From Tom Oppenheim, Artistic Director:
It is with great sorrow and a heavy heart that I’m writing to inform you that we’ve lost our beloved teacher, friend and family member, James Tripp today. Jimmy joined the faculty of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in the mid 1980s at the invitation of Stella Adler herself. By that time he had a full life in the theater working in major regional theaters, at the Public Theater and on Broadway. But Jimmy’s true artistic domain was in the classroom and his greatest performances were as a teacher. In that realm Jimmy’s talent knew no bounds. With a single gesture he could spank the devil and lick the sky. Jimmy was all theater. He was a theater bandit. He busted down borders with Dionysian glee and many of us who survive him at Adler and thousands and thousands of former students were freed by this man, were elevated by his greatness, were liberated by his passion, were made merry monsters like him. Jimmy made us feel like creatures in Where the Wild Things Are, “I’ll eat you up I love you so.”
My grandmother recognized her kind in Jimmy. She invited him to Adler after seeing a production of Moliere’s Tartuffe which he directed at his other artistic home, the National Shakespeare Conservatory, with me in the title role. It was my first production ever. Jimmy delighted in dressing me up in a long white wig and made me an aged, sex crazed, power hungry, hypocritical hippy. He gave me a comb as a prop to unsuccessfully comb the knots out of my tangled hair. He acquainted me with what was most corrupt in myself, what was most ghastly, grotesque, gory, ugly. He thus made a man of me. Stella appreciated him deeply for this, knew he was an artist, knew where he belonged, right in the heart of the Adler family
I first encountered Jimmy at Kerhonkson, National Shakespeare Conservatory’s summer program. I was so shy and scared and Jimmy’s energy was overwhelming to me. Jimmy was the contemporary scene teacher in those days with his dear friend Mario Siletti teaching Shakespeare. Jimmy was utilizing Meisner repetition technique but only as Jimmy could, repetition a la TRIPP!!! Actors were repeating what the other said but wildly, roiling into a frenzy. It scared the bejesus out of me in spite of the fact that I’m a Jew. After class I followed Jimmy to his car and told him that the exercise scared me. “Well, then you must try it!” he said with a face wide open like the sky. Jimmy opened up a door for me that day, a door that remains open and continues to beckon and challenge me.
There was so much freedom in Jimmy’s class, a freedom we desperately need. This freedom was scary for some, thrilling for others, scary and thrilling by turns. He would crack words over his knee and throw them in your face. You had the feeling that anything could happen. Passion, for example. Love. Hatred. High art. Low art. Lampoon. Anything. This freedom produced boldness, courage, a crystal clear understanding of the purpose of theater and the blessing. May Jimmy’s death inspire a resurrection of that freedom. May generations hence spring up as liberal as he, as outrageous, as passionate, as free.
We dedicate this year to our teacher, friend, family member James Tripp. We will soon open the James Tripp Theater. Long live Jimmy.
Thank you so much for the outpouring of love we have seen online in the wake of Jimmy’s passing. It has been wonderful reading all the cherished memories you have had with him over the years. The Stella Adler Studio of Acting is in the process of collecting quotes, stories and favorite memories of Jimmy Tripp for the archives. Do you remember inspiring words he gave in class? Is there a favorite story of Jimmy? Please share with us by filling out the form linked below. Or you can simply reply to this email and I can add it for you.