A brief history by Martin Landau and Mark Rydell
In 1967 it became clear to some members on the West Coast that many East Coast residents were moving to the Los Angeles area to work in Hollywood. Several of the members arranged a meeting to discuss a West Coast branch of the Studio. It was decided to run the idea of creating a West Coast branch past Lee Strasberg. At first he was not enthusiastic about the idea, wondering whether Hollywood would support a serious acting workshop. Despite his concerns they persevered by renting an upstairs loft on El Centro in the heart of Hollywood. Thirty or so West Coast members attended the first session, which grew rapidly every month and the West Coast branch of the Actors Studio was established. After a year the William S. Hart house in West Hollywood became available and has remained the home of Actors Studio West ever since.
Lee Strasberg would spend six months moderating sessions in West Hollywood and six months in New York. Since his passing a number of people have taken over the artistic reigns of the Studio including Jack Garfein, Lonny Chapman, Lou Antonio, Clyde Ventura, Mark Rydell, Martin Landau and others. We are proud and happy that 2007 marks the 40th Anniversary of Actors Studio West.
Actors Studio West has served the community in many ways by offering free theatre productions of work developed by Studio members along with appearances at schools and senior citizen facilities. The membership on the West Coast has grown continually and has welcomed many members from New York that have either come to live on the West Coast or visit it regularly for work, thus, making it possible to continue to actively participate in Studio work.
Under the current joint leadership of Mr. Rydell and Mr. Landau, Studio West has flourished. The session work along with additional classes for members to participate in are all vital and the Playwrights/Directors Unit has gained great momentum over the past decade under the leadership of Lyle Kessler and Mark Rydell. The P/D Unit has developed many plays ranging from obscure works by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams to new plays by playwrights like Deborah Pearl, Kieran Angelini, Betty Beaird, and Dave Field. Mark Kemble’s “Bad Hurt on Cedar Street” is another stand-out which subsequently went on to a successful production at the Greenway Court Theatre.
From 2005 through 2007 Studio West managed and produced plays free to the public at the Tiffany Theatre. Nine staged readings of proven works, seven original plays and August Wilson’s “Fences” were offered to the West Hollywood community.