Olympia Dukakis Leads 3-Day Acting Workshop at Living Theatre, 10/6-8

Academy Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis led eleven actors through a 3-day scene study and monologue class inside Judith Malina's Living Theater in a basement on Clinton Street over the Columbus holiday weekend.

"An actor cannot afford to be ashamed of anything," said Dukakis to the eager group of thespians who fawned over the celebrity during the 21 hour intensive. "All of us are survivors much like the characters we play. But don't play an objective before finding out what's happening moment to moment."

Among the local New York actors who performed in the workshop was actress Juliette Fairley who starred in the broadway solo show Mulatto Saga at the Payan Theatre in Manhattan.

"It was outstanding to have my acting talent and ability validated by the one and only Olympia Dukakis," said Fairley who is currently playing the role of Mrs. Blackman in the episodic Colors of Love directed by Spike Lee's protégé Michael Pinckney.

Growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts, Dukakis revealed to her forgiving students that by 12 years old she was carrying a knife when walking the streets in the 1940s. 

"That has to do with my character and my aggressiveness. I'm comfortable there," said Dukakis who will star as Grace in the Morris Panych-directed Vigil at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles next month. The descendant of Greek immigrants is also scheduled to perform her solo show Rose at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. Most recently, the petite blond grandmother played a guest starring role on NBC's Law & Order: SVU.

"Theater is about dealing with our humanity or inhumanity. What's spiritual about acting is that it gives you the evolving aspect of life," Dukakis told her admiring students.

Foreign actors flew in from as far away as Boston and Spain Basque country to learn with Dukakis who won the Oscar in 1988 for her role in Moonstruck.

"There are great actors who cannot teach. Olympia Dukakis is a great actress who can teach," said Iker Ortiz de Zarate, an actor and founder of the Ortzai School of Dramatic Arts in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain. "She has given me a new technique using multiple chairs to transition from one emotion to the next during the rehearsal of a scene."

In the chair exercise, Dukakis encouraged students to switch seats to identify emotional transitions in the character and text. Class concluded in a Q & A with Dukakis and theatre doyenne Malina.

Olympia Dukakis teaching class on Saturday October 8, 2011: https://www.youtube.com/embed/cjq7uzfbkhE

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