|Formation||October 5, 1947|
|Purpose||Organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights|
|Headquarters||432 West 44th Street|
Manhattan, New York City
|Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn (co-presidents)|
Beau Gravitte (artistic director)
Estelle Parsons (assistant artistic director)
The Actors Studio is a membership organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights located on West 44th Street in Hell's Kitchen, New York City.
The studio is best known for its work refining and teaching method acting. It was founded in 1947 by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Robert Lewis, and later directed by Lee Strasberg, all former members of the Group Theatre, an early pioneer of the acting techniques of Constantin Stanislavsky that would become known as method acting.
Notable actors and playwrights who have shared their work at the studio include Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, who joined the studio in its first year, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin.
While at the Studio, actors work together to develop their skills in a private environment where they can take risks as performers without the pressure of commercial roles.
As of May 2018[update], the studio's co-presidents are Ellen Burstyn, Alec Baldwin and Al Pacino. The artistic director in New York is Beau Gravitte, and the Associate Artistic Director in New York is Estelle Parsons.
After an initial meeting held on October 5, 1947, at the Labor Stage, located at 106 W. 39th Street (formerly the Princess Theatre), in which goals and ground rules of the new organization were discussed, the studio officially opened for business the following day.
Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Robert Lewis who founded the studio, had all been members of the Group Theatre, which had been an early adopter of method acting in the 1930s. Based on acting techniques first taught by Constantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre, Method acting or the “Method” was further refined at the Actor's Studio, including by Lee Strasberg, who had closely studied Stanislavski's theories at the Group Theater and who became director of the studio from 1952 until his death on February 17, 1982.
Around 700 actors auditioned in the studio's first year, with 50 actors selected to become its first group of members, including Marlon Brando. Once actors pass the studio's audition process they become life-members who can attend sessions where members present work to each other. Some non-members are also invited to observe sessions, and on rare occasions non-members such as Marilyn Monroe have been invited to present.
The studio has also provided opportunities for playwrights including Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams to develop new works.
Before settling in its current location in 1955, the Studio moved regularly over an eight-year period. It first opened in October 1947 at the Union Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 229 West 48th Street, previously home to the Actors Kitchen and Lounge (maintained to assist actors and others unable to afford meals), and long a source of rental rehearsal space for local theatrical producers.
In January 1948, it was a dance studio on East 59th Street. In April of that year, a move to the CBS Building at 1697 Broadway, near 53rd Street, established some semblance of stability; the Studio would not move again until the summer of 1952. From that point, the old Theatre Guild rehearsal rooms on the top floor of the ANTA Theatre became home, as they would remain until October 1954, when theatre renovations reduced the Studio to renting space twice a week. This it did at the Malin Studios at 1545 Broadway, Room 610. This arrangement continued throughout the 1954–1955 theatrical season, even as the Studio was acquiring and renovating its current venue. In 1955, it moved to its current location in the former West 44th Street United Presbyterian Church, a Greek Revival structure which was built for the Seventh Associate Presbyterian Church in 1858 or 1859. It was one of the last churches to be built in that style in New York City.
From September 1994 through May 2005, the Studio collaborated with The New School in the education of master's-level theatre students at the Actors Studio Drama School (ASDS). After ending its contract with The New School, the Actors Studio established The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in 2006.
The Lifetime Members of the Actors Studio are (as of July 24, 2023):