Our special guest is famed NYC acting coach Anthony Abeson who has worked with Jennifer Aniston and countless other well known stars.
Anthony’s high school summers were always spent in summer stock, acting and directing along with all the other jobs summer theatre required: stage managing, set construction, lighting design, etc. Even teaching surfaced then; his earliest memory is of writing the name “Konstantin S. Stanislavski” on a blackboard in front of bewildered children’s theatre apprentices.
During his college years at Columbia University he made his off-Broadway debut as an actor and assistant director at the Sheridan Square Playhouse in a repertory theatre whose director first introduced him to Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio. He was unable to attend his graduation having been appointed by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council to serve as a resident actor and director of the Canterbury Theatre Company, in Christchurch, New Zealand, that country’s first international, professional theatre, where he worked with actors from all over the UK. As a 22-year-old American it was a challenge to direct actors whose previous director had been Laurence Olivier. Anthony’s teaching continued in New Zealand where he also served as director of the Experimental Theatre Laboratory of the Christchurch Academy of Dramatic Arts, the country’s first training academy.
In the late ’60’s he began his long collaboration with Jerzy Grotowski, first as an actor at the Centre Dramatique National du Sud-Est in Aix-en-Provence, France, and later, in the early ’70’s as a participant/assistant in Grotowski’s first “Special Project” in a forest outside of Philadelphia. Further collaboration occurred under the auspices of the Instityut Aktora in Wroclaw and Brzezinka, Poland.
In 1972 he accepted an invitation to join Peter Brook (former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company) at his Centre International de Recherche Theatrale in Paris, where he participated as an actor in the Centre’s exploration of the effect of non-linear language on the process of the actor. The research was facilitated by the deliberate inclusion of actors from Japan, Africa, France,etc. with hardly any common language between them. Instead, during Anthony’s stay, the verbal impulse was channeled into ancient Greek and /or bird calls. Texts were supplied by Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath’s husband, a distinguished poet who went on to become the Poet Laureate of England.
During the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, Anthony started a theatre company, the Ensemble Theatre Laboratory, one of whose earliest members was the wonderful actor/monologist Spalding Gray, whose richly entertaining version of their tour to Missouri of their production of “The Tower of Babel” can be found in his “A Personal History of the American Theatre.”
During this time, Anthony continued to be exposed to Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio, becoming one of the youngest people ever to address a special session with Lee.
In 1973 Anthony started another theatre company, this time in Washington, D. C. : The Washington Theatre Laboratory with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the D. C. Arts Commission. Their training program marked the start of many careers including that of actresses Caroline Aaron and Karen Allen. Selected as a seminal archetype of the experimental theatre movement in America, its archival materials are housed in the permanent collection of The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University.
Returning to New York, Anthony studied with Stella Adler at her conservatory and joined the faculty of the Drama Department of the High School for the Performing Arts (the “Fame” school) where he first worked with Esai Morales and Jennifer Aniston, among many talented others. Jennifer, who went on to study in Anthony’s adult classes before leaving for LA, wrote of one of her experiences with him in Marlo Thomas’s book: “The Right Words at the Right Time.” While there, Anthony was awarded the first Manhattan Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Teaching out of the combined faculties of Performing Arts and Music and Art high schools.
For over thirty years, Anthony has been an acting teacher and acting coach in New York City. His work has been documented in the Emmy award-winning episode of the Bill Moyers PBS series “Creativity,” the Ace award-winning Manhattan Cable Television documentary “Chasing Dreams” and the BBC’s documentary “Bus and Truck.” He has been interviewed on E! Entertainment and Shine Television of England. As an author, Anthony has had articles published in The Village Voice, The Washington Star, The Theatre Paper and, in July 2008, the Outlook Section of The Washington Post. He is currently completing his forthcoming book: “Signals through the Flames – Actors Lit from Within.” Many of his acting students have gone on to LA and successful careers in film and television.
Visit Anthony’s website at www.anthonyabeson.com