Alice Spivak (1935–2020)

Alice Spivak was a legendary New York acting teacher, coach and mentor. Beginning her teaching career at HB Studios with Herbert Bergoff and Uta Hagen in the 1950s, Alice taught continuously for more than 60 years. For her students, she was a constant in an industry that was constantly changing. Through her teaching, she nurtured in her students a love for theater, an understanding of the craft and the belief that the work was more important than any job or outcome.

During her lifelong career, Alice worked with directors including Sidney Lumet, Robert Rossen, Arthur Hiller, Frank Oz, Yvonne Rainer, Spike Lee and Nicole Holofcener. She coached countless luminary actors (Harry Belafonte and Carrie Fisher to name just two) on hundreds of feature films, Broadway shows and TV series and taught Film Directing Workshops, receiving the Indie Award by the Association of Video and Filmmakers in 1977. She was a member of the faculties of NYU and Columbia Film Grad Schools, teaching her course Directing Actors. She is the author of How to Rehearse when There is no Rehearsal: Acting and the Media.

Alice made her onscreen debut in Lilith (1964), starring Warren Beatty and Jean Seberg, and went on to work in many other notable films, including Times Square (1980), Garbo Talks (1984), Another Woman (1988), How to Be Louise (1990), Privilege (1990), Electric Moon (1992) and If Lucy Fell (1996). On television, Spivak recurred as a bailiff in 100 Centre Street, the 2001-02 A&E series executive produced by director Sidney Lumet, and appeared on Sex and the City, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Americans, The Good Cop, and Love Life. Alice acted extensively Off Broadway and in regional theatre continuously for more than 60 years. Some notable roles include Gittel in Two for the Seasaw (Gibson), Bananas in House of Blue Leaves (Guare), and as Muriel Tate in Plaza Suite (Simon), for which she received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Excellence in Chicago Theater (Best Actress in a Principal Role).

In 2012, Spivak launched the New York-based OnTheRoad Repertory Company, with her professional students, with the mission to create an ensemble of players producing revivals and original works. She performed in and directed many of the company’s productions, and served as its Artistic Director until her passing. A tireless and dedicated performer and teacher, she continued to audition and perform, coach and conduct acting classes until just days before she passed.

Alice never sought notoriety, only taking joy through the successful work achieved by her actors. That is why we see her influence everywhere, but not necessarily her name. Her greatest legacy is as the name passed between actors, the secret weapon and support system behind countless great performers and performances, onstage and screen.