“I spend time in the class watching you in several different contexts. I watch you scene by scene, monologue by monologue. (Sometimes I pick the material, sometimes you do.) At first I simply critique the piece you have just presented, but gradually I try to form for myself a wider picture of what your acting problems may be. Every actor in the world has acting problems. There is not an actor anywhere who doesn’t. It’s a delicate process to get to the root of what problems you may have in the work (and I mean problems in the work: I don’t mean personal problems). It’s also a delicate process leading you to an awareness of them. Sometimes the way is to be blunt. Sometimes the way is to be subtle. Sometimes, as your work deepens and starts to acquire new colors, new problems arise with THAT. I try to stay on top of this. I try to assign, or let you assign yourself, a wide range of pieces: pieces in different styles, set in different eras, offering different interpretive and emotional challenges. I try to be friendly. Sometimes, if I’ve gotten to know somebody, I try to be a little bit mean. (Productively mean, that is my hope.) Sometimes I’ll praise you to the skies if the work you have done is a breakthrough for you, even if at the same time the work is not totally satisfactory. Sometimes I’ll question a perfectly realized piece if it seems to come from a place you’ve been sitting in for too long in your work. All this comes under one heading: I try to help.”
Austin Pendleton is an actor, director, and playwright. He has acted in about 250 movies and appeared several times in such TV shows as HOMICIDE, OZ, and the different versions of LAW AND ORDER. Onstage in New York he has acted on Broadway (CHOIR BOY, at Manhattan Theatre Club; THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, with Natalie Portman; and as Motel the Tailor in the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof); off-Broadway (Obie winner for THE LAST SWEET DAYS OF ISAAC; ROSMERSHOLM, at Manhattan Theatre Club; UP FROM PARADISE, a musical by Arthur Miller and Stanley Silverman, at Jewish Rep; EDUCATING RITA, with Laurie Metcalf); and off-off Broadway (title roles in KING LEAR, HAMLET, RICHARD THE THIRD, RICHARD THE SECOND; new plays such as CITY GIRLS AND DESPERADOES, DRESS OF FIRE, CONSIDER THE LILIES). As a director he has been represented by the premiere productions of: A THOUSAND PINES, by Matthew Greene; BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, by Stephen Adly Giurgis, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize; FIFTY WORDS, by Michael Weller, with Elizabeth Marvel and Norbert Leo Butz; Chekhov productions at Classic Stage Company such as THREE SISTERS (for which he won the Obie, and which starred Maggie Gylenhall, Peter Sarsgaard, and Jessica Hecht), IVANOV, which starred Ethan Hawke, and UNCLE VANYA, with Mamie Gummer; A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR, by Tennessee Williams, with Kristine Neilson and Annette O’Toole; WAR OF THE ROSES (Shakespeare, at HB Studio); HAMLET (also at CSC, with Peter Sarsgaard); THE LITTLE FOXES, on Broadway, with Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton (five Tony nominations, one for direction and three for actors, including Ms. Taylor and Ms. Stapleton). He has written three plays: ORSON’S SHADOW (which ran off-Broadway for a year and was then done in London); UNCLE BOB, (which ran at the Mint Theatre in New York, and was then done in Paris, translated by Jean-Marie Besset), and BOOTH, which was done in New York starring Frank Langella. All of these plays have been published and have been done frequently around the United States. He has taught at HB since 1969.