Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Dramatic Workshop

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Dramatic Workshop was the name of a drama and acting school associated with the New School for Social Research in New York City. It was launched in 1940 by German expatriate stage director Erwin Piscator. Among the faculty were Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, among the students Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Tennessee Williams and Elaine Stritch. The Dramatic Workshop that was separated from The New School in 1949 considerably contributed to the resurgence of the Off-Broadway theatre.



In the spring of 1939, Alvin Johnson, the president of the New School for Social Research in New York City, signed an agreement with German expatriate stage director Erwin Piscator to found a drama and acting school at The New School. The “Dramatic Workshop” started its operations in January 1940 with some 20 students. In September 1940 the Workshop began to launch semi-professional theatre productions within the “Studio Theatre” (i.e. the Tishman Auditorium) at 66 West 12th Street. In 1944 the Dramatic Workshop began to hold annual summer theatres at summer resort towns such as Sayville and Lake Placid.

After the end of World War II, the G. I. Bill led to a massive student increase at the Dramatic Workshop, "momentarily making it one of the largest dramatic schools in the country." Since the Studio Theatre had to be closed in 1944, Piscator successively started to transfer the student productions to the “President Theatre” at 247 West 48th Street and the “Rooftop Theatre” at 111 East Houston Street in 1946. In June 1949 the Workshop was separated from The New School.

With Erwin Piscator's return to West-Germany in October 1951 his wife Maria Ley-Piscator took over the school's management. In later years, Ley-Piscator sold the school to the film and theatre agent Saul C. Colin who sustained the “Senior Dramatic Workshop” until his early death in 1967.

Among the students of the Dramatic Workshop were Bea Arthur, Harry Belafonte, Alicia Bibiloni, Gene Saks, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Jack Garfein, Walter Matthau, Judith Malina, Deirdre O'Connell, Rod Steiger, Elaine Stritch, Jack Creley and Tennessee Williams. The Dramatic Workshop's faculty with instructors such as Stella Adler, Theresa Helburn, and Lee Strasberg taught different acting approaches such as Stanislavski's “method acting” and Piscator's “objective acting”. Among other theatre schools and companies, the Dramatic Workshop played a vital role in paving the way for Off-Broadway theatre.

Encouraged through a successful Piscator Symposium at the New School for Social Research in 1987, since that year, "the New School has regularly offered 'Dramatic Workshop Two,' often taught by Judith Malina, Piscator's student and co-founder of the Living Theatre". The workshop series was later discontinued.

Productions (selection)

  • March 10, 1940 – Saint Joan (author: George Bernard Shaw; Belasco Theatre, Washington)
  • March 11, 1942 – Nathan the Wise (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing; Studio Theatre und Belasco Theatre, New York)
  • May 20, 1942 – War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, adaptation by Alfred Neumann and Erwin Piscator; Studio Theatre)
  • November 28, 1942 – Winter Soldiers (Dan James; Studio Theatre)
  • September 4, 1944 – The Last Stop (Irving Kaye Davis; Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York)
  • April 17, 1947 – The Flies (Jean-Paul Sartre; President Theatre, New York)
  • Januar 17, 1948 – All the King's Men (Robert Penn Warren; President Theatre)
  • March 1, 1949 – Outside the Door (Wolfgang Borchert; President Theatre)
  • September 16, 1949 - The Burning Bush (Géza Herczeg, Heinz Herald; Rooftop Theatre, New York)
  • Literature

  • Thomas George Evans: Piscator in the American Theatre. New York, 1939–1951. Ann Arbor: University of Wisconsin Press 1968.
  • Maria Ley-Piscator: The Piscator Experiment. The Political Theatre. New York: James H. Heineman 1967 (= ³1979).
  • Judith Malina: The Piscator Notebook. London: Routledge Chapman & Hall 2012. ISBN 0-415-60073-1.
  • Gerhard F. Probst: Erwin Piscator and the American Theatre. New York, San Francisco, Berne etc.: Peter Lang 1991.
  • Peter M. Rutkoff: Politics on Stage. Piscator and the Dramatic Workshop. In: Peter M. Rutkoff, William B. Scott: New School: a History of the New School for Social Research. New York: Macmillan 1986, pp. 172–195.
  • Ilka Saal: Broadway and The Depoliticization of Epic Theatre: The Case of Erwin Piscator. In: J. Chris Westgate (ed.): Brecht. Broadway and United States Theatre. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars 2007, pp. 45–71.
  • John Willett: Erwin Piscator: New York and the Dramatic Workshop 1939–1951. Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 2, No.3 (1978), pp. 3–16.
  • References

    Dramatic Workshop Wikipedia