Written by Martin Landau and Mark Rydell. (adapted 2017)
In 1966 it became clear to some members on the West Coast (Jack Garfein, Paul Newman, Lee Grant, Mark Rydell, Lou Antonio, Dennis Weaver and Bruce Dern, among others) 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 the 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 2016 marked the 50th Anniversary of Actors Studio West.
Actors Studio West has served the community in many ways by offering free theatre projects 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.
The session work along with additional classes for members to participate in are all vital and the Playwright/Directors Unit has gained great momentum over the past decade under the leadership of Mark Rydell and Bruce Goldsmith. The PDU has developed many plays ranging from obscure works by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams to new plays by playwrights such as Deborah Pearl, Kieran Angelini, Betty Beaird, and Dave Field. Mark Kemble’s BAD HURT ON CEDAR STREET is another standout that subsequently went on to a successful production at the Greenway Court Theatre and as a film at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
From 2004 through 2006 Studio West managed and produced projects 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.