MID120-166.jpg (54186 bytes) New York Architecture Images- Midtown

Actor’s Studio




432 W44, bet. Ninth and Tenth Aves. 


c. 1850


Neoclassical (founded 1947 in a former chapel)







The Actors Studio is a membership organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights located in the Old Labor Stage at 432 West 44th Street in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. Founded in 1947 by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Robert Lewis, the Studio is known for its work refining and teaching method acting, an approach originally developed by the Group Theatre in the 1930s based on the innovations of Constantin Stanislavski.

The Studio came to worldwide recognition under the leadership of Lee Strasberg, who took over the helm in 1952.

While at the Studio, actors work together to develop their skills in an experimental environment, where they can take risks as performers without the pressure of commercial roles.

The Actors Studio Drama School
From September 1994 through May 2005, the Studio collaborated with The New School in the education of masters-level theater students at the Actors Studio Drama School (ASDS). In 2005, New School President Bob Kerrey chose not to renew a contract with the Actors Studio, ending the collaboration and causing much controversy.

Since fall 2006, the Actors Studio has offered a three-year MFA degree program through Pace University. [1]

The television program Inside the Actors Studio airs on the cable television network Bravo. It is hosted by James Lipton, Dean Emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School, and provides in-depth interviews with actors, directors, writers, and other artists, some of whom are members of the Studio. The program was taped in front of the students of ASDS, and served as a class seminar for them, until the school's dissolution. Beginning with the twelfth season, in the fall of 2005, Inside the Actors Studio is taped at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University's New York City campus.
  Actor's Studio actors

Anne Bancroft, Marlon Brando, Monty Clift, James Dean, Robert Duval, Jane Fonda, Karl Malden, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Geraldine Page, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger, Joanne Woodward, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Anthony Quinn, Willem Dafoe, Billy Crystal, Harvey Keitel, Shirley MacLaine, Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Lauren Bacall, Martin Short, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Lemmon, Gary Sinise, Kathy Bates, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, John Hurt, Laurence Fishburne, Donald Sutherland, Ron Howard, Sharon Stone, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kim Basinger, Ellen Barkin, Peter Falk, Jerry Lewis, Billy Joel, Mary Tyler Moore, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Bernadette Peters, James Woods, Andy Garcia, Sir Michael Caine, Kevin Spacey, Alan Alda, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver...



The Actors Studio was founded in October, 1947, by Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan and Robert Lewis.

Today, when one thinks of the Actors Studio, the name Lee Strasberg springs to mind simultaneously and synonymously. Although Strasberg was the most influential of teachers associated with the Actors Studio, he was not directly involved in its origin, and did not begin teaching there until 1949.

In the beginning there was Konstantin Stanislavski and the Moscow Art Theatre. (For more information about Stanislavski, refer to the books found on this page). The work of Stanislavski and his company brought new meaning to the term "life on the stage". It had been developed from years of discovery and experimentation by Stanislavski, who had dedicated himself to a lifelong search aimed at formulating an approach to realistic acting that could, in essence, deliver the mystery of "creative inspiration" to those not born with artistic genius.

Pushkin, Russia's original literary hero and the father of the native realist tradition, wrote that the goal of the artist was to supply truthful feelings under given circumstances, which Stanislavski adopted as his lifelong artistic motto.

"No one knows what will move his soul, and open the treasure house of his creative gifts," Stanislavski was to write in My Life In Art.  "The creativeness of an actor must come from within."

How to enter into and to stimulate that inner self became the theme of Stanislavski's epic quest.

How does an actor act? In simplest terms, that was the question that haunted Stanislavski. Actors before Stanislavski had of course thought about how they work but it was the rare actor, then as now, who could be articulate about it: the actor's art, after all, is in speaking other people's words.

Admiring the work of the great actors he had seen and eager to learn their secrets, the young Stanislavski discovered that for the most part the great actors carried their secrets to their graves.

"If the ability to receive the creative mood in its full measure is given to the genuis by nature," Stanislavski wondered, "then perhaps ordinary people may reach a like state after a great deal of hard work with themselves -- not in its full measure, but at least in part."

How can the actor learn to inspire himself? What can he do to impel himself toward that necessary yet maddeningly elusive creative mood? These were the simple, awesome riddles Stanislavski dedicated his life to exploring. Where and how to "seek those roads into the secret sources of inspiration must serve as the fundamental life problem of every true actor." --- A Method To Their Madness.

Stanislavski's work literally stunned the theatre world in America.

When the Moscow Art Theatre visited America, two of its company members, Maria Ouspenskaya and Richard Boleslavski (Acting: The First Six Lessons) defected, choosing to remain in America, and began teaching at the American Laboratory Theatre. It was there that a young Lee Strasberg immersed himself in Stanislavski's "System" as taught by Boleslavski.

Eventually, driven by a burning desire to weave this revolutionary approach to the actors' art intrinsically into the fabric of the American Theatre Experience, Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman (The Fervent Years) and Cheryl Crawford founded the Group Theatre (1931-1941), still considered the best of all of American theatre companies. (For an invaluable history of the Group Theatre, read Robert Lewis' book Slings And Arrows), and Clurman's book, "The Fervent Years" linked above.

The Group Theatre was the first American company fully trained to perform as an ensemble. Among members invited to join this remarkable company were Robert Lewis and Elia Kazan (joined in 1932, becoming a leading actor).

The Group Theatre finally dissolved in 1941, for reasons ranging from finances to "artistic differences". It wasn't until six years later that the original founders of the Actors Studio decided it was time to "fan the spark" before the fire died out completely.

Fifty young professional actors were invited to become members. Robert Lewis conducted meetings for the advanced members, and Elia Kazan held sessions for beginners. By the end of the first year, Lewis resigned. During 1948 and 1949 several teachers kept the classes going, among them Sanford Meisner, Daniel Mann and Elia Kazan.

It is not surprising, then, that the longstanding association between Strasberg, Crawford, Kazan and Lewis, would lead to Strasberg's invitation to join at the Actors Studio in 1949. Before long, he became the sole teacher of actors there.

By 1951 Strasberg was appointed Artistic Director of the Actors Studio, a position he retained until his death in 1982.

Strasberg Policies Sessions

Special thanks to Foster Hirsch for permission to quote here from his extraordinary book A Method To Their Madness: The History Of The Actors Studio. Salted with rich detail, peppered with intuitive insight and sweetened with crystal clarity, this book is highly recommended reading.

Some of the information on this page has been condensed from the book Strasberg At The Actors Studio: Tape Recorded Sessions Edited By Robert H. Hethmon. This book is highly recommended for a detailed understanding of how Strasberg conducted his sessions. The editorial comments by Mr. Hethmon are most insightful.
  Lee Strasberg
- a portrait on the 100th anniversary of his birthday

By Karen Kondazian

Los Angeles - November 17, 2001 - LEE STRASBERG....That name, for those fortunate enough to have studied and to have perhaps 'known' the man, represents the ultimate teacher, 'father' and judge. His influence 20 years after his passing, is recognized throughout the world as having produced three generations of actors, directors and playwrights. He taught us all to do "the Work" as bravely, personally and creatively as was humanly possible. (And sometimes that was not enough.)

His name has also become synonymous to those who never worked with him but only heard the 'Stories,' of a man who could make grown men weep, who wielded the power to say 'who had it and who didn't,' a giant who could grant the sought after privilege of becoming a member of that exclusive 'club' called the Actors Studio.

AT 14 YEARS OLD I decided to become a member of the Actors Studio. After all, my favorite actors, Marlon Brando and James Dean were members, so why not? It seemed perfectly easy.... Go to the Actors Studio and ask Mr. Strasberg-- ("Lee", my monthly issue of Theater Arts Magazine said he was called by the people who knew him)-- and tell him to let me in. So I carefully memorized the address 432 West 44th Street and prepared myself to meet the great man, arriving at the Studio with my supportive mother in tow. A very tall man leaned down and smiled at my request-- Mr. Strasberg was not available and anyway I was too young to audition. (My first professional rejection!) But, he continued saying, that if I finished school and still loved theater and acting passionately, I could come back. And perhaps..... It became 1974 faster than I thought possible. There I was, back at the Studio. I had actually passed my 'Preliminary' audition. I had been studying with Lee in his Master Class, paying for it by teaching voice and speech for the Institute. "You have played too many Queens, darling," he said to me one day.(I had just arrived from studying in London at LAMDA.) "You must unbutton this high neck white dress you wear as an actress and learn to roll around in the mud." So roll, in his classes, I did. For my 'Final' for the Studio, I prepared for weeks in an emotional haze. I knew by now that many auditioned for Lee but few were called. On the day, I walked onto the Studio stage and glared into the darkness. Somehow, the theater angels lifted me into that place that all actors pray for--I heard a woman's voice say "Thank you," and it was done. One week later a letter arrived with the Studio logo..."Congratulations, you are a member of the Actors Studio." (A lifetime member, no fees, moderated by the great Lee!!) ....Little did I dream in 1974 that today, 2001, I would be writing an article for Lee's Centennial.

ISRAEL LEE STRASSBERG was born on November 17, 1901, in Budanov, Austria-Hungary, the youngest of four children. The Strassbergs immigrated to the United States in 1909. They lived in the Lower East Side of New York and as a teenager 'Lee' began acting in plays and directing at the Students of Arts and Drama at the Chrystie Street Settlement House. After obtaining his first job in a theatrical wig factory, he started to take acting lessons with Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya at the American Laboratory Theater in New York City, both of whom had studied with Konstantin Stanislavski, the founder of the Moscow Art Theater and teacher equated with a style of acting that Strasberg later built into "The Method." Strasberg made his professional acting debut in 1924, as the First Soldier in "Processional," a Theater Guild production. In 1931, he Co-founded the now-legendary Group Theater with Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford to establish a theater where plays would be produced for their artistic rather than commercial value. As Co-Founder, he was able to aid in the development of such distinguished artists as Eli Kazan, John Garfield, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, and Robert Lewis. After the Group disbanded in 1941, Strasberg joined the Actors Studio in 1949 and shortly thereafter became the Artistic Director. The list of actors who are members of the Actors Studio and studied under Strasberg's tutelage is staggering (to name a few--Marlon Brando, James Dean, Al Pacino, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Joanne Woodward, Marilyn Monroe, Geraldine Page, Ellen Burstyn, Eva Marie Saint, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, Karl Malden, Sally Fields. Rod Steiger. Eli Wallach, Kim Stanley, Anne Bancroft, Jack Nicholson, Steve McQueen...and this is the short list.) Early in 1966, a West Coast branch of the Actors Studio was established in Los Angeles. In 1969 The Lee Strasberg Institute was created In New York and in 1972 a school was built in Los Angeles.

Lee Strasberg, the actor:
Strasberg also did a bit of acting himself--most notably with his Academy
Award nominated performance in "The Godfather: Part II," (1974). He was also voted "Most Promising Newcomer of the Year," (at age 73). "Acting," he said, "is relaxation for me. I enjoy it more than directing or teaching because I don't have to argue with myself," quipped Strasberg, adding humorously: " I understand what the director wants more than he does himself." Lee Strasberg was the only actor ever to be asked to write the definition of Acting for "Encyclopedia Britannica." His own book, "A Dream of Passion," has been printed in nine languages, and his book on directing is being edited. The vast collection of video of his work as a teacher is currently being cataloged for future study and eventually will be made available to universities worldwide. Lee Strasberg died in his Central Park West apartment in New York City of a heart attack on February 17, 1982. His legacy and teachings are perpetuated in work carried on by his wife Anna Strasberg and his two sons, David Lee Strasberg and Adam Lee Strasberg and a third son John Strasberg (mothered by Lee's deceased wife Paula.)

Karnen Kondazian's personal experiences with Strasberg:
PEOPLE ALWAYS SPEAK of Lee's contributions in print but rarely do they speak
of the human being. I, like others, have many remembrances of the man, but for me, two in particular stand out...Every summer he would arrive at the West Coast branch of the Studio to lead the sessions. At that time the Studio had no air conditioning, and we would all come early to try and sit close to the doors, so we could get a small bit of air through the crack. (Once those doors were closed, you were not allowed to enter or to exit until the end of the scene.) Lee would always arrive immaculately dressed, no matter the weather, in a suit and tie. The thing is he never ever sweated or drank water or complained of the heat. But after the session, he would swiftly leave the theater, and one of his favorite things to do, it seemed, was to direct the cars into and out of position in the Studio's small parking lot. There he was, so dapper and cool, so concentrated and childlike, waving and directing the Studio cars, focusing as if he were dissecting a delicate scene from Chekov.....In contrast, I remember coming back to his class in 1973 when I was studying with him at the Institute, after having just lost my fiancee to a heart attack. I was in shock, no tears, doing my relaxation and sense memory exercises on stage with the rest of the class. Suddenly I heard his voice call my name to come down to him. Without looking at me, he told me to sit next to him. I did as I was told. He asked me what was wrong. (I have no idea how he knew that I was in pain, as I felt cold and distant.) I told him what had happened. Again, without looking at me, keeping his eyes on the class, monitoring their work, he put his hand on mine. "I understand," he said, "I lost someone too. One day you will use it to paint with in your work. It will be important to your work." He held my hand the rest of the session without looking at me. I sat there not breathing. When the class was over, he got up, looked me straight in the eye and left....Another lesson he taught me, only this time about the oil colors that we call life.

Others who experienced Lee Strasberg:
, in his wonderful book, "Strasberg at the Actors Studio,"
describes Lee beautifully: "He exhorts, stings, cajoles, excites, denounces, satirizes, praises, encourages, jokes, inspires. He lets himself go with unbounded energy, imagination and passion."....The director Jeffrey Hayden described him as "a quiet man, shy and slight in built. When he spoke about acting, he became a firestorm. He was passionate, inspired and inspiring. He wanted his actors to know everything: the history of painting, sculpture, music, the style of every period, the individuality of every great painter. ' When you look at painting,' Lee said, 'put yourself into them instead of looking at them.' Strasberg felt the theater should contribute to the spiritual life of the nation. In his search for truth, he went beyond realism or naturalism in acting. ' Natural is not enough,' he said, 'Natural I see on street corners.' He wanted a heightened sense of reality. 'Art is more beautiful and terrible than life.' He wanted self-discipline in speech and resented criticism of Actors Studio members as 'mumblers.' He felt critics made the mistake of confusing the actor with the role he was playing. He said it was Stanley Kowalski who mumbled, not Marlon Brando. He felt that the essential thing was for the actor to find the experience and behavior behind the words, to give them life, and the illusion that they were being said for the first time."

, from the very beginning was created as a workshop. "A
place," Lee said "where whatever problems actors have as actors can be worked on, can be solved. Among ourselves, we sometimes say this is a place where you can fall flat on your face. It is a place where actors can work on the elements of their art apart from the concerns of production. Emphasis is placed on the process by which the actor attains the results of 'creative inspiration,' rather than a predetermination of those results in an attempt to deliver a 'finished performance....Work for the actor lies in two areas: the ability to consistently create reality and the ability to express that reality."

Strasberg designed The Method as a means of offering the actor
the opportunity to pursue their craft systematically, to gain an in depth knowledge of their own unique artistic voice, and to master the tools that allow an actor to powerfully express their truth. "The actor creates with his own flesh and blood all those things which all the arts try in some way to describe. Goethe said that an actor's career develops in public, but the actor's art only in private. The Studio exists to encourage that private process of creation." One of Strasberg's primary concerns was his belief that the actor must be reconditioned to function in a state of relaxation. "If there is tension, the actor cannot think or feel. Tension is the occupational disease of the actor. Relaxation is the foundation on which almost all of the actor's work is based. Many problems in acting disappear when the actor learns to relax. It is the actor's warm-up or preparation, similar to the athlete before an event. You see, the actor is an athlete of the heart." ELLEN BURSTYN, Academy Award winning actress and long time member of the Studio and student of Strasberg's spoke with us about Lee... "Lee Strasberg was the greatest acting teacher of this century. He had x-ray vision -- he saw clear though you to your soul and there was no way to be seen by him without being transformed. He had a way of awakening in actors that which was latent and was the gold of their talent. I only wish actors today could have the experience that all of us had with Lee. We were blessed to have been
taught by him."...

LEE GRANT, Academy Award winning actress and director spoke about Strasberg's acting as well as his teaching saying, "Strasberg's influence on great talent like Burstyn and Pacino is indisputable. Lee was a fascinating foe and good friend. He was an extraordinary actor in his own light. For me his own greatest lessons were his own mysteriously personal performances."

MARK RYDELL, Academy Award Nominated Director, who is the West Coast Artistic Director of the Actors Studio, shared a personal story about Lee: "I directed my first play at the Actors Studio in the late 50's. The cast was Roscoe Lee Browne and Billy Gunn playing two primitive blacks who sold clams to boaters off a dock in South Carolina. We rehearsed for months and presented the play, "Bohikee Creek" by Robert Unger, fully staged. It was a shattering experience. I was in tears when it was over, as were most of the audience. Lee, as was his habit, asked for the director to appear and to respond to the audience and his questions. It took me a minute or two to pull myself together so that I wasn't weeping when I appeared in front of this distinguished audience -- Joe Mankiewiez, Molly Kazan, and a full house of Actors Studio members. I still remember Lee's first words. They ring in my ears as I say this, "Today we have been privileged to witness the birth of a real director." I can never repay him for that vote of confidence which has lived within me these past fifty years. He was a great man, and I'm here to testify to that fact."

SHIRLEY KNIGHT, Academy Award Nominated Actress spoke about Lee and the Studio."I met Lee Strasberg in 1962. I was referred to him by my costars in the film SWEET BIRD OR YOUTH Paul Newman and Geraldine Page. I wanted to study privately with him. He had seen the film when it was shown in New York as a benefit for the Actor's Studio. He agreed to see me and took me on for his classes at Carnegie Hall. After studying privately with him for two years and being an observer at the Studio he said I could audition for the Studio. After three auditions I was accepted. I relate this story because the criteria for admission to the Studio at that time was not as lax as it is today. People were not invited to join based on public celebrity. Lee set a different standard and he was not willing to admit me until he felt I was ready. The fact I had two Academy Award nominations before we met did not mean I was an automatic member. I earned my stripes by doing masses of scenes as an observer, never missing a class and constantly improving my craft. I was rewarded by playing Irina in his Broadway production of THE THREE SISTERS in 1964. Lee was a strong taskmaster and demanded the best from you. He knew more about acting than anyone I have ever met."

LESLEY ANN WARREN, Actress and member of the Studio talked to us about his teaching: "Lee Strasberg was my mentor, my teacher and my inspiration. His brilliance manifested in my lifelong dedication to the discipline of The Method, as well as holding fast to the exquiste honor of being an actor and everything that he passionately believed that to be. I was always afraid of him and desperate for his approval, but in the ten years that I was lucky enough to study with him, I was molded as an artist. One of my fondest memories was when I was 19 and starring in my first Broadway musical. We were in Philadelphia and I had gotten horrible reviews. I called Lee, crying my eyes out, not knowing what to do. He flew there, saw the show and spent the next several hours admonishing me for not doing enough specific work on the character. He had me write a 40 page history of the role. Surffice it to say I did it, and went on to garner raves . It is always with gratitude and the deepest love in my heart that I know I was blessed to be in the presence of my friend and teacher Lee Strasberg."

KIM STANLEY, the great American actress who passed away in August 2001, had this to say about Lee: "Lee made it possible for the whole world to open up for me."

DAVID LEE STRASBERG, Lee's son, is now running "The Group at Strasberg,"(TGAS)
in Hollywood.Talking about his father he said, "My memories of my father aren't those of a legend but memories of a man I called dad. I remember my dad cooking Japanese food and making ice cream floats for everyone. Despite all the activity that always surrounded him throughout his life, when he was at home, things were very peaceful. He used to read to me and my brother. Music was always playing in our house – classical music. Dad had an affinity for it. My dad was what you might call a true multi-tasker. He could be holding a child in his arms, having a conversation, listening to music and reading a book, seemingly all at the same time. The kitchen table was the great equalizer, where our family and stars like Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman, among many others, gathered. We never knew from one day to the next who would be coming to dinner . Creativity and commitment were two principles that were very important to my father. Although he dressed formally, he was never exclusive to people. He was commanding and unyielding in the classroom. He had a strong intellect and intense sense of purpose when he was teaching. If you were talented, he wanted, and indeed, expected, more from you. It didn't dissuade him if you cried in class. The tears were a distraction from the work that the actor needed to put in. He strove to explore and discover untapped levels in each actor he worked with. All of this was done in pursuit of each actor’s fullest talent. . Although he was uncompromising in his classroom, his sensitivity was the key, and as the heart of our household, it was always on full display. With my dad, truth always went further than flattery. He wasn't dazzled by someone's social skills, he was more impressed with people who had passion for what they did. He could uncannily sniff out fakeness. People who were truthful, rose in his estimation. My father gave his actors a lot, and hence, today, many of the people he influenced and worked very closely with, feel compelled to give back to upcoming generations of actors. This is entirely human and exactly the way dad would have wanted it. He used to say 'An actor's tribute to me is in his work,' ... 'that Art is Longer than Life and If we cannot see the possibility of greatness, how can we dream it."

by Karen Kondazian

This article was published with the kind permission of Karen Kondazian on December 5, 2001.