In 1954, at the tail end of the Korean War, and part way into his psychology degree at The University of Texas, Warren Robertson was drafted into the army. Before he knew what hit him, he found himself on a troop ship headed to the Far East. Even more surprising was what happened next: when the ship docked in Japan, he was hauled ashore in a case of mistaken identity. He was thought to be George Robinson, an All-Star American football player, and the army wanted him to play. And so he spent the next 18 months in fear of being found out, but managing to stay out of active combat by playing football. It was here in Japan, under these most unlikely of circumstances, that an even more unlikely event would occur: Robertson met Marlon Brando. Brando was in Tokyo shooting ‘Sayonara.’ Robertson showed him around town and Brando told Robertson about The Actor’s Studio and this exciting new thing called ‘Method Acting.’
Thus Warren Robertson entered the world of acting. When he got back to the states, he packed his bag and moved to NYC where he began taking classes with Lee Strasberg at The Actor’s Studio. In Robertson’s classes were actors such as Paul Newman, James Dean, Jane Fonda, Peter Falk and Marilyn Monroe. He worked for ten years as an actor on Broadway and in small theatres around New York.
While performing in Sweet Bird of Youth, he and several cast members got together regularly and would perform scenes for one another during the day. It was in this way that Warren realized he had a gift for helping other actors. What started as ten people in his living room grew to twenty people and Warren stopped acting in the scenes and found his calling as a teacher.
It wasn’t long before he opened the Actor’s Repertory Theatre and began training the best and brightest of New York’s actors. His unique ability to merge the internal with the external and help actor’s pursue actions with integrated emotion was producing results and actor’s were getting work. They were winning awards and they were becoming famous.
During this time he also traveled to Holland and gave regular workshops there. Warren’s book Free To Act was published in 1977, and in the 1980’s he was named by the New York Post ‘Acting Teacher of the Decade’ and ‘One of the four most prominent acting coaches in the USA’ by The Yale Theatre Review. In 1984, he was included in Eva Mekler’s book The New Generation of Acting Teachers.
In the early 1990’s, one of Warren’s students, a young man from Québec named Robert Toupin, suggested that he come to Montreal and give a workshop here. Initially with the support of The National Film Board, and later with simple enrollment he began The Warren Robertson Workshop. He continues to come to Montreal for one week out of every month. In 1998, he added Vancouver to his Canadian destination list, and now gives regular workshops there as well.
During his years as Artistic Director of Actor’s Repertory Theatre, Warren became good friends with Stella Adler. The great falling out between Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg is well known to all actors studying the craft. Perhaps it is Warren’s deep understanding of both styles and his belief in the necessity of marrying the two that makes his technique so successful.
In his own words:
The difference between Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler: to me Stella was this marvelously theatrical person who had been born into and was fully involved in the art of acting. She had a tremendous capacity to diagnose a scene and analyze a character and to describe the externals of characterization for an actor. On the other hand, Lee had this incredible perseverance and insight into each individual. He could stimulate and uncover emotions in actors and could free them up from a lot of external pretensions and indicating.
At the time I came into the theatre there was great controversy over which approach was correct. Coming in as an outsider without having been schooled in either, I felt it was a misunderstood conflict that could be concluded by realizing the primacy of both. Interior life, exterior expression, esoteric, exoteric, like religion and science--they are two parts of a whole, they are not opposites to be argued, they are two processing halves to be realized in a balanced union. The unseen, unheard, interior, where energy is processing as impulses, sensations, feelings, emotions and the other, their visual and audible external expression as movement, gestures, speech, physical activity, character behavior and visuably revealed emotional subtext, ie crying, laughing, blushing etc. The creative merging of these two principles allows for the wholeness one might call creative art.
At present Warren has trained over 100,000 students, many who are the top, most acclaimed and award winning in the industry.