Acting History Grouptheatre.

In the summer of 1931 they caused a complete turn-over in acting history Grouptheatre idealists Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg, were inspired by a passionate dream of transforming the American theater.

For the first time in acting history Grouptheatre recruited 28 actors to form a permanent ensemble dedicated to dramatizing the life of their times. They conceived The Grouptheatre as a response to what they saw as the old-fashioned light entertainment that dominated the theater of the late 1920’s. Their approach changed acting history. Grouptheatre was a company based on an ensemble approach to acting. It was intended as a base for the kind of theater they and their colleagues believed in — a forceful, naturalistic and highly disciplined artistry.

As it had never been done in acting history Grouptheatre were pioneers of what would become an "American acting technique" derived from the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavski, but pushed beyond them as well. Unique in acting history Grouptheatre as a company included actors, directors, playwrights, and producers. The name "Group" came from the idea of the actors as a pure ensemble; there were to be no "stars".

Based on the innovative techniques of the Russian master konstantin Stanislavsky, Lee Strasberg came up with “the method.” The method, or “method acting”, as it has come to be known, proposed a series of physical and psychological exercises. It held, for example, that if a part called for fear, the actor must remember fear and bring this honest emotion to the stage.

These exercises were meant to break down the actor’s barrier between life on and off the stage. By the time the curtain came down on their first production, “The House of Connelly”, the Group Theater knew they had succeeded. What was important was not simply the enthusiastic response, but that the audience and reviewers had recognized that this one performance signaled a shift in American theater.

The Group Theatre believed what they were doing to be of great political significance. While disregarding the calls for individual fame in an embrace of cooperation. It was not, however, until Clifford Odets, then an actor in the group, wrote “Awake and Sing!” that they found their full voice. His highly charged plays, which were often expressed in the language and circumstances of working-class characters, mirrored the essence of what the group wanted to be and do, fulfilling the dream of a theater speaking to and for its audience. Both audience and critics responded enthusiastically, and such works as “Awake and Sing!,” “Waiting for Lefty, ” and “Paradise Lost” were among the most memorable productions of the decade.

The group gathered during the summer at Pine Brook Country Club, located on a natural lake in the countryside of Nichols, Connecticut from 1931 until the early 1940s.

By the late 1930’s however, the cohesiveness of the group began to crumble. The chronic financial problems and long-simmering disputes about “the method” began to chip away at their solidarity. An attempt to solve their financial problems that sent many of the actors to Hollywood (where some stayed) ended in the resignation of both Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford. As a last resort, Harold Clurman decided to take on Hollywood stars in an attempt to enhance box office appeal. To many long-time members this seemed a compromise of the fundamental ideals of the group. Even the financial success of Clifford Odets’ “Golden Boy” in 1937 was not enough to halt the decline, and in 1941 the group dissolved.

Despite its relatively short life span, in acting history Grouptheatre has been called the bravest and single most significant experiment in the history of American theater, and its impact continues to be felt. Many of the group’s members went on to become leading acting teachers and directors, passing on to subsequent generations the spirit and principles that motivated them. Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, and Robert Lewis have counted among their students actors, directors, and playwrights such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Gregory Peck, and David Mamet. To this day institutions such as the Actors Studio, founded by Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, and Robert Lewis continue the tradition of The Grouptheatre.

The Grouptheatre was a New York City theater collective. It was intended as a base for the kind of theater they and their colleagues believed in — a forceful, naturalistic and highly disciplined artistry. The New York-based Group Theatre had no connection with the identically-named London-based Group Theatre founded in 1932.

Real life drama

Wendy Smith's view on the GroupTheatre. An insight in how they changed the acting-industry.


Quote of famous directors

"A true priest is aware of the presence of the altar during every moment that he is conducting a service. It is exactly the same way that a true artist should react to the stage all the time he is in the theater. An actor who is incapable of this feeling will never be a true artist." -

Konstantin Stanislavisky


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