chapter  1
6 Pages

October 1954

For more than twenty-five years Maria Ouspenskaya was part of the American theater. To her school in New York, and later in Hollywood, came those students who desired to learn acting. They found much more: they learned how to develop themselves for any of the arts. Many are now actors; some sculptors, writers, painters, designers, puppeteers; theater managers, teachers, technicians and producers for stage, radio, television and films. Former students often say “she taught me so much about living,” and “it was Ouspenskaya who taught me how to create.” Madame Ouspenskaya closed her own school in 1942; visitors were

never permitted in the classes. It took time to absorb her training and be able to use it. On meeting her, people often asked, “What is your system for acting?” I have heard her reply: “I do not call it a system – but it takes me two years to teach my students. How can I tell you in five minutes?” We allowed class visitors with her reluctant permission, when she was teaching for the American Repertory Theater; they usually jotted down a few sentences and the basis of the teaching was completely overlooked. With her usual good humor, Ouspenskaya would say: “Well, I wonder how much they would understand from one class lecture with Professor Einstein?” There seem to be as many different ideas of what Stanislavsky and

Ouspenskaya were teaching as there are people who are certain that they alone know. The idea of sincerity in acting as accepted by Americans in the amateur and college theater makes everything so easy – anyone can do it. But Ouspenskaya put it this way: “Sincerity may be all right if you want to do your acting in a shoe box, but in my classes you are learning what is necessary for the professional stage.” While the Ouspenskaya acting classes were working on specific

problems, notes were made of her personal comments. It seems only fair

died in 1949 at These “Notes” were compiled by Miss Harriett Pratt, one of Madame

Ouspenskaya’s assistants. Financial assistance in publication has been given by Mr. Hilmar Sallee, Director.