Upon the recommendation of a pretty girl, a young Harvard grad reports to a small theatre on a chilly November evening in Los Angeles to begin an acting class. So begins his unique apprenticeship with a brilliant and temperamental teacher, an apprenticeship lasting fully 18 years until that young student takes over the school upon the master’s death. The apprentice is Allen Barton, today an esteemed director, teacher and playwright. The master is Milton Katselas, one of the most renowned acting teachers of his era. The school is the Beverly Hills Playhouse, the famed training ground for thousands of working actors over the last 40 years. “The Oasis of Insanity” is the story of Barton’s coming of age under Katselas unique tutelage, as well as Barton’s own valuable guidebook to the study and pursuit of acting in the 21st century. Oasis of Insanity: The Study & Pursuit of Acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse Allen Barton Beverly Hills Playhouse First Edition0998996807
The Beverly Hills Playhouse has been an oasis for me for most of my career, and Barton perfectly captures why. He nails with stark humor and honesty the talents and mercurial temperament of our esteemed mentor, Milton Katselas, whose most lasting contribution to the industry may end up being in the teachers he created. Forged by his unique apprenticeship with Katselas, as well as his own singular work as a director and playwright, Allen’s perspective is one from which any actor can benefit. “The Oasis of Insanity” is personal, practical, and at times profound.
For years I’ve admired the surgical precision with which Allen was able to cut to the crux of what a scene needed to succeed. Here he lays out the secret to his skill as well as show us where the rest of us may have veered off course. I know this is a book I’ll be coming back to again and again.
The Oasis of Insanity examines the complex relationship between a teacher and his student. Allen Barton weaves a compelling and gut-wrenching story filled with difficult life lessons, surrounded in humor. He chronicles his apprenticeship with the iconic acting teacher, Milton Katselas, and allows into the mind of a genius. Allen hears life differently from us mortals. When he writes, you feel the music of his words and get lost in his story telling. I couldn’t put it down.
Before coming to the BHP, I was fumbling in the darkness. Allen Barton turned on the lights. His approach is more than acting technique -- it prepared me for the business of acting and how to behave on a set. He gave me the tools that I use everyday, and his approach to teaching and acting is truly one-of-a-kind.
Allen Barton has one of the most brilliant, intuitive, thrillingly witty and unsentimental minds I know. Whatever comes out of it: gimme.
The lessons inside “The Oasis of Insanity” hit me in a new way each time I revisit it. It is the heart of what has kept me returning to the BHPand to this teaching. It is simple, solid, direct, and most importantly, applicable to all facets of my life as an actress.