What are the prerequisites for becoming a successful actor?
It takes a passion, determination, talent and good training. It has to be that you couldn’t live without it. That usually defines a good Actor.
A lot of young people are coming each year with high hopes and visions to your Institute. How many prospective students apply to the Lee Strasberg Institute each year?
Hundreds. We have to turn down at least half of all applicants each year. We have students from 149 countries. In addition, we teach undergraduates from NYU, and we have been doing that for about 47 years.
What are the entrance criteria for admission into your program?
Talent. Wanting to do this more than anything else. We give them an opportunity, we don’t give them the talent. Students come to us with a talent, we just help them develop that talent. Lee Strasberg gave us a wonderful legacy in his work, all we do is to expose them to that.
How would you explain method acting to an actor that is just starting out, someone who never heard of it?
We teach you how to harness what has made you the person you are. It’s all about your life experience, and what you bring to the work is you. It’s like reintroducing you to yourself. Each actor, when they leave Strasberg, will have found a very individual approach to acting. We give the students an opportunity to come in and prove themselves, and the ones that come in here are determined and passionate and they make the connection. Lee was very passionate about his work! And he transmitted that, the students felt it.
We give them an opportunity, we don’t give them the talent.
Students come to us with a talent, we just help them develop that Talent.
What kind of programs do you offer?
We have different programs. We have a 12-week program that is the program most students come in for if they are not sure. Or we have intensive programs, for students that can’t commit to a longer one, for people who may be working other jobs. When I first started here, 36 years ago, our programs were quite different. People are so fragmented, everything is in such a hurry. A lot more students come in for intensives where they get a taste what this is about. And it ignites something, and the magic happens. And then they continue, they make room in their lives. Because it’s a lifetime commitment to be an actor it’s not something you can play at. So, we have a 12-week program, a 1-year program and a 2-year certificate program. We have students that come here every week for 10 years. New York University developed a three-year program with us, after the completion of which students usually continue to study abroad. The students come on an average for 2 years, but you never stop studying. I don’t know any successful actor who isn’t constantly in some sort of workshop, or is reading or rehearsing. You have to as an actor. You can’t just be isolated and removed from this. We also have a program for kids from 7-17; that is a program held on Saturdays, during the summer months- they are here all week.
How old do your students tend to be?
Apart from the kids and youngsters, we have students from 18-65.
Do some of your now-famous former students visit your Institute from time to time to brush up on their craft or to learn new things?
I think to be good at any job, it’s important to not end up but at Comedy Hall practicing just one day a week. In any profession, you have to keep working to be good. As an actor, you are learning all the time. You are rehearsing all the time, you are reading and being part of something. Most of the successful actors we know are constantly exploring that.
You have Lee Strasberg talks, where actors and actresses like Al Pacino, Liam Neeson and Sally Field give talks and lectures about their experiences. Would you say it’s easier for graduates of the Lee Strasberg School to get jobs in the movie and entertainment business?
No. If you don’t pursue it passionately, we can just do so much. We can train you, but you have to go out and take that training and know what to do with it. We have classes, “The Business of Acting,” where we teach them and bring in directors and writers and people who work in TV, to give them a better understanding of what the reality of the outside world is. That’s what you need to do. There is no guarantee. If you come to Lee Strasberg, it gives you a better understanding of yourself, if nothing else. It is teaching you all the things that made you the person you are, it’s in your work.
Does the Lee Strasberg Institute have a strategy regarding digitalization?
There are plans. All of Lee’s classes were taped, we have thousands of tapes and he had an extensive library. Digitalizing all that diligently takes time and Money.
Is the Institute financed through sponsorships?
No, it’s tuition based. We also have several scholarships; we have the Lee Strasberg scholarship, the Eleonora Duse scholarship, the Vincent D’Onofrio scholarship, etc.