couple."
While In the Spirit was filming, the Los Angeles Times's Cinefile column covered Seacat's directorial debut, calling her an "acting guru," and Liz Smith wrote about the film in her gossip column.
In August 2007, Seacat, with Jamie Wollrab, directed her daughter, Greta Seacat, and others in Elizabeth Meriwether's play The Mistakes Madeline Made at Boulder, at Colorado's Dairy Center for the Arts, starring Shannon Woodward, Justin Chatwin and Johnny Lewis.
Personal life

Seacat lives in Santa Monica with her husband, actor Thurn Hoffman.

^ "1940 U.S. Census form".
^ a b "Obituary: Lois Marion Seacat". December 23, 2007.
^ Tallmer, Jerry "Theatre: 'The Waltz of the Dogs". The Village Voice. August 2, 1962.
^ a b "Jessica Lange". Vanity Fair. October 1988.
^ "Film Forum Faculty". Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. U. of Arkansas System.
^ Allen, Jennifer: "Bad Boy: Actor Mickey Rourke is a hard case with a heart". New York Magazine. November 14, 1983.
^ "The Role of Their Dreams". The New York Times. May 6, 2009.
^ "Frances Farmer – The Making of Frances," from the book Jessica Lange – A Biography (1986) by J. T. Jeffries
^ a b Associated Press: "Casting Gamble in Thorn Birds". The Nashua Telegraph. March 29, 1983.
^ Goldstein, Patrick: "Many-Sided Melanie Griffith". The Los Angeles Times. November 10, 1986.
^ "I Dream of Gina". Cigar Aficionado, September/October 1998.
^ "L.A. Readers' Choice: Classes and Coaches". Backstage. June 23, 2010.
^ "Actress' role of a lifetime: Being a mentor". CNN. February 13, 2012.
^ "Winthrop Rockefeller Institute hosting first Film Forum". KTHV. March 8, 2012.
^ "Laura Dern Wins Best Actress TV Series Comedy Or Musical". Golden Globes 2012.
^ "Laura Dern: A Hollywood Old-Timer at 37". The Baltimore Sun. August 23, 2004.
^ "The Self-Aware Artist". Backstage. June 15, 2009.
^ Thomas, Marlo (2010). "Obsession". Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny. New York: Hyperion. p. 210. ISBN 0-13-367870-9.
^ Smith, Gavin: "Don't Let That Go: That's Valuable". Film Comment. September/October 1993. Vol. 29 Issue 5, p. 53. (EBSCO Research)
^ Kolson, Ann: "Isabella Rossellini: No Comparisons". The Pittsburgh Press. December 22, 1985.
^ "Isabella Rossellini: A Rose Who Has Known Thorns". Chicago Tribune. November 28, 1985.
^ Wilkins, William: "Thorn Birds Star Enthused: Chamberlain Role Pursuit Succeeds". The Oxnard Press-Courier. March 27, 1983.
^ Preston, Marilynn: "Thorn Birds gives Ward chance to win her wings". The Chicago Tribune. March 29, 1983.
^ Robbins, Jane Marla (2002). "Relaxation". Acting Techniques for Everyday Life: Look and Feel Self-Confident in Difficult Real-Life Situations. New York: Marlowe & Company. p. 57. ISBN 1-56924-554-1.
^ "Campion, Jane: In the Cut". Australia:Urban Cinefile. November 13, 2003.
^ Lipton, James (2007). Inside Inside. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-95035-4.
^ Reuters: "Baryshnikov natural for movie". The Windsor Star. December 18, 1985.
^ Kriegsman, Alan M.: "The Screening of Baryshnikov: From the Ballet Stage to a Cinematic Star Turn". The Washington Post. December 6, 1985. (paywall).
^ Dalton, Peggy (2005). "Ch. 67. Gurumayi". Breathing Out. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 240–242. ISBN 0-312-32413-8.
^ "Carter tackles the wonders of history". USA Today. August 15, 1994.
^ "Movie review: In The Spiriti". The New York Times. April 6, 1990.
^ "In the Spirit – An Endearing Mess". The Boston Globe. June 8, 1990.
^ "Grand and Goofy Comedy". The Washington Post. May 18, 1990.
^ "Spirit Loses Its Comic Flair Halfway Through". Los Angeles Times. April 11, 1990.
^ "In the Spirit". Variety. December 31, 1989.
^ Cinefile: "Acting guru Sondra Seacat makes film directing debut with In the Spirit". Los Angeles Times. June 26, 1988.
^ "In the Spirit production notes".
^ "Churchill Book is Good Reading". The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. December 6, 1988.
^ "Hollywood Actors come to Boulder". Denver Post. July 29, 2007.
^ "Review: The Mistakes Madeline Made". The Boulder Daily Camera. August 9, 2007.

Focus: Mira Rostova, coach to Montgomery Clift

Mira Rostova (April 10, 1909 – January 28, 2009) was a Russian-born American acting teacher, best known for her own variation of method acting that she used in coaching of Montgomery Clift. Her other acting students included Armand Assante, Alec Baldwin, Peter Gallagher, Jessica Lange, Jerry Orbach and Madonna (who attended approximately half a dozen class sessions, working on scenes from Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke and Isherwood's I Am a Camera).
She was born on April 10, 1909 in Saint Petersburg, Russia as Rosovskaya. She left to Switzerland after the Russian Revolution and then Germany, where she started acting in Hamburg and in Vienna, Austria. She moved to France after the rise of the Nazi party, and made it to the United States by way of England. In the U.S., she abbreviated her surname to Rostova.[1]
Rostova had been taken in on a scholarship by Robert Lewis. She was cast as a fake witch doctor in Mexican Mural, an experimental play directed by Lewis, when she first met Clift, who also appeared in the play. Gradually, Rostova would play an increasing role in his acting career, discussing for hours the roles he should accept and the way he should act in these roles. Patricia Bosworth, Clift's biographer, described how Rostova had been hired on the payroll as Clift's coach while he was starring in films including A Place in the Sun and The Heiress. She was a fixture in his dressing room by 1945, when Clift had a lead role in You Touched Me!, a play by Tennessee Williams and Donald Windham. Frustrated living at home with his mother, Rostova moved him into her apartment, while she moved out and found another place to live.[1]
During the filming of Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, Rostova stood behind a pillar and Clift would look over for her approval. During the filming of the 1949 drama The Heiress, co-star Olivia de Havilland said that Clift would look in the opposite direction.[1]
While other notable acting teachers such as Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg would also act themselves, Rostova made few appearances of her own on stage or film, though she did perform the role of Nina in her own translation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, which she staged Off Broadway with Clift in 1954.[1] Reviewer Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times called it an "interesting performance" of "an incomparably beautiful play", saying that "Rostova as Nina is handicapped by a heavy accent. She is further handicapped by a florid style alien to the whole spirit of Chekhov", though he called Clift's performance as Constantin "beautifully expressed without any foolish pathology".[2]
Elia Kazan kicked her off the set of the 1960 film Wild River after a single day of filming.[1] In Richard Schickel's 2005 biography of Kazan, he describes how she positioned herself behind the director during filming and would nod or shake her head as Clift was acting, but Kazan was unwilling to have her as a co-director.[3]
Rostova died at age 99 on January 28, 2009 in a Manhattan nursing home. She did not have any immediate survivors.[1]


Mira Rostova, Coach to Montgomery Clift, Dies at 99
Published: February 5, 2009

Mira Rostova, a longtime New York acting teacher whose scene-by-scene, line-by-line coaching of Montgomery Clift earned his unwavering devotion — and the aggravation of not a few of Clift’s directors and co-stars — died on Jan. 28 in Manhattan. She was 99.

Her death, in a nursing home, was announced by the actress Zohra Lampert, a close friend and one of the many students Ms. Rostova taught over nearly 60 years. She left no known immediate survivors.

Others who studied under Ms. Rostova include Alec Baldwin, Jessica Lange, Jerry Orbach, Peter Gallagher and, for one session, Madonna. But her greatest influence was on Clift; the two would spend hours discussing which roles he should take and how he should perform them, according to the Clift biographer Patricia Bosworth, and Clift would put her on salary as his coach while making some of his most famous movies, including “The Heiress” and “A Place in the Sun.”

Ms. Rostova and Clift met in 1942, when they appeared together in New York in an experimental play, “Mexican Mural,” directed by Robert Lewis, a founding member of the pioneering Group Theater. Mr. Lewis had taken on Ms. Rostova, a recent Russian immigrant, as a scholarship student in his acting class, and he cast her as a fake witch doctor in the play.

By 1945, when a 24-year-old Clift took the starring role in the Tennessee Williams-Donald Windham play “You Touched Me!,” Ms. Rostova was ensconced in his dressing room. When he bristled at living at home with his mother, Ms. Rostova moved him into her apartment and found herself other lodgings.

And when Alfred Hitchcock directed him in “I Confess,” Ms. Rostova stood behind a pillar, where Clift could look to her for approval during scenes. (Not everyone was as accommodating: Elia Kazan banished Ms. Rostova from the set of “Wild River” after one day of filming, and Olivia de Havilland complained that Clift was always looking in the opposite direction while they filmed “The Heiress.”)

In 1954, when Clift, by then a movie star, returned to the New York stage, it was in an Off Broadway production of “The Seagull,” with a new translation by Ms. Rostova, who also played Nina.

Russian was the first of three languages she learned. Born Mira Rosovskaya in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 10, 1909, she left the country with her family after the 1917 revolution. After a brief time in Switzerland, she began her acting career in Vienna and Weimar-era Hamburg, Germany. With the rise of the Nazi party, she fled first to France and then to England before reaching the United States, at which point she shortened her name to Rostova.

Unlike Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof and other prominent acting teachers, Ms. Rostova made relatively few forays into acting herself. And while many have categorized her teaching as an offshoot of the Method acting technique that Konstantin Stanislavski made famous, Ms. Rostova forged a different school of instruction, Ms. Lampert said, using words like “personal, common sense and communicable” to describe it. “She was just so humane,” she added.

And “formidable,” said Kevin McCarthy, a close friend of Clift’s who also benefited from Ms. Rostova’s guidance when he filmed his Oscar-nominated role in “Death of a Salesman” (1951).

“She knew how it was supposed to be,” Mr. McCarthy said, “and her opinions were not to be argued with. Luckily, she was always right.”

Focus: Paula Strasberg, coaching Marilyn Monroe

"On the stage — I will

not be punished for it

or be whipped

or be threatened

or not be loved

or sent to hell to burn with bad people

or feeling that I am also bad

or be afraid...
or ashamed

exposed known and seen —
so what.

from Marilyn Monroe poem 1955

…for me to live decently and productively, I must work! And work means not merely performing professionally, but to study and truly devote myself. My work is the only trustworthy hope I have.
Marilyn Monroe to Lee Strasberg in a letter dated December 19, 1961

Laurence Olivier (director, producer and star of The Prince and the Showgirl):

"I was told that Lee Strasberg's wife, Paula, 'always came along with Marilyn.' This alarmed me considerably...Marilyn was not used to rehearsing and obviously had no taste for it. I contacted Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot) and Joshua Logan (Bus Stop), they said, yes it was hell, but that I would be getting a pleasant surprise when it was all over. Twenty five years later, a couple of my Hollywood friends ran this picture for me. I was as good as could be, and Marilyn! Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all. "

Some Like it Hot:

with Billy Wilder


Below: (Thanks to James Grissom for this quote.

"In the course of writing Follies of God, I interviewed a number of actors and actresses—as well as playwrights and directors—whose opinion of Lee Strasberg had violently shifted: The man they had once adored as their greatest teacher and supporter was now vilified in their statements. I never met Lee Strasberg, and I did not want the book to be an attack on the man, so I sought balancing opinions from others. One of the most forthcoming was Marlon Brando, who admitted the man’s faults, but who also trumpeted his indisputable gifts and contributions. In one of my interviews with Kim Stanley, she  was particularly hard on Strasberg, and I read her comments to Brando by telephone. This is his full response: Kim is entitled to her opinion of Lee, no matter how often it shifts. We are entitled to feel as we do and as we must, but let us remember that I honor and adore—just to name two actors—Al Pacino and Ellen Burstyn, and they both state—not to me, but publicly—that Lee Strasberg is responsible for their growth as actors. I trust and honor those two people, and I trust their word. I could name you a hundred people, easily, who feel the same way, so my feeling is that what we’ll call the Lee Strasberg Argument needs to find some balance, some contours. Lee Strasberg impressed me, but he did not shape or alter me as an actor: I have told you and I have told many that Stella [Adler] may take blame or responsibility for the good work that I may have done. Nonetheless, what Tennessee himself calls the ‘kinetic nest’ that was the Actors Studio is the result of work done by [Harold] Clurman, Bobby [Lewis], Cheryl Crawford, Gadge [Kazan], and Lee, and it was Lee who remained and kept the nest operating and humming and producing actors and writers. The nest also produced people who might not have remained in the professional theatre, but who remained fervent lovers of good acting and good theatre. We cannot dismiss that. Whatever else may be said about Lee, he allowed a great number of actors to trust themselves and to feel comfortable to grow as artists. That is a huge statement, but I find it dismissed as light praise. I found this comfort and this inspiration from Stella, and others found it with [Sanford] Meisner or Herbert [Berghof]. Another group loved Mira Rostova. Listen, a lot of people don’t get the message of Jesus, but they thrive on the words of Buddha or Confucius. That has to be honored. No one is wrong. We all thrive on that which we thrive, and Lee was a great teacher to a great number of people. That is that. His knowledge of the theatre was vast—he was a walking encyclopedia—and he traveled the world to see and to study what was done and what was good. Lee then shared this with his students, and almost anyone who asked him questions. This cannot be underestimated. Imagine yourself in, say, 1952, and you think you want to be an actor, and all you know about are the few productions you’ve done in high school or college—not to mention what you’ve seen on film—and you find yourself in the presence of this man, who can tell you what the Russians, the French, the Italians are doing; who can quote virtually any playwright or critic or philosopher. That was valuable, and it was very cheap—often free—to attend the Studio. This cannot be discarded. Kim made some mistakes and entered into a relationship with Lee that served neither of them very well. I am glad that she takes responsibility for her role in that relationship, but she still has some serious issues with Lee, and we can’t let her issues devalue the man. Lee was criticized—and correctly, I think—by his role, and that of his wife, Paula, in the grooming, I suppose we can call it, of Marilyn Monroe. I called it remedial tutoring, and any actor who requires round-the-clock ministrations in the reading of a line or a call sheet is not a serious actor. Marilyn was a lovely and sad woman, but she needed help that extended far beyond the exercises given to her by Lee and Paula. Lee and Paula wanted the reflected fame that came by being in Marilyn’s orbit. They were seduced and betrayed and battered. I know that scene. All of us might have been tempted by it; many of us would have taken the same path. It is a creamy and lovely path, and we cannot be too harsh on the man for taking it. We can be harsh on him for abandoning some of his early principles and for moving toward the acquisition of fame and money at the expense of good teaching, but I have word from many that he found that balance again, and good work again came from the studio. The man stumbled, but the man walked greatly for a long time. Focus on the long walk.

Marilyn Monroe and Paula Strasberg There is no right way or one way to become an artist. As Tennessee liked to say ‘We do what we can.’ And we do. Over and over. Time after time. There is great value in Lee Strasberg. There is great value in all the teachers: look at their students; look at the work that continues to flow from their efforts. We—and by we I mean humans—have an insatiable need to root for one sports team or one candidate or one religion or one sex or one soda or one TV network, and we feel strong if we demonize the ones that do not fit our needs or our hungers. This is corrosive and has to stop. I’m telling you as a service that it has to stop: You can’t do it. I tell it to everyone. Our time here is limited; our time as artists is limited. Everything is limited. However, teachers like Lee allowed a lot of people—and even me, by being in his orbit—to forget the limits, to forget the insane odds of working at all or working well. And that is a massive contribution. Honor the man."

                                                        At Marilyn Monroe's funeral.

audio link: Lee Strasberg reading eulogy

Marilyn Monroe blogs:


final note: Interview  with Don Murray, who played BO in the film Bus Stop:

Bus Stop had been a hit on Broadway.

After I landed the part, and we started shooting, I learned for the first time the movie was being co-produced by Marilyn Monroe and Milton Greene, a photographer who was her business partner. They had bought the rights to the play for Marilyn to return to Hollywood after studying at the Actors Studio. 
She had spent a year studying with Lee Strasberg as a special student.

Paula Strasberg was on the set as Marilyn's acting coach. Before a take, they would talk quietly off to one side, or if Marilyn seemed disturbed, Paula would take her aside and talk to her. They huddled together. You never heard what they said. Paula was polite but didn't pay attention to anyone else. She was very devoted to Marilyn. She never discussed the Actors Studio or offered any other actor advice. 
How did Josh Logan, the director, react to Paula Strasberg's presence on the set?

Paula was there every day, even on location in Phoenix and Sun Valley (Idaho). Logan worked with it very well. He let her talk to Marilyn. Then he would step in and direct. He was very patient. Very few directors would have put up with it. 
How was it working with Marilyn?

Every scene was difficult to get through. She had difficulty remembering her lines, concentrating. If she had a long paragraph, for instance, and was supposed to say, "Oh," at the end--she would come to the end and there would be no, "Oh." On some scenes there would be thirty takes. The average film scene requires about five takes. If  Marilyn was having trouble getting through a particular scene, and finally got it, they would print it. It did not matter how the other actors did. I had a feeling of relaxation doing the scenes she wasn't in. I loved the stuff with the  horses at the ranch and the rodeo sequence we shot in Phoenix. 
Did Marilyn socialize with the rest of the cast?

Marilyn didn't socialize with anyone. She was going with Arthur Miller, so anytime she was away, she was seeing him. It was clandestine. He was still married. We were shooting all day, so nobody was going out on the town. Sun Valley was very cold. When the shooting was finished, you went to your room. 
Did you get to know Marilyn? 
She was detached, into herself. On the set, she appeared frightened, worried. Just thinking about what she had to do. There was not much interchange. While they were setting up lights, she would sometimes have conversations about relationships. Marilyn didn't say so, but we knew she was talking about Arthur Miller. 
Ezra Goodman, who was covering the filming of Bus Stop, thought that Marilyn was bitten by the star bug.

At the time I was going with Hope Lange who was also in the cast. The story is true that Marilyn objected to having two blondes in the film. So they darkened Hope's hair a little. 
You have that kissing scene with Marilyn at the end of the movie.

Love scenes in movies are pretty mechanical. You have to make sure you put your head in a certain position so you don't throw a shadow. In those days, it was pretty strict. You had to keep your mouth closed or it wouldn't get past the censor. In viewing the rushes someone noticed that Marilyn had her mouth open during the love scene. They could not cut around it. So we had to redo the scene even though the filming was over. Marilyn was lighthearted. She was laughing. It was the most relaxed I'd seen her. She didn't have any lines to memorize.