Artistic Director's Blog

Sam Schacht

January 5, 2023

Dear friends,

A few hours ago Sybil Schacht, Sam Schacht’s wife, called to tell me that Sam died this morning.

Sam taught at Adler for fifteen years. He came to us from the New School where he ran the MFA program associated with the Actors Studio. Sam was an interesting presence at Adler because his formative training was done at the Actors Studio under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg with whom he worked for many years. As a Method actor/teacher, Sam had admiration for Stella’s text-based approach. It was fun to argue with him and watch him argue with himself. He both enriched and provoked our students in important ways. He provided the kind of creative tension, the kind of antagonistic cooperation, strong arts organizations need to thrive.

Sam was a wonderful teacher as well as a gifted actor with serious professional credits. He was also a good friend. When Sybil called me I thought to myself, “this is awful. I’m going to call my mother to tell her.” Took me a moment to remember we lost my mother in 2019. I have a memory of sitting on my mother’s patio in Bridgehampton back in the late aughts with Sam, Lois Smith, my mother, sister and various others. It was a warm, green and golden summer afternoon. Sam amused us by referring to himself as a poor man’s David Margulies. My mother loved Sam. They were of the same New York theater world, knew many of the same people and loved to laugh together.

Ever-evolving Sam went back to school and became a psychoanalyst. Sam had clients and was able to apply his energies to helping people. He went to the same school as my cousin Josie Oppenheim and so my connections to Sam grew.

Jimmy loved Sam. They were both strong, no-nonsense professionals. They were smart, candid, hopelessly courageous, never cowering, never sentimental. They were craftsmen and they were artists. They contained visions of greatness and commanded respect, admiration and guts. They cut paths up the mountain over very rugged terrain. Let’s follow…

Love, Tom

Jimmy Tripp

October 27, 2021

From Tom Oppenheim, Artistic Director:

Dear community,

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.


Tom Oppenheim
Artistic Director

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.

Jimmy Tripp Memories and Quotes Form

VIDEO: Words of Hope and Resiliency

April 13, 2020

Dear friends,

Over these past weeks I keep returning to Harold Clurman’s words from his book The Fervent Years. An extraordinary group of actors and artists – including Joanna Gleason, Donna Murphy, Kate Mulgrew, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Danny Glover, Stephen Adly Guirgis – have come together to speak these words and I want to share the video with you.

It’s amazing that these words, written by Harold Clurman in 1945, looking back to the winter of 1932-33, speak so vividly and with such relevance to our own troubled times. It’s equally amazing that Harold Clurman looked out at a world in 1929 of economic ruin, with millions of Americans out of work, and thought “this is the perfect time to build a theater company!”

We dedicate this video to the medical workers for whom we cheer every night at 7pm, who save lives while providing us all with an example of how to live a life and how to make art. May our theaters soon be filled with such life giving, life affirming work! We also dedicate it to all essential workers, the backbone of our country.

Finally I hope this video stimulates and inspires young people, by virtue of Harold’s words and the voices and example of the work and lives of the participating artists, to search, as the members of the Group Theater did way back when, for reasons to be! and ways to give!

We stand in solidarity with the heroic health care workers and essential workers and with each and every one of you.


Tom Oppenheim
Artistic Director


“The strength I drew from this period of apparently aimless ambling through the dark of depressed areas in place and spirit was crystalized for me one day when I was struck as if by a miracle of conversion with the feeling that no matter how bitter things became for me, personally, professionally, economically I would never allow myself to be destroyed from within; it would never get me down; I would sustain all kinds of disappointment and distress without ceasing to believe, to hope, to love. I would never yield to the temptation of pessimism, to the ease of despair or withdrawal. It was as if I took an inner vow

never to allow, gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowing of the spirit.

I believed, as some ancient had said: ‘it is not within thy power to to finish the task, nor is it thy liberty to abandon it.’ From this inexorable maxim I drew an abiding joy. In this sense I swore fealty to myself.

Thus that historically cruel winter of 1932-33, which chilled so many of us like a world’s end, became for me a time of renewed faith, because I seemed to be withstanding a sort of test.”

HAROLD CLURMAN, The Fervent Years

Remembering My Mother – Ellen Adler

October 8, 2019

Dear friends,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your generous responses to my mother’s death. I use the word “death” because she would have had it so. She always made big fun of what she thought of as an American predilection to use the euphemism “passed” for the word “death”. “He passed” she’d say with a scornful grin, “can you believe that we live in a country that won’t use the word death?” My mother was a realist without a sentimental bone in her body.

She died on Friday, September 20 at 2:15pm and your kind responses came almost immediately. Texts, voicemails, emails, notes, fuit, flowers, hugs – all of it so comforting. Many of you came to the funeral which was deeply appreciated and which my mother would have loved. She would have loved the service itself which was fun and funny, laced with irony and laughs (something she valued deeply) thanks in large part to Jimmy, Betsy and Nina, and she would have loved that so many of you were there. I saw her every week, sometimes more than once a week for the years before she died and she never failed to ask me each and every time how things were at the Studio. She cared deeply about this place. Your presence raised her, long enough for Sara and me to say a proper goodbye. Thank you, all.

Nina said in her beautiful eulogy that “even in the worst of loss you can make or do something beautiful.” Of course she’s right. In that spirit here’s what we plan: a public memorial for Ellen in late January. Details of this are still forming but it will be a one night event to include things my mother loved: Painting! Classical music! Show tunes! Theater! Humor! That kind of thing. Artists and friends, laughter and beauty…

We also plan a new program – one I’m so excited about – the Ellen Adler Art Gallery. This will be located on the 2ndfloor in the alcove between the front desk and the Broadway hallway, opposite the Adler family historical timeline.

The purpose of the Ellen Adler Art Gallery will be to bring the visual arts, painting, sculpture, and design into the core of the, Stella Adler Arts Center for the Arts, to act as a living, breathing reminder to both students and members of the surrounding community of the vital relationship between theater arts and the plastic arts. Therefore both set and costume design will be a key element in the galley’s exhibitions. The gallery will also exhibit the work of young artists. These exhibits will be seasonal and will occur when the work can spill over into studios that will be open in between terms. A third element of interest will be rotating historical surveys of artistic movements that organically connect to work covered by the curriculum in scene study and character classes and the HCLAB and MAD. These will be illustrated in timelines, photos, video presentations and reproductions.  

I’ve had wonderful conversations with colleagues about how this new division of activity will fit into our overall galaxy of activities and find myself so eager and enthusiastic. Somehow it clarifies so much for me. It pulls together cultural efforts we’ve activated, connects the many residency programs we’ve created, even sharpens the vision of an actor Stella contributed: actor as ever evolving, culturally connected, socially engaged individual.

Again, dear friends, thank you for your kind thoughts and wishes and for your generous outpouring of love.


Tom Oppenheim
Artistic Director

A New Home at 65 Broadway

January 4, 2019

A Letter from the Artistic Director

Dear Friends, I write with good news and better news! The good news is that after almost twenty years at 31 West 27th Street, the Stella Adler Studio of Acting is moving on. The better news is that we secured a 30,000 square-foot space at 65 Broadway for our new home. This news comes in the studio’s seventh decade which we commemorate this year.

This new space allows us to realize our goals as a world-class training and cultural center. We will occupy the entire second floor which will be our main reception area and we will have additional space in the basement. There is immediate access to nine major subway lines (1, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z, R, W) and walking proximity to almost all others.

The space also allows us to breathe and expand. For comparison, we will have a full 10,000 square feet more than we currently occupy. We will have two more rehearsal studios than we do now. The additional square footage will allow us two dedicated dressing rooms and a dedicated space for a library/student lounge for the first time ever. We’re pleased to report that we’ll have a larger faculty lounge and production shop as well. 

I have seen scores of spaces all over New York City in the past five years and can attest that there are few with the specifications we need at a rate a not-for-profit organization can afford. The specifications are important for us and this space fits the bill: the second floor has palatial 16 foot ceilings (high enough to hand theater lights and still have space to swing a sword). We will have wide spaces with 25 foot column spans.

The building, known as the American Express building for that company’s history there, occupies a full city block from Broadway to Trinity Place. Today, the building is known for its landmark status and beautiful design including its New-Classical Broadway façade and double story Corinthian colonnade and large arched windows.  

With this news comes a new goal. Our effort will be to build out the space by August 1, 2019, so that we can open at 65 Broadway in September. This is eminently doable but will take an enormous force of will and effort. Part of our job is to move our current program downtown. And another significant effort will be the fundraising needed for this capital project.

I am happy with this new location and space and think it a fitting way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. It will also mark 130 years of the Adler family’s presence in and impact on the City of New York and beyond. In addition to the practical advantages of the location, great transportation, an exciting neighborhood coming into prominence as a cultural hub, and more space, it also brings us closer to where it all began, downtown Manhattan, and invites a reevaluation and presentation of our work, mission, programs, projects that will breed creativity and inspire support.

Lately, on the cusp of this move and our 70th anniversary, I’ve been thinking a great deal about Stella. The more I think about her the more I appreciate what she tried to bring to the world. Her life was devoted not just to pumping out working actors; it was a life devoted to depth and meaning in the face of a society committed to the superficial. I’ve been observing the wonderful teachers who carry on her work while at the same time watching vintage videos of Stella teaching. What I hear through them is a Cassandra of our time warning us against our own worst instincts – greed, love of money, celebrity culture, life styles of the rich and famous – and guiding us toward rigor, intelligence, heart, imagination and human potential. I have devoted my life to concretizing Stella’s cry for depth. I’d like to celebrate that effort, by renaming the Stella Adler Studio of Acting the Stella Adler Center for the Arts. Actor training will continue to be known as the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and likewise will remain at the center of the organization’s focus. But given our tremendous growth and reach over the past decades – especially with respect to the work of the Stella Adler Outreach Division, Harold Clurman Lab Theater and Playwrights Division – the nomenclature of an arts center seems more accurate to both the student and audience experience of our work, mission and programs.

Thank you to those who have been involved with and supported this effort to date. A move like this takes the support of the entire community and I am deeply grateful.


Tom Oppenheim
Artistic Director

Election 2016

November 9, 2016

Dear friends,

Since president elect Donald Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, I’ve been inspired to think a great deal about the human impulse to demonize, to view and depict someone as “other”.

As a theater artist at the end of a contentious election season, a possibility opens up – to think about functions of the theater, and about the possibilities of human discourse and interaction in relationship to the theater; to consider the potentials of humanity that the theater might nurture.

For me, as a concerned citizen, and the Artistic Director of the Stella Adler Studio, it’s impossible not to think about our mission. Our mission, based on the insight that growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous, is to create an environment that nurtures theater artists and audiences so that they value humanity, their own and others, as their first priority, while bringing art and education to the community. Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy the part of the mission that speaks most vividly to me is “their own and others.” In that simple phrase I hear and engage a prayer, perhaps the primordial prayer of all theater artists: how can I/we help; how can I/we serve? May this play be a bridge, may we embrace the other.

As members of the Stella Adler Studio community, as members of the theater community, as members of the family of women, of men, let us dedicate ourselves to nurturing humanity, our own and others, with ever renewed passion.



The Healing Project

December 3, 2015

Since January 2014, the Stella Adler Outreach Division has provided free training and classes to people incarcerated at Rikers Island Correctional Facility. I have seen a number of different projects rehearse and unfold, and recently had the pleasure of observing our most recent work. The Healing Project was presented on Wednesday, November 18 and I wanted to share some of the experience as I found it deeply gratifying.

I found myself with a mixture of emotions on the eve of the performance: gratitude on the one hand; aching hope on the other. I felt grateful first of all to the magnificent women, all 15 of them, who participated in the Healing Project, for their generosity, courage and willingness to faithfully make theater with us, theater to heal. I felt grateful to Joanne Edelmann for her leadership and deep love for and dedication to her students; grateful to Calaine Schafer for her boundless generosity, enormous talent and endless playfulness; grateful to Tommy Demenkoff without whom we wouldn’t be at Rikers. Tommy’s courage and wisdom have made a lifetime of dreams come true. And grateful to Suzy PetchEam whose love for our students whether they’re at Rikers, Phoenix House, a South Bronx Middle School, or the Stella Adler Studio’s home base in Manhattan is deep and true. The love each of these teachers and brave actor warriors have for our students reminds me of Shakespeare’s Juliet when she says, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, / My love as deep. The more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” Finally I felt grateful to Commissioner Joseph Ponte, for his vision and healing efforts to exercise humanity at Rikers, to Deputy Commissioner Winette Saunders for her endless appetite to make a better world, and to the wonderful Corrections Officers we encounter on a daily basis, Officer Boyd, Perez, Gonzalez and Williams.

So gratitude was a big part of what I felt during the last days of rehearsal. But I also felt a hope that aches inside of me in a way I need to ache. My hope is that the glorious women we worked with will see themselves as I see them–as truly glorious–and by seeing themselves that way, will heal. I’ve told them that they are glorious. Joanne and Calaine have told them, as have Tommy and Suzy. Beyond telling them, we’ve given them the opportunity to experience their own magnificence, their beauty, their own eternal and god given validity as human beings. And yet I know–as I’ve told the women myself–how difficult it is to fully and totally internalize the affirmation of self that theater affords its practitioners. As an ever grateful recovering drug addict, I know how difficult it is to turn your life around, become whole and heal. But that’s why we bring theater to Rikers. Not to discover the next generation of American actors but to empower worthy women with voice, with self-worth, with a clear and accurate understanding of who they are so they can take possession of their lives and live fully.

The Healing Project, the title for the piece, came from a conversation that spontaneously emerged between the staff and faculty in response to the massacre at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC on July 18, 2015. We felt helpless and hopeless as the news came out about the shooting and we wondered what we as an arts organization might contribute to a world replete with so much violence and hatred. We were deeply inspired by the incredible faith and capacity for forgiveness of the parishioners of Emmanuel A.M.E. when they confronted Dylann Storm Roof, the perpetrator of the crime. Tommy Demenkoff and I discussed how we might at another time end up serving someone like Dylann with acting training and how complicated these issues truly are. We began discussing the capacity of the arts to engender deep human understanding and forgiveness. Tommy and Suzy came back to the Stella Adler Studio that fall with the concept of devoting the work of the Stella Adler Outreach Division in 2015-2016 to the work and spirit of healing, hence the Healing Project.

For me, this most recent experience had the effect of engendering healing, not only for the participants, but for us all. I hope my effort to describe this experience and the efforts of the brave participating women engender some healing and understanding for you too.



January 12, 2015

Dear friends,

Since September the Stella Adler Outreach Division has been working with a group of women at Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers Island Correctional Center. On December 3, 2014 we saw “Our Circle” the culminating performance of the project. What an amazing and impactful experience we all had. I’m still aglow with the love generated not only by the women who performed so gallantly and beautifully, but also by the deeply diverse and wonderfully engaged community that collected around them. I write this note to the whole community in an effort to affirm the event and the community. I write in the hope that we who came together can stay together, that we can do what we did again and again, and that by doing so, we can make a palpable contribution to a troubled world in desperate need of the very medicine that was produced in such large dosages this week.

The substance of that medicine was love. The substance of that love was communication, respect, reverence and an unflagging belief in humanity. The vessel for that communication, respect, reverence and humanity was the great art of theater. Theater feeds on humanity the way flowers feed on earth, sun and water. It craves, needs, and grows by way of humanity. It in turn produces the conditions for growing humanity. That’s why it belongs in jails and prisons. That’s why it belongs in low income neighborhoods and schools. Like great religions, theater has redemptive power to uplift. Like great religions, theater produces and nurtures community.

The community that gathered at Rikers was so diverse, so inclusive, so representative: women inmate performers, women inmate audience members, NYU fourth year students from the Stella Adler Studio, administrators from Rikers, faculty members and administrators of the Stella Adler Studio, board members of the Stella Adler Studio, Corrections Officers, friends  and colleagues from the theater, a reporter from the AP, a widely and wildly diverse group of people. I emphasize the diversity because as different as we were at the beginning of the performance we all came together as one by the end. Theater levels, bridges, brings people together. I personally feel transformed by the experience; feel closer to my students at Rikers but also closer to my own students and administrators who were there, just because they were there. I also feel closer to the administrators’ of Rikers who I think of not only as important partners but good colleagues and friends. And speaking of friends, I feel like I made a bunch of new friends who are not only friends but sisters and brothers in arms in the important work of uplifting humanity. I wish more of you could have been a part of it with us.

Given all of the above I’m inclined to propose that we all think of what happened on December 3rd at Rikers not as a one-time event but as a wonderful beginning which lays the tracks for a social movement that values humanity more than anything (or at least an important part of such a social movement). Let’s all join arms, widen Our Circle and continue the work. For our part, that is, from the point of view of the Stella Adler Studio, I can promise,  is that , we will go back to Rikers and broaden our work. While we reach out to more women, we will reach out to work with the men too. And while we do that we will go upstate and expand our work to include prisons . I would love the opportunity to work with the administrators to discuss ways for theater to play perhaps a deeper role in the process of rehabilitation. . Let’s make Rikers a model to the nation in terms of integrating the arts as a means to open up the minds and hearts of inmates.

Meanwhile what thoughts do you have? How would you like to participate in this work? How can we keep creating meaning and making deeper connections? Please reach out and share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you, I look forward to our future work and I look forward to making a meaningful, positive difference together.


Tom Oppenheim

Combining the Art and Biz of Acting

July 1, 2011

(This article was published as an editorial in Backstage on April 28, 2011)

 In his Business of Acting column “Turning Pro” (April 7), Jeff B. Cohen puts forth some important tips for young actors on how to transition from being a student of acting to being a professional actor. He draws attention to a truism: The art of acting and the business of acting are often at odds; in order to get work, or even agent representation, one must learn to “sell oneself”—that is, represent oneself as a business. This includes understanding one’s type and how one is seen by agents, casting directors, and producers. Actors must also, in Mr. Cohen’s words, “constantly push, market, schmooze, cajole, and fight to be noticed.” All this is undeniably true and covered in any responsible actor training program’s “business of the business” class, usually in the final year of training.

However, in my opinion, Mr. Cohen overstates his argument when he claims: “Acting classes are great at teaching you how to succeed in the ‘show’ of showbiz. But much of what they teach does not help with, or in some cases actually hinders, an actor’s success in the ‘biz’ part.” Such a position sets up a false choice for a young actor. It implies, “I can either be an artist who doesn’t work or a salesman who does.” It thereby encourages young actors to sacrifice the cultivation of themselves as actors and human beings for the sake of commercial success.

This in no way corresponds to anything that I have experienced in my 16 years as the artistic director of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York and the Art of Acting Studio in Los Angeles, or the lifetime I spent before that in and around the business. I’ve never once heard an agent or casting director complain, “This actor is far too sensitized, open, and artistically enlivened. He should study less Stanislavsky and read more Variety.” In fact, I hear the opposite. Agents, casting directors, and producers want what the public wants, craves, and needs—that is, human beings. Actors are human beings who train themselves to reflect for humanity what it means to be human. Actors therefore serve a vital role in our society and in civilization as a whole.

I sense sincerity in Mr. Cohen’s article and in Back Stage’s decision to publish it. However, his fear that actors will be confused by Stella Adler’s statement that “One way to enliven the imagination is to push it toward the illogical,” or that Lee Strasberg’s observation that “Acting is the most personal of our crafts” will in any way hinder young actors’ ability to make lives for themselves in the business, is not only misplaced but a complete misunderstanding of what actors are and what they need. Actors are smart; they are capable of distinguishing the difference between inspirational teaching and their marketing of themselves. Furthermore, an actor’s artistic impulse—often cultivated and nurtured by a strong teacher or school—provides the fuel that propels him or her to work, which attracts agents, casting directors, producers, and, ultimately, audiences.

So if you are a young actor and have taken steps to arm yourself with the techniques and artistic principals of Stella, Strasberg, or Stanislavsky, and if after reading Jeff Cohen’s article you become doubtful of the value of your training, I say, by all means “schmooze, cajole, fight to be noticed,” but never forget who you are. You are actors!!! As Hamlet says, actors are “the abstract and brief chronicles of the time.” Never forget what you are fighting for: the edification and uplifting of humanity. Never forget the means by which this is accomplished: in the words of Hamlet, “to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

The Power of Art

January 20, 2010

Over the past ten years I have devoted myself to bringing free actor-training to inner-city youth. In that decade I have experienced clearly and conclusively, that theater can have an impact on a young life that goes way beyond the craft of acting. I have seen it over and again: the veritable transformation of lives, the cultivation of self-respect, of confidence, of coming into oneself, one’s voice, one’s life. I would like to share one example emblematic of countless others.

Darnell P. was a young man of sixteen when he joined our after-school program, though he wasn’t in school at the time. Three years before he came to us, his mother placed him in a foster home because she found out that he was gay. Darnell dropped out of school, dropped out of life, changed his name to Peaches and engaged in self-destructive behavior. He ended up living in a homeless shelter.

Darnell’s first year in our after-school program was difficult for him and his faculty though he had a spark, as so many of these young people do. Despite the missed classes, flare ups, despite the tough persona, the mask of the street kid, we stuck with Darnell and he with us. The year ended with a project in which he performed and that spark we saw seemed particularly bright as he left us for the long swelter of a summer in New York City, a difficult environment for any young person regardless of social economic background. We were especially encouraged by what Darrell’s guardian said after his final performance. “This is the first time Darnell has ever finished anything.”

“I don’t go by Peaches anymore,” were the words with which Darnell greeted us upon returning for a second year the following fall. We further learned that Darnell had taken his high school equivalency over the summer and enrolled himself in Manhattan Community College. Darnell still wrestled with his demons (who doesn’t?) but the transformative positive effect of actor training was gloriously present in him.

What is it about actor training that has such a life affirming effect on young people? The answers are numerous. Here are a few. Acting, particularly in the beginning, requires a robust confrontation with one’s habitual self. An all important gap emerges between the self one invents to survive in the world, often a mere caricature of a deeper, free and empowered self. Acting also demands the exercising of the inherent choice-making muscle that exists in all of us. Further, theater, an ensemble art-form, demands that people understand, respect, and make room for one another. Finally, theater gives young people a standard to reach for and fosters responsibility. All of this is true for any youth regardless of socio-economic background. However, it has particular relevance for youth from the inner-city who suffer abominable educational conditions.

Darnell is now is his third year of training. He has become a leader in the group, making daring artistic choices and cheering on his peers. He is articulate about his personal development and recently said that while he arrived at the Studio a depressed teen without direction, he has grown into a man who is connected to his feelings and inner strength. He has his own apartment, a part-time job, and is about to receive his Associate’s degree. When he is ready, he has an offer for a full scholarship to one of our Conservatory training programs. His journey has just begun and his light shines brighter than ever.