The London branch of New York's Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, which had operated since 1988 from back rooms in a Holborn community center, closed May 28 and is now in liquidation. Instructions to shut down the London operation were received by telephone from New York on May 27.
The official reason for the sudden closure, according to London administrator Kay Potter, was that "the school wasn't big enough to sustain itself." Though admitting the school was running at a loss, Potter claims that debts were small and that the situation "wasn't desperate."
Apart from Potter and an accountant, the school also employed seven freelance teachers including London-based New York actor Mariana Hill, featured in "The Godfather, Part II," and Don Fellows, character actor of many British films and television episodes.
Sixty students, many from the U.S., have been told by staff that, despite severance from the Strasberg Institute, tuition using the Strasberg technique will continue until the end of July. Classes will recommence in September, possibly in a vacant theatre, under the banner of The Method Studio London. Investigations indicate that Strasberg Institute artistic director, Anna Strasberg, failed to trademark the word "method" in the UK.
Married to Lee Strasberg from 1968 to his death in 1982, the former Anna Mizrahi founded the London school, primarily for New York students, in a church hall in Waterloo in 1987. It moved the following year to Holborn's Conway Hall, a noted meeting place for free thinkers.
Potter says that facilities at the 1929 building were "not ideal" and that she joined as administrator in 1990 on the understanding that new premises, allowing more students to enroll, would be sought. This never happened.
"We were expected to be self-sufficient, but weren't able to be," added Potter. "When students came from New York, they paid there and their fees were not transferred to us." Potter said that, prior to closure, she had requested a "four figure sum" from New York.
Potter praised the staff at Conway Hall, who have allowed rooms to be used rent free until the end of July, and the teachers, who are working without payment during the period. "They were concerned that students shouldn't be left high and dry," she explained. "Officially overseas, students shouldn't be here if they're not attached to a school."
Fund raising for the new Method Studio is in progress. "It's quite exciting really," admitted Potter. "The teachers have a lot of new ideas and now we'll be able to go ahead with no restrictions from