The Tempest at The American Theatre Wing

As a child I studied acting at the American Theatre Wing on the upper west side of Manhattan, an organization best known for creating and awarding “The Tony’s”. At the audition  to get into the school I remember a kind but imposing woman watching me as I recited poetry and moved to the words.That woman was Helen Menkin, director of the Wing, actress, first wife of Humphrey Bogart, and as my teacher someone whose words would influence my approach to my  portrait painting throughout my career.

Our Saturday mornings were filled with body movement , speech , fencing lessons and most predominantly, preparing performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Since we were young children the tragedies were rightly deemed inappropriate.Instead we concentrated on “As you like it” and “The Tempest”.  I remember playing Ariel. 

One day Helen Menkin came to teach our class. She had had a stroke so one side of her face was paralyzed. She taught us how we could express ourselves and act not only through our facial expressions but with our whole body. When I paint a portrait I usually paint the facial features last.So much has already been said about the sitter’s personality through  its posture , pose and body movement.

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