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Old Lot Gets a New Face

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The American Academy of Dramatic Arts West finally has a place to call home. From its temporary location in the Pasadena Playhouse, the Academy recently moved into the gleaming white hallways of a renovated building on the old Charlie Chaplin lot on La Brea. Along with this new central Hollywood campus comes the baptism of new Academy president, the former principal of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Roger Croucher.

The opening was formally announced with a star-dotted ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 17, complete with performances by students, a speech by Tony Award winner Susan Egan (Beauty and the Beast), and a surprise visit by Kermit the Frog.

Purchased from Universal Seagram for $6,250,000, the new campus boasts eight buildings, including a large main building with 12 studios, administration offices, and sizeable prop and costume departments. Other buildings house two sprung-floor, mirrored dance studios, a voice performance studio, and a library for the actor.

According to Marguerite Artura, president of the West Coast campus, the plan is to develop the remaining two buildings into performance spaces, one a 99-Seat theatre and the other a theatre with seating for up to 200 people. The Academy is currently mounting a fundraising campaign to have the theatres renovated to the tune of $2 million dollars by the Ratkovich Company, the same developer that completed the other campus buildings.

Opened in 1974 to serve as the West Coast counterpart to the Academy's New York City school, the Academy had leased a space from the Pasadena Unified School District for the past 17 years. "The Pasadena Unified School District took the site back when they started downsizing classes," said Artura, "They needed more room, and they did not renew our lease." The Academy then found a temporary home at the Pasadena Playhouse, where it held classes until a new space was found and completed. Classes begin at the new Hollywood facility on July 17, 2001.

New president Croucher began his position in June and was on hand for the ribbon-cutting festivities last week. Croucher, who will be dividing his time between the schools on both coasts, has already implemented a new computer system with e-mail in both schools, and spent time building up the website, www.aada.org.

In addition to his 16-year position at LAMDA, Croucher was, until recently, professor of theatre arts and director of the theatre arts division at Boston University. At the Academy, Croucher filled a position originally vacated in 1998, when George Cunningham, former Academy president for 26 years, retired.

Founded in 1884, the Academy has been the training grounds for such actors as Kirk Douglas, Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, and Danny DeVito.

Summing up the school's philosophy, Croucher said, "We aim to give actors a way to work that they can rely on for the rest of their lives: a grounding in reality, a developed imagination, and, above all, a confidence and certainty that they're working in the right way."

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