He "was making an artistic revolution and knew it," Elia Kazan said of him. Ellen Burstyn spoke of her (and others') "great good fortune to be fertilized and quickened by his genius," and Harold Clurman called him "one of the few artists among American theatre directors." The man upon whom such fervent praise has been lavished? Lights up on Lee Strasberg, co-founder of the renowned Group Theatre, famed director of the acclaimed Actors Studio, and father of what is possibly the most household of names pertaining to theatrical practice: the Method.
Theatre aficionados are likely to have experienced echoes of Strasberg's approach through performances on many a stage in Austin (or anywhere else, for that matter), for so far-reaching is the actor/director/theorist's Method that most every trained actor has encountered its tenets at one time or other. Many engage in more in-depth, full-fledged study. But regardless of a performer's prior exposure to Strasberg, a unique opportunity to become more Methodical is making its way to Austin this week: the arrival of the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, helmed by Strasberg's son, David, and presented at Zach Theatre.
Yes, actors among us: a three-day taste of what was once the purview of a select few on Manhattan's West 44th Street is making its way to Central Texas.
So, how does it feel to be in the thick of it all? "We're delighted to host the legendary Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute on their first foray into Austin," says Zach Artistic Director Dave Steakley, "as they have provided important training for some of America's most notable actors. Austin actors are interested in all kinds of training, and it's great for our local artists to engage in some refresher training in the Method, or to have a first opportunity to study with these master teachers."
But what makes Zach the prime candidate for hosting the Institute's seminar? Steakley provides one answer: "The expansion of Zach's facilities is permitting us to attract opportunities that have bypassed Austin before ... [and] to host classes and workshops open to the community." But perhaps one can also look further, to the theme behind Zach's inaugural season in the Topfer Theatre. It's one of dreams, and Steakley and company ushered in its new era "on the wheels of a dream" with Ragtime earlier this year. Perhaps it's no coincidence that an inscription on the bench at Lee Strasberg's grave celebrates, "We came to the theatre on the wings of a dream." Whether on wheels or wings, lots of dreams are coming true for the folks at South Lamar and Riverside this year. And the Strasberg Institute is among them.
The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute: Actors' Workshop will be held Friday-Sunday, Jan. 25-27, at Zach Theatre, 1510 Toomey. For more information, visit strasbergaustinseminar.brownpapertickets.com.
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