Milton Katselas, Tony-Nominated Director Who Taught Acting, Dead at 75

Obituaries   Milton Katselas, Tony-Nominated Director Who Taught Acting, Dead at 75
Tony Award nominee Milton Katselas, a respected director, acting teacher, author, painter and founder of the Beverly Hills Playhouse acting school, died Oct. 24 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 75.
Milton Katselas
Milton Katselas

Mr. Katselas' career as a director began in the 1960s with the original Off-Broadway production of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, and he was nominated for a 1970 Tony Award for his direction of Butterflies Are Free. Katselas directed over 60 plays, as well as several feature films, including the film version of "Butterflies Are Free," as well as "Report to the Commissioner," "40 Carats," "When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?," "Rules of Marriage" and "Strangers: Story of a Mother and Daughter" starring Bette Davis.

He directed the famous 1983 Broadway production of Private Lives starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as Broadway productions of Camino Real, The Rose Tattoo, On an Open Road and The Garden of Sweets. His one Broadway acting credit, according to Internet Broadway Database, was the 1955 production of Jean Anouilh's The Lark starring Julie Harris. He played the roles of A Monk/Soldier.

Off-Broadway, he also directed Call Me By My Rightful Name, Come to the Palace of Sin and a play he wrote, Jockeys.

Under his direction Blythe Danner won a Tony Award, Eileen Heckart an Academy Award, and Bette Davis her only Emmy Award. Mr. Katselas directed such actors as Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Goldie Hawn, Christopher Walken, Burt Reynolds, George C. Scott, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, among others.

As a teacher, his students included Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Kate Hudson, Kim Cattrall, Anne Archer, Kyle Chandler, James Cromwell, Tyne Daly, Jenna Elfman, Miguel Ferrer, Penny Fuller, Jorge Garcia, John Glover, Beth Grant, Michael Pena, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kelly Preston, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Urich, Jeffrey Tambor, Tom Selleck, Patrick Swayze and more. Mr. Katselas was raised in Pittsburgh by Greek emigrant parents. He ran his father's movie house and soaked in not only movie storytelling but also — in the building's billiards room — human behavior.

He attended Carnegie Mellon, and shortly after graduating, began his studies in New York with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. He was also mentored by such stage and film directors as Elia Kazan and Joshua Logan. He developed his own teaching and directing techniques around these masters.

By the time he was 25, Mr. Katselas started teaching in New York City. He founded the acting school Beverly Hills Playhouse in California in 1978, and classes continue today in two different theatre locations in Los Angeles. He was a teacher until the time of his death.

Mr. Katselas also founded Camelot Artists Theatre Company, an Equity waiver troupe that spun off from the Beverly Hills Playhouse. (Some Camelot productions had their roots in scene study at BHP.) Both the school and the Equity waiver arm will continue, colleagues told

Mr. Katselas authored two books, including The New York Times best-selling "Dreams Into Action: Getting What You Want." His book "Acting Class: Take A Seat," for decades the text used by the thousands of students who passed through his school, was just released this month by Phoenix Books and Audio. For the book, such actors as Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, Doris Doberts, Alec Baldwin, Chris Noth, Tony Danza and Blythe Danner offered their testimonials about Mr. Katselas' talent.

As a visual artist, Mr. Katselas had several major one-man exhibitions in Los Angeles over the last 20 years, most recently in summer 2008. In 1999 he was invited to participate in a New York exhibition — "le petits formats" at the Yoshii Gallery — that focused on the smaller works of some of the 20th century's greatest artists, including Picasso, Miro, Warhol, Matisse and others. In 2000 he had an exhibition of his works on paper in both Tokyo and Los Angeles. And, in 2001 he had his first one-man exhibition in Paris, France: "Peintures & Sculptures." His works are included in many distinguished private collections around the world.

He is survived by his brothers Tasso and Chris, his sister Sophia, and by countless students past and present.

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