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Lee Strasberg: The acting legacy lives on

November 21, 2009 |  8:00 am

Estelle parsons This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, the school founded in 1969 by the legendary acting guru, who died in 1982, and his wife, Anna Strasberg, who is still carrying the torch of Method training with her son David Lee Strasberg, the institute's chief executive and creative director.

For some, the Method is a relic, a throwback to a mid-20th century form of neurotic realism. Yet no one can deny the effect that Method actors have had on American theater, film and television. I can't say I became a theater critic because of such Strasberg-trained talents as Geraldine Page, Kim Stanley, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Burstyn, and Robert De Niro, but the startling psychological reality they brought to their roles confirmed me in my admittedly odd choice of professions. Estelle Parsons, currently on tour in Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," gives a pretty good indication of the way Strasberg encouraged his students not simply to express the feelings of their characters but to live through them, no matter how ferocious or painful.

For a feature in this Sunday's Arts & Books, I sat down with David Lee Strasberg to see whether the Method has evolved under this new generation of Strasberg leadership. I was particularly interested to hear how the Institute has addressed criticism of his father's pedagogy. And I was just as eager to find out how notable acting instructors from outside the institute assess the current place of the Method in 21st century acting training.

When it comes to the Method, everybody has a strong opinion, though respect clearly outweighed derision. Most experts are more familiar with Strasberg's long tenure as artistic director of the Actors Studio than they are with his still-flourishing school. Yet Los Angeles-based private instructor Sharon Chatten, who has taught at the institute and now operates out of the Sharon Chatten Studio, assures that the institute's faculty “know what they’re doing. It’s not just a name. They know the work.” 

-- Charles McNulty

Photo: Estelle Parsons. Credit: Joan Marcus / Center Theatre Group


 
Comments () | Archives (3)

Lee Strasberg théâtre and film institute destroyed me and my life in consequence.They succeeded in making me stayed there for almost 4 years studying with mainly 2 obnoxious-deficient “ teachers” who are Michael Margotta and George Loros.
I enrolled there when I was a young adult of 20 and their vanity destroyed me in all kind of ways.
Michael Margotta supported his ways and abusive personality in telling us he had been working all the time and by coming to his acting classes with many different wigs and styles of wardrobe.The movie he always bring out that he had the main role in was “ Drive he said” that came out in 1971 never to this day came out even in VHS or DVD .The director of the film probably thought the result was not good.
George Loros ‘s ways was to make us afraid. Like literally yelling insults to us ; like > throwing chairs in the air.And he used several other ways.His vanity was throwing actors out of his class on a whim…He also used to undermine us….
What is to be know is that a big part of the resume they post on their site is made-up! I challenge anyone to find Margotta in “9 weeks and a half”,Robert Castle(another teacher there) in “Copland”.George Loros kept saying he was in front of the camera next to Robert De Niro ,it is not true;One only has to check the credits of the films if not the films.The “part” he kept saying he had next to pacino in”Serpico” released 37 years ago only last few seconds…
All that comes also from the owners of the place who are Anna Mizrahi Strasberg and David Lee Strasberg and that was transmitted to them by Lee Strasberg .

About Strasberg Elia Kazan the known genius film director and co-founder of the Actors Studio wrote I read in his autobiography that Lee Strasberg theatre and film institute was built to pump money out of artists and that it was a fooling place for actresses.who dreamed to be Marilyn Monroe.

Al Pacino said on T.V in an interview I have seen recently on the web: that the main thing Lee Strasberg taught him was to learn his lines .He says also in an another interview that Lee Strasberg refused him several times at the Actors Studio before he let him in(suddenly Strasberg believed Pacino had talent) and built a friendly relationship with him out of the blue! Strasberg then,did denied Pacino’s talent ( at some point)

Brando says in his autobiography that Strasberg was for him a phony opportunist with no real or deep concerns for the arts.

James Dean it is known was kicked out by Strasberg of the Actors Studio;Strasberg did denied James Dean’s talent.

It is interesting also to watch what Robert De Niro says in the T.V guest show ‘Inside the Actors Studio” about Strasberg.

Dustin Hoffman Says in an interview collected in the book:"The films of Dustin Hoffman" by Douglas Brode that he always had fights with Strasberg studying with him and never got alonf with him.

I really wish the Lee Strasberg theatre and film institute close down,for all the harm they did to so many actors.

Martin Cucciolla

Lee Strasberg theater and film institute was for me too among the many "acting places" where i have been too,the one with the worst atmosphere.Listen to the song of Pink Floyd "Another brick in the wall";>
... It really feels like it was sent to them for me.
Also to get a picture of how it is over there one can watch the film released in 2007 called "Erik Nietzshe-The early years" !

Christian Page

Lee Strasberg theater and film institute was for me too among the many "acting places" where i have been too,the one with the worst atmosphere.Listen to the song of Pink Floyd "Another brick in the wall";>
... It really feels like it was sent to them for me.
Also to get a picture of how it is over there one can watch the film released in 2007 called "Erik Nietzshe-The early years" !

Christian Page


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