Monday, March 7, 2016

Coming Home: An Actor Traces His SCR Roots

Arye Gross
Kurt Fuller as Lear, Gross as Edgar in scene work for Lee Shallat Chemel’s Conservatory class in 1978
Herb Voland, Ron Boussom, John Ellington, Mike Tomlinson and Gross in SCR's Wild Oats, 1979.
Gross, Patti Johns and Candace Copland in SCR’s 1980 production of Screwball.
Gross and Linda Gehringer in the 2011 production of Circle Mirror Transformation.
“I feel that 80% of the work I’ve done—since graduating from SCR’s Theatre Conservatory in 1978—I can trace back to that training.”

So says Arye Gross, who recently completed his role as the spandex-clad obsessive fan in Future Thinking, his ninth SCR play (counting two Educational Touring Productions) since he first stepped through these doors more than 35 years ago.

But his training as an actor almost didn’t happen.

In the early days of SCR’s Theatre Conservatory, Lee Shallat Chemel—the award-winning director of such shows as “The Middle”—was director of both the adult and professional programs. Select students were asked to join the Conservatory, and Arye was one of them.

“That was a big thrill, being invited by Lee—until I found out about the fee. I was penniless. But she managed to get scholarship money for me so that I ended up owing only a small amount. However, I didn’t have that either! So I went to the administration office and said, ‘If you let me do some work for you, then I can pay.’ That was my gambit—offering to sweep floors, run errands, do chores—and it worked!”

And it has paid off handsomely. Arye graduated from the Conservatory during the transitional period from the 3rd Step to the 4th Step theatre in Costa Mesa, which opened on November 9, 1978 with The Time of Your Life.

“I made my professional debut in that show,” Arye says, “in the role of ‘another cop.’”

The next year, he was cast in Wild Oats. “Then Martin and David hired me for Screwball, where I got my Equity card (union of professional actors and stage managers). A cast member in that show introduced me to my first agent, an actor friend from the Conservatory told me about the movie where I got my first big role, and another Conservatory actor helped with my audition. That got the ball rolling.”

And it’s still rolling. Arye has appeared on stages across the country, including Broadway’s Biltmore Theater and Baltimore’s Center Stage. But most of his stage work has been nearby, at every major theatre in the LA area: Geffen Playhouse, Stages Theatre, The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, The Los Angeles Theatre Centre, Pasadena Playhouse, East/West Players, Grove Shakespeare, El Teatro Campesino and The Antaeus Company.

In addition to his prolific stage career, Arye has been a regular on such television shows as “Ellen,” “The Practice” and “Medium.” And such movies as Just One of the Boys, Midnight Clear, Gone in Sixty Seconds and Minority Report.

Watch for him currently as Dr. M.E. Sydney Permutter on “Castle.”

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