Dramatic Workshop

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Dramatic Workshop was the name of a drama and acting school associated with the New School for Social Research in New York City. It was launched in 1940 by German expatriate stage director Erwin Piscator. Among the faculty were Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, among the students Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Tennessee Williams and Elaine Stritch. The Dramatic Workshop that was separated from The New School in 1949 considerably contributed to the resurgence of the Off-Broadway theatre.[1]

History[edit]

In the spring of 1939 German expatriate stage director Erwin Piscator signed an agreement with Alvin Johnson, the president of the New School for Social Research in New York City, to found a drama and acting school at The New School. The “Dramatic Workshop” started its operations in January 1940 with some 20 students. In September 1940 the Workshop began to launch semi-professional theatre productions within the “Studio Theatre” (i.e. the Tishman Auditorium) at 66 West 12th Street. In 1944 the Dramatic Workshop began to hold annual summer theatres at summer resort towns such as Sayville and Lake Placid.

After the end of World War II, the G. I. Bill led to a massive student increase at the Dramatic Workshop, "momentarily making it one of the largest dramatic schools in the country."[2] Since the Studio Theatre had to be closed in 1944, Piscator successively started to transfer the student productions to the “President Theatre” at 247 West 48th Street and the “Rooftop Theatre” at 111 East Houston Street in 1946. In June 1949 the Workshop was separated from The New School.

With Erwin Piscator's return to West-Germany in October 1951 his wife Maria Ley-Piscator took over the school's management. In later years, Ley-Piscator sold the school to the film and theatre agent Saul C. Colin[3] who sustained the “Senior Dramatic Workshop” until his early death in 1967.

Among the students of the Dramatic Workshop were Bea Arthur, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Jack Garfein, Walter Matthau, Judith Malina, Deirdre O'Connell, Rod Steiger, Elaine Stritch, and Tennessee Williams. The Dramatic Workshop's faculty with instructors such as Stella Adler, Theresa Helburn, and Lee Strasberg taught different acting approaches such as Stanislavski's “method acting” and Piscator's “objective acting”. Among other theatre schools and companies, the Dramatic Workshop played a vital role in paving the way for Off-Broadway theatre.[4]

Productions (selection)[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Thomas George Evans: Piscator in the American Theatre. New York, 1939–1951. Ann Arbor: University of Wisconsin Press 1968.
  • Maria Ley-Piscator: The Piscator Experiment. The Political Theatre. New York: James H. Heineman 1967 (= ³1979).
  • Judith Malina: The Piscator Notebook. London: Routledge Chapman & Hall 2012. ISBN 0-415-60073-1.
  • Gerhard F. Probst: Erwin Piscator and the American Theatre. New York, San Francisco, Berne etc.: Peter Lang 1991.
  • Peter M. Rutkoff: Politics on Stage. Piscator and the Dramatic Workshop. In: Peter M. Rutkoff, William B. Scott: New School: a History of the New School for Social Research. New York: Macmillan 1986, pp. 172–195.
  • Ilka Saal: Broadway and The Depoliticization of Epic Theatre: The Case of Erwin Piscator. In: J. Chris Westgate (ed.): Brecht. Broadway and United States Theatre. Angerton Gardens, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars 2007, pp. 45–71.
  • John Willett: Erwin Piscator: New York and the Dramatic Workshop 1939–1951. Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 2, No.3 (1978), pp. 3–16.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter Bauland: The hooded eagle: modern German drama on the New York stage. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press 1968, p. 146.
  2. ^ Peter M. Rutkoff: Politics on Stage. Piscator and the Dramatic Workshop. In: Peter M. Rutkoff, William B. Scott: New School: a History of the New School for Social Research. New York: Macmillan 1986, p. 190.
  3. ^ Letter of Erwin Piscator to Maria Ley-Piscator, October 26, 1960, in: Erwin Piscator. Briefe aus Deutschland. 1951–1966. An Maria Ley-Piscator. Ed. by Henry Marx. Köln: Prometh 1983, pp. 56–57.
  4. ^ John Willett: Erwin Piscator: New York and the Dramatic Workshop 1939–1951. In: Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 2, No.3 (1978), p. 15.