(Hilary Howard’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/1; via Pam Green.)

Schools that trained actors like Robert De Niro and Jessica Lange are facing rising costs, competition from colleges, and shifting cultural attitudes.

In the late 1950s, Robert Duvall was studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, sharing a Manhattan apartment with Dustin Hoffman and going to parties at Gene Hackman’s place.

The three friends would all go on to win Academy Awards, helping to establish the classic blueprint for pursuing an acting career in New York: Move here, hone your craft at a gritty acting studio, do a handful of plays, conquer Hollywood.

hings have changed since the heyday of theater-trained movie stars and the independent acting schools that shaped them. Many small studios, threatened by rising rents, decrepit buildings, well-funded university programs, and instant internet stardom, are now struggling.

Just ask Mary Boyer, who moved to the city from the Midwest in 1973 to pursue an acting career. She eventually became a teacher and a director, opening her own school in 2003. But by 2008, Boyer’s 150 students had dwindled to about 50.

“The economy changed,” Ms. Boyer said, “and what actors and audiences wanted sort of changed all at the same time.” She noticed more students expecting “instant gratification.” Her “craft of acting” courses, what she felt most passionate about, were not filling up. Auditioning classes became her new staple.

(Read more)


Photo: The New York Times

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