Oct 27, 2008

Milton Katselas, 1933-2008

One of the best and most controversial acting coaches of our time apparently died last week. Oddly, I can find no news source that reports it...except Wikipedia.

I never met the man over my years in L.A., but I knew and watched countless people who worked with him; Back Stage West gave a mixed review to his book Dreams Into Action. And yes, I heard the persistent rumors about his connections to Scientology, and his alleged recruiting through the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Last year's NY Times magazine piece didn't exactly lay those stories to rest, but it helped put Katselas in context better than any piece I've read. I happily frequented the bookstore he opened on Vermont Ave. in Los Feliz (and, now that I think of it, I did a book event there during my last days in L.A.).

Among the many plays he also directed over the years, I think the only I saw was his fine Seagull at the Matrix, which was double-cast but in which I remember with relish Anna Gunn, Alastair Duncan, Robert Foxworth, Sharon Lawrence, Charlie Hallahan, and, yes, Richard Kind. A quote from Chekhov's short story Enemies will, I hope, absolve me from further expressions of grief, which I'm poorly qualified to make anyway:

Silence accompanies the most significant expressions of happiness and unhappiness: those in love understand one another best when silent, while the most heated and impassioned speech at a graveside touches only outsiders, but seems cold and inconsequential to the widow and children of the deceased.

I do know he will be dearly missed.

UPDATE: A few proper obits.

(Photo by Todd Hido.)


mkunert said...

I found your site while searching for news of Milton's death.

fyi, I attended his Sat. Master class for many years. Milton was a brilliant, egotistical teacher who cajoled, inspired, and bullied his students into being better actors.

For all the accusations that I've seen thrown at Milton over the years, there is one that I personally NEVER witnessed. I never once saw him recruit for or promote Scientology. He used scientology methods and terminology, but always without referencing from where they came. I'm not a Scientologist, and I never - in all the classes I attended - had that religion brought up to me.

As much of a blow-heart and egoist he was, Milton taught me more about the craft of directing actors than anybody else.

May he rest in peace.

danielmcvicar said...

Milton was my teacher, and will inspire me and so many in this and following generations. I rank him with Adler, Strasberg, and well, I am trying to think of others. Let's just leave it with Milton. Onward and upward, I was blessed to be your student.

John Mullican said...

I studied with Milton Katselas for years. He was a gifted teacher, but ultimately I left because when my partner at the time was diagnosed HIV+, I was offerred on several occasions Scientology books, workshops, and private sessions to "help me." Never directly through him, but through his management. It was heartbreaking. I left and never returned.

Juliet Wittman said...

I studied with Milton in New York in the sixties, and though I'm a writer and theatre critic in Denver now rather than an actor, his teaching has stayed with me. I still remember so many of his comments and axioms, and I still use the exercises he taught. He had tremendous vitality and passion.

MIlton did invite me to a scientology session at one point--without saying exactly what it was--and I found it troubling. Flat and simplistic. Later, I told him I preferred a little mystery with my religion, and he responded that with scientology you could have as much or as little mystery as you wanted. I found that comment so ridiculous that I lost quite a bit of my respect for him.

adelelangdon.com said...

I studied with Milton on and off for nine years. He taught me more about myself than anyone else I have ever known. He was a master at getting to an actors problem very quickly. Although I am not doing as much acting anymore, I remember and quote him in my everyday life all the time. He will be missed greatly and always be an original! P.S Never tried to recuit me into Scientology although we all knew he was a Scientologist. Farewell Milton! Adele langdon

St. Amour Cookies / FrenchCookies said...

I never admired anyone but I must say that I admired his Art and his uncanny sense of personality diagnosis. Impressive