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Back to One

A podcast about acting -- just the work. by Peter Rinaldi

“The Only Important Thing is the Work”: Austin Pendleton on a Life on Stage (Back to One, Episode 218)

Austin Pendleton might be best known for My Cousin Vinny, or What’s Up Doc? but the 82-year-old actor, director, playwright and teacher is a one-man theater institution. It almost seems like there isn’t a great play that he hasn’t performed or directed, somewhere, in his more than 60 years in the business, and he’s not slowing down in the slightest. In this epic, 90-minute episode, what Meryl Streep said of Pendleton will ring tru: “There’s no line between the man and his work.” He talks about his latest performance, in the celebrated new Tracy Letts play The Minutes, then takes us back half-a-century to the the first production of Fiddler On The Roof, and tells a few incredible stories of working with the great Jerome Robbins. I ask him how teaching feeds his acting work. He shares some important lessons he’s learned from his teachers (like Uta Hagen, Bobby Lewis, and Elia Kazan), legendary actors (like Jo Van Fleet and Kim Stanley), and disasters (like when a horrifically bad review kept him away from substantial roles for seven years). He leaves us with a vow he made in 1958, which he still lives by, that just might be the secret to his longevity in this emotional roller-coaster of a profession. Plus much more! Sit back and let this great sage of the stage take you on a journey through the life of an actor in a deep, enduring love affair with the work.

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