American Laboratory Theatre

(ALT)
   Established in 1923 in response to the excitement generated by that year's Broadway season of Konstantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre (MAT), the ALT, originally named the Theatre Arts Institute, aimed to train American actors in the ensemble techniques so effectively demonstrated by the MAT. Set up by wealthy American art patrons as a three-year professional school, the ALT featured courses in acting, mime, ballet, fencing, voice and diction, and gymnastics. MAT actors Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya remained in New York when the MAT returned to Russia, and their classes became the center of the ALT's training program.
   Between 1925 and 1930, Boleslavsky set up an American version of the MAT model called The Lab, with the goal of producing new American plays, although most of its productions were European plays. New works by Thornton Wilder,* Clemence Dane, and Lynn Riggs, among others, were produced, as well as a 1927 staging of Much Ado About Nothing. The Lab was short-lived (it disbanded at the height of the Great Depression in 1933), yet it played an important role in spreading the influence of Stanislavski's principles, and it set the stage for The Group Theatre* and others to carry that work forward in the 1930s. Boleslavsky and Ouspenskaya continued to teach, and she became a popular character actress in motion pictures.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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