13 April 2006 | RocketB52
Remembering Mr. Terrific
I have vague memories of this show, but I knew the opening credits by heart. . "The pill would turn a lamb into a lion/like an eagle he'd be flyin'..." I also remember Stephen Strimpell turning up on some game show one summer day when I happened to be home from school, and thinking, "Hey, that's Mr. Terrific!" Little did I know that when I was 18 I'd end up at HB Studio studying acting and that Mr. Terrific would be my first--and only worthwhile--acting teacher.
I learned today that Stephen died this past weekend.
His dedication, his rock bottom, practical approach to acting, free of any method clap trap and rooted firmly in the kind of nuts and bolts reality that almost all other teachers seemed to overlook, sustained and intrigued me as a kid and still does to this day. That a cold beverage should be handled differently from a hot beverage, that careful attention should be paid to one's environment, that no action on stage should ever be undertaken unless it flowed from a logical place within the context of a scene may not seem revelatory, but very few other people taught that way. Even when I'd see veteran actors at work I'd marvel at how even they would gloss over this kind of basic stage craft. And I'd think, "Wow, Stephen would NEVER let ME get away with that."
Also, there was an bonus when you studied with Stephen--he was one of the funniest people I ever knew. He was a sweet and compassionate man, but every once in a while the rapier came out, and the result was that you were still sputtering while the next two student actors were trying to set up their scene. Mostly, he was his own favorite target, along with members of his own family.
I pretty much worshiped him as a young actor. And now he's not here anymore.
To me, and who knows how many others, he really was Mr. Terrific.