THE BEGINNING OF AN ERA
Theatre of Arts has been in continuous operation since the film actor Ben Bard founded the school in 1930. It was then called Ben Bard Drama and was based at The Playhouse on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
With the advent of sound in 1927, Bard finds himself coaching any number of former silent film actors who respect Bard and also his stage-trained ability to handle dialogue.
1930, Roland gives Bard encouragement & supports him in opening Ben Bard Drama, at a playhouse on Wilshire Blvd & Orange Grove Drive. The school had an attached theatre company that produced stage classics and also West Coast premieres of contemporary American plays. It quickly establishes itself as one of the more successful acting schools in Hollywood, while also producing a mix of classic theater works and contemporary fare. Distinguished graduates of the school included Alan Ladd, Jack Carson, Shirley Temple, Gower Champion, Cliff Robertson and also Gig Young.
A SHIFT IN THE TIDE
THE MAX REINHARDT
In 1938, noted film and stage director Max Reinhardt takes over the operation as Max Reinhardt Theatre Workshop, while simultaneously operating a separate facility on Sunset Blvd.
When Bard was made Head of Talent at Twentieth Century Fox in 1938, he handed the school’s operation over to noted film and stage director Max Reinhardt, who then renamed it Max Reinhardt Theatre Workshop. Some of Reinhardt’s more well known students include: Alan Ladd, Jack Carson, Shirley Temple, Angie Dickinson, and Cliff Robertson.
FIND A HOME
1941, Reinhardt departs and Jack Geller creates the Geller Theatre Workshop. Geller assigns a brilliant Russian expatriate by the name of Michael Chekov in to direct the studio, as it’s main acting teacher. Mr. Chekhov was a student of the legendary Konstantin Stanislavski, who frequently referred to Chekov as a, “radical challenger to [his] own system of modern acting” and “ his most brilliant student.” With Chekhov at the helm, the school became the “go-to” acting school in Hollywood.
The list includes famous celebrities such as: Ingrid Bergman, Lloyd Bridges, Yul Brynner, Gary Cooper, James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Elia Kazan, Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Patricia Neal, Jack Palance, Gregory Peck, Jane Russell, Beatrice Straight, Susan Strassberg, Natalie Wood and more.
A THEATRE OF ARTS
Michael Chekov died in Hollywood in 1955, before his work became widely known. Geller eventually turned the studio over to artist and entrepreneur Madame Valmar Oleska in 1959, who gave the school its current moniker, Theatre of Arts. Oleska would run the school for 41 years, where notable alumni included Frank Bonner, Anthony James, Greg Mullavey, Charlene Tilton, and Vic Tayback.
In January 2000, the school was incorporated within Campus Hollywood, a consortium of performing arts academies which include Theatre of Arts, Musician’s Institute, EI School of Professional Makeup, Los Angeles College of Music, as well as notable guitar manufacturers ESP Guitars, Takamine Guitars, and Schecter Guitars.
Today, Theatre of Arts remains the preeminent actor training program on the West Coast. The two-year program employs a cutting-edge curriculum specially designed for the needs of today’s working actor. Moreover, the faculty of Theatre of Arts is comprised of working professionals, whose current industry expertise affords students top notch training, along with invaluable insight into the constantly evolving entertainment industry.