‘Grey Gardens’ Actor Credits the Program for Sparking his Love of Classical Theatre
“I showed up there as a kid who was initially kind of shy, and I very quickly felt like I had found my tribe.”
That’s how acclaimed actor Arye Gross (Grey Gardens/HBO) describes his time at the Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW) at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
It was the summers of 1974 and 1975 when a young Gross rode his bicycle every day from West Los Angeles to Northridge and back, just to attend what he calls the “super engaging” Workshop. “I can still feel the ache of my
cold ears in the morning,” he says.
His time at TADW included roles in a 1975 production of “The Frog Princess”—appearing with the late Wendie Jo Sperber—and in a 1974 production of “The Man in the Moon”.
Looking back, he sees that it was at TADW where his love of classical theatre took hold.
(Pictured: Arye Gross (left) and fellow student Victor Warren (aka Victor Stein) as “Pip & Pim” in a 1974 Teenage Drama Workshop production of “The Man in the Moon.”)
It was the late Maryellen Clemons, the beloved CSUN theatre professor and longtime TADW instructor, who introduced a young Arye Gross to the work of William Shakespeare.
“I had heard of Shakespeare when I started at the Teenage Drama Workshop, but I’d also heard of the atom bomb, and I had kind of an equal understanding of both of them,” Gross said. Clemons soon tested Gross and his fellow classmates, assigning them to read the “Seven Ages of Man” speech from As You Like It and to then perform it with no text or speaking, only
“As a 13-year-old kid, just out of junior high, you don’t want anyone to know you have a thought different from anyone else’s, and then there’s this teacher, who was totally intimidating yet completely enthralling, telling you to act out what it means to be an infant ‘mewling and puking’ in your nurse’s arms,” Gross said. “It was a powerful and engaging thing to
Today, Gross shares his love of Shakespeare with students at Cleveland High School’s Humanities Magnet through his affiliation with The Antaeus Company in North Hollywood, where he serves as Associate Artistic Director.
“As an adult and a professional actor and an artist, I find the things I experienced and was exposed to at the Teenage Drama Workshop do continue to resonate with me and are germane to the craft,” Gross said.
He says many of the exercises from TADW continue to serve him well. In particular, he recalls one teacher who had students listen to classical music and let their minds drift. The class would then share what they visualized.
“One got the sense that there was creative energy all around us and that our ideas and our creative impulses are not peculiar, but part of an unspoken thing shared with our fellow human beings,” Gross said. “That is a great thing for an actor to know—that their impulses will resonate with persons outside themselves.”
Gross also said TADW helped him improve academically. “In elementary and junior high school, I was an extremely poor student, but after TADW something changed in how I performed in high school academically,” he said. “It left me firing on all burners and I was able to see the reward.”
Gross says he still hears from his fellow TADW students. “It was a source of many lifelong friendships,” he adds.
In addition to his many appearances on television shows like “Ghost Whisperer,” “CSI” NY,” “Medium” and “The Riches,” Gross can be seen as Albert Maysles in the acclaimed HBO film “Grey Gardens”. Additionally, he recently finished the world premiere of “Our Mother’s Brief Affair” at the South Coast Repertory. At present, he is developing the first full season for The Antaeus Company.
CSUN's Teenage Drama Workshop is now in its 52nd summer, with productions of "The Wiz" and "Pinocchio" opening this month. For tickets or information, visit http://www.csun.edu/tadw.