Actors Studio

Tucked away on 52nd Street, and later at 432 West 44th Street in New York, The Actors Studio served as a sanctuary for artists who were passionate about honing their craft. Established in 1947 by stalwarts like Cheryl Crawford, Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, and Robert Lewis, the space wasn’t a theatre nor a school in the conventional sense. It was an exclusive workgroup—a lab of sorts for actors to evolve free from commercial pressures. Lee Strasberg assumed the role of the art director in 1951, and under his guidance, the studio developed a unique training technique known as The Method.

Sessions were held twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday. Actors had the floor to present a scene and articulate their interpretive choices. The collective—peers and even spectators—then offered their insights, criticisms, or praises. Strasberg often had the final word, tying together the conversations that ensued. The Method leaned heavily on psychoanalysis, aiming for emotional realism and depth in acting. This exclusive sanctuary of dramatic arts lured many aspiring actors up until the 1970s, including notable names such as Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Anne Bancroft.

Marilyn joined this revered group in 1955. Attending these sessions was a marked change from the private lessons that Lee Strasberg gave in his apartment. Dressed inconspicuously in simple blouses and trousers, usually covering her hair and devoid of makeup, Marilyn sat quietly at the back of the room, occasionally jotting down notes. From 1955, Marilyn balanced her days between sessions at The Actors Studio and her psychoanalyst appointments.

After her death, The Actors Studio initiated a Marilyn Monroe campaign, aiming to raise funds. The campaign succeeded in gathering a minimum contribution of $2,500 from about a hundred members. The funds went towards establishing a studio and a rehearsal room in Los Angeles, as well as a study grant aimed at young, rising talent. As an enduring tribute, the Marilyn Monroe Theatre was established at the Strasberg Institute.

Marilyn’s association with The Actors Studio exemplifies the deep-seated commitment she had towards mastering her craft. Even as one of the world’s biggest stars, she subjected herself to the rigorous, egalitarian ethos of The Studio. While she was never made an official member, her influence endures, both through her iconic roles and through the establishment that nurtured her unparalleled talent.