|Milton George Katselas|
December 22, 1933|
Los Angeles, California
|Cause of death||Heart failure|
|Occupation||Director, acting instructor, coach, producer|
Milton George Katselas (December 22, 1933 – October 24, 2008) was an American director and producer of stage and film, as well as a Hollywood acting instructor and coach who trained under Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg at the acclaimed Actors Studio in New York City. In 1978 he acquired the Beverly Hills Playhouse, where he taught a master class for many years.
Katselas was a Scientologist and some former students have alleged that his acting classes were used as recruitment for the Church of Scientology, while others have stated Katselas never mentioned or spoke about Scientology during classes.
Katselas was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Greek immigrant parents, who owned a small restaurant outside the gates of a Westinghouse Electric plant. When Milton was 14 years old, his father went into the movie theater business and ran a local theater company of Greek actors. Milton Katsalas later adjusted his surname to Katselas.
After high school, he set off for Pittsburgh's Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) to study theater. On a visit to New York, he sneaked in to watch Lee Strasberg's acting class where he also saw renowned director Elia Kazan on the street and chased him down. "I talked to him in Greek, and he talked with me"... [H]e told me, `When you finish college, come see me.'", Katselas recalled. Following graduation in 1954, he began studying with Strasberg and serving as an apprentice to Kazan.
Theater and film producer
After working with several other big-name directors, including Joshua Logan, Joseph Anthony, and Sanford Meisner, Katselas struck out on his own, beginning with the original 1960 Off-Broadway production of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story. This was followed by another critical success the following year, Michael Shurtleff's Call Me By My Rightful Name. He was nominated for a Tony Award for the Broadway production of Leonard Gershe's Butterflies Are Free in 1969, and also directed the 1972 movie version starring Goldie Hawn, Edward Albert, and Eileen Heckart, who won an Academy Award for her role.
In 1973 he reunited with Gershe and Albert for the film version of 40 Carats. His other credits include the Broadway shows Camino Real and The Rose Tattoo, local productions of The Seagull, Romeo and Juliet, and Streamers - all of which won him L.A. Drama Critics Circle awards for best direction.
In 1983, Katselas directed a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives, the only Broadway stage production in which Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton co-starred together. However, after the show was panned in its Boston tryout, Taylor, who was a producer, fired Katselas, yet he retained his directing credit for the Broadway run. He also directed the screen adaptation of Mark Medoff's When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?
He had a wide range of students, including Gene Hackman, Jenna Elfman, George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Selleck, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ted Danson, Tony Danza, Jeffrey Tambor, Tyne Daly, and Doris Roberts. Some students reportedly felt alienated by the unspoken pressure to join the Church of Scientology, however. While Katselas was highly regarded as a teacher, his classes remained controversial.
In his later years, Katselas became disaffected with Scientology. He eventually had a break with the organisation, when a Scientologist named Grant Cardone sent an e-mail accusing Katselas of improper sexual conduct with his students. Following the incident, a number of Scientologist actors left the school.
Katselas was active as a writer, painter and acting teacher for over twenty years. He wrote a book titled Dreams Into Action and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show discussing the book's success. He also wrote "Acting Class: Take a Seat" which is the acting class book of the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
Katselas was a long-time Scientologist, having been introduced to the religion in 1965, and had attained the Scientology state of Operating Thetan. While his relationship with the Church of Scientology broke down in his later years, he remained dedicated to L. Ron Hubbard to his death.
- Oppenheimer, Mark (September 9, 2007). "Friends, thetans, countrymen". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Oppenheimer, Mark (2007-07-15). "The Actualizer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- "Dreams Into Action". Archived from the original on December 17, 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
- "The Star of His Own Show", BUZZ Magazine, March 1998
- Brennan, Marie "The Liz and Dick Show", New York Magazine May 9, 1983. Retrieved November 3, 2008
- "When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?". The New York Times.
- Saperstein, Pat (October 27, 2008). "Acting teacher Milton Katselas dies". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- Reitman, Janet (2006-02-23). "Inside Scientology". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- Breitbart, Andrew; Ebner, Mark (2004). Hollywood, interrupted : insanity chic in Babylon-the case against celebrity. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0471706248.
- The Village Voice
- Acting Class: Take a Seat
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