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The Lee Strasberg Notes: Sharing the Method with a New Generation of Actors, Directors and Film and Theater Lovers

Posted: 02/22/10 12:11 PM ET

It's pretty much a given that my friends, family and students will have nice things to say about my new book, The Lee Strasberg Notes. A labor of love and a project of passion, the book was years in the making and my publisher, the Strasberg family, and I all hoped it would touch and inspire a new generation of actors and directors. So imagine my extraordinary delight when comments from entertainment-world luminaries started rolling in.

Francis Ford Coppola commented, "I always think upon Lee Strasberg with warmth, and reviewing his wisdom is a pleasure."

Johnny Depp said it's "an indispensable companion. Put it in your pocket and go."

And Ralph Fiennes added that "reading The Lee Strasberg Notes re-kindled the first rush of excitement I felt about the possibilities of Acting."

Lee Strasberg spent his long life as an acting teacher, director, and performer inspiring generations of pupils with his Method. His techniques remain ever fresh and appealing to young acting and directing students and they have proven to be of inestimable importance for practical application in all the performing arts.

The path to my having done The Strasberg Notes started 36 years ago when having acted in a movie, I felt compelled to enroll at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York in 1977. This started 5 years of studying directly with Lee and 23 years of teaching at the Strasberg Institute both in NY and LA.

The striking black and white cover photo of Lee, the visionary master acting teacher, director, scholar and Academy Award nominee (as Hyman Roth in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather II) was taken a few years before his death and depicts him as The Strasberg Notes does, alive and energetic, offering new ideas, highly relevant, modern, imminently human, timeless and in touch with his audience, and now you, his future readers.

The video tapes came into being because Anna Strasberg did not want to miss a moment of a Lee's class while she was taking her young children to school. About ten years ago Anna provided me with access to the Strasberg archives which contained the videotapes of Lee's teachings in order, initially, to bring that material forward to be used by Institute teachers and classes. It quickly became evident that this material would be highly exciting and valuable to a much wider audience. The Lee Strasbeg Notes contain Lee's own words transcribed, studied, culled, organized and edited from video tapes of his actual classes. Now current and future actors throughout the world can experience Lee's passion for acting and the arts in his own voice.

In the book, just like in the tapes of Lee's classes, the Method's exercises were taught and demonstrated to be followed while Lee wove in the richness of all the creative arts and artists from Chaliapin to Coppola, from Keats to Casals making insightful and memorable connections with acting. Even the book's Index is fascinating.

"Not only actors and directors, but film and theater lovers have something to learn from The Lee Strasberg Notes," Martin Sheen writes in the Foreword. Strasberg put into practice the revolutionary approach to acting that originated with Stanislavsky's System and evolved into the Method in America. This work changed the face of American and World theater and film and is being taught today at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in NYC and LA and is practiced and studied by academics, students, professionals and amateurs around the world.

Lee's smiling countenance and the fascinating, fresh material on acting training, directing, Shakespeare, Stanislavski, theater and film history, is in sharp contrast to the stern and unforgiving images sometimes used in connection with Lee. Old images die hard and my intent is to present Lee to the world in his own words, with moving photographs, during his last years when his work engaged actors and directors closely, encouraging them to apply the Method by giving them the opportunity of learning and embodying the work.

Many decisions had to be made about the book. I searched the Strasberg archives and the family's personal collections for photographs which would both capture Lee the individual with family and friends as well as those showing historically important theater people and events.

Another decision I made had to do with including selections of Lee's comments about major acting and theater figures that were particularly noteworthy or courageous. These include Belasco, Barrymore, Brecht, Duse, Paul Muni, Kim Stanley and more. Also, in transcribing the tapes I realized that a good part of the work was Lee's comments to students who had just completed acting out a scene in class. I saw how valuable it will be to actors, directors and theater lovers to hear Lee's comments about these scenes. I included 34 scene critiques from plays by Shakespeare, Strindberg, Chekhov, O'Neill, Coward, Williams, Hellman, Simon, Saroyan, and others.

In our complex multi-media world, content rules and Strasberg elevates the quality of the artistic content, enriching the potential for our lives. By reading my book, studying the rare photographs and learning what Lee was about, it is my hope that actors, directors, film lovers and all artists can learn from an informed point of view how Strasberg's work is applicable to theirs.

Read more at www.theleestrasbergnotes.com