Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Jane Fonda, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicolson, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Montgomery Clift and James Dean all studied at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, where Strasberg’s form of Method Acting was taught. At the Institute’s first benefit, celebrating its 50th Anniversary, at New York University’s Rosenthal Pavilion, Monday night, many of Strasberg’s famous alumni gave testament there was, indeed, a Method to Strasberg’s madness and a madness to his Method. The Institute teachers hold up a mirror, Baldwin said, not only to find out who you are as a person and actor, but to “ask you what you can be,” not just to contemplate the character, but to “see yourself in that role and how (to) get there.”
Baldwin and fellow alumna Marlo Thomas chaired the evening. Geoffrey Horne, Baldwin’s former teacher, was honored. “I wish I could take a class with Geoffrey Horne now,” Baldwin said. “Because Strasberg reminds me always that we are never done looking at ourselves. We’re never completely satisfied. In fact as a result of studying at Strassberg and studying with Geoffrey, I’m incapable of being satisfied.”
Ellen Burstyn, Lainie Kazan, and Renee Taylor were among the performers.
Karen Allen, Alec Baldwin, Luca Barbareschi, Tobin Bell, Ellen Burstyn, Arthur Cohn, Kevin Corrigan, Claire Danes, Rebecca De Mornay, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jennifer Esposito, Sally Field, Kathie Lee Gifford, Jamie Hector, Michael Imperioli, Lyle Kessler, Jo Miller, Sienna Miller, Kelli O’Hara, Al Pacino, Estelle Parsons, Martin Sheen, Andrzej Strzelecki, Renee Taylor, Marlo Thomas, and Chandra Wilson comprised the The 50th Anniversary Honorary Committee.
The Benefit Committee included Prince and Princess Vittorio and Dialta Alliata di Montereale, Wayne Bellet, Donna and Michael Corbat, Francine LeFrak and Rick Friedberg, James Nederlander Jr., Paige Peterson, and Dan Tishman.
Marlo Thomas reminisced with Hamptons.com about her three years at the Institute in the late seventies, after she already had starred on That Girl. “He taught me about finding the truth in the character and in the situation and it really enlivened my work,” she said. “What I remember most about the classes was how scared I was. I was already a success on television. I thought, when I get up they’re going to see that I’m a fraud! I’m not as good as the are. I wore navy blue or black every day and sat in the back row. Finally after six months, I got up and went into the center where I would do something. And Lee said, ‘Well, Welcome!’ He never pushed me. He waited for me to feel comfortable to come forward.” On stage, Thomas announced a newly created Lee and Anna Strasberg Scholarship.
On the other hand, for Ellen Burstyn, “Lee found a way to push me past my barrier, that was hard for me because I was young and cute! I had already started my career and Lee made me realize that I could be better.”
Strasberg also pushed Geoffrey Horne, until, finally Horne rose to the level of teacher. “The Institute is the most important thing in my life,” Horne said, adding with impeccable timing, “I know my wife is sitting right there!” Another beat. “I met her at the school, so it’s still the school first.”
The Lee Strasberg Creative Center® has awarded scholarships to students to pursue their dreams of training in the performing arts for 42 years. It also offers commissions for the creation of new plays, giving opportunities to emerging playwrights, directors and actors, and maintains Lee Strasberg’s archive and library.
The Lee Strasberg Creative Center Advisory Board includes Donna Corbat, Michèle Etienne, Rick Friedberg, Dr. Vartan Gregorian, Lyle Kessler, Francine LeFrak, Jonathan Marder, James L. Nederlander Jr., Al Pacino, Aaron Schroeder, and Pat Kerr Tigrett.
For more information, visit strasberg.edu.