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Acting: The First Six Lessons

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Acting: The First Six Lessons is a classic text on the art and craft of the thespian. Written by Richard Boleslavski, in 1933, Sir Alec Guinness--the acclaimed English star of screen and stage--once proclaimed that "both beginners and established actors will... find stimulation in (reading) The First Six Lessons." Not only did the Boleslavsky handbook gain the understated admiration of the knights of the British Theatre, however; it also caught on among the budding method actors in America.

In fact, Boleslavsky became teacher to several Americans who became celebrated drama coaches and mentors in their own right, including Lee Strasberg (who came to the U.S. as a child from what is now the Ukraine), Harold Clurman, and Stella Adler (this trio of actor-trainers went on to found the influential Group Theater in New York City, circa 1930s).

Now, So Cal theater-lovers have a rare opportunity: Beau Bridges and his daughter, Emily Bridges, have dramatized Boleslavsky's short treatise and are acting the parts in the premiere staging of Acting: The First Six Lessons--in Los Angeles, through May 16. After all, Boleslavsky's "Lessons" number only six--concentration, memory-of-emotions, dramatic action, characterization, observation, and rhythm--and take place as a series of dialogues between The Teacher and The Creature. The former (played with zeal by Beau) is a guru in the orthodoxy of acting. The latter (an ethereal Emily B.) is a lovely and callow aspirant to the art form. Through their Socratic interchanges and theatrical incantations, we see the slow-moving headway being made by The Creature toward the artist she shall become.

At the start, The Creature is over-posed and shrill in her dramatic recitations. Amazingly, Ms. Bridges is able to show us the arch, range, and potential of this character. It's a cheeky challenge for an actor to portray a less than crafty actor. Nevertheless, Ms. Bridges is gracefully up for the task. Bridges herself seems to grow as an actress with each scene.

Mr. Bridges infuses his Teacher character with such bonhomie and goodwill that he soon becomes an irresistible persona. A teddy bear of a man, Bridges' natural warmth comes to surface even when The Teacher gives harsh instruction to The Creature. It's a special treat too when he mimics his student in a lesson on "dramatic action."

The touching moments are not only found in the tender relationship that forms between the teacher and the student, though. Indeed, the most engaging and heartfelt parts of the program come at the start of the play, when Beau and Emily speak for themselves and out of character. Beau shares that the only book on acting his father--late, great character-actor Lloyd Bridges--ever gave to his children was Boleslavski's Acting: The First Six Lessons. Beau has now passed the Boleslavski book on to his children. Together he and his daughter have created a dramatic ditty out of a family tradition, and it's as instructive as it is affirming and entertaining.

For anyone interested in the dramatic pursuits, Acting: The First Six Lessons is a must see event. What's more, after the hour-and -a-half show is over, Beau and Emily make themselves available for an after-play discussion with the audience. This forum provides for a Q & A exchange that in itself is worth the price of a ticket or the cost of an acting class.

Straightforwardly directed by Charles Mount and produced by John Gallogly and Emily Bridges, Acting: The First Six Lessons continues at Theatre West--3333 Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles--through May 16. For show times and reservations, visit www.theatrewest.org, or dial (323)851 - 7977.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.