Milton Katselas, the charismatic acting teacher to the stars who founded The Beverly Hills Playhouse, and also directed for stage and screen, died of heart failure on Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 75 years old.
Milton Katselas was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., to Greek immigrant parents, who had a tiny restaurant right outside the gates of a Westinghouse Electric. When he was 14 years old, his father went into the movie theater business and ran a local theater company of Greek actors, and Milton himself would sing. As Katselas began his directing career in the 1960s with the original off-Broadway production of Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story. From there he has gone on to direct over sixty plays and eight feature films. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Butterflies are Free. Under his direction, Blythe Danner won the Tony Award, Eileen Heckart the Academy Award, and Bette Davis her only Emmy Award. Katselas had directed such actors as Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Goldie Hawn, Christopher Walken, Burt Reynolds, George C. Scott, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, to name just a few.
He studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio and was mentored by such great film and stage directors as Elia Kazan and Joshua Logan. It was through these influences and his extensive directing experience that Milton ultimately created the technique that is taught at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, one of the most famous and well respected acting schools in Los Angeles.
Katselas was also an award-winning painter and sculptor, and had solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Tokyo. He had also published two books: Acting Class, his renowned book on acting technique, and Dreams Into Action, a New York Times bestseller about getting the career you want. Milton was also an architectural designer, and his LA-based firm has both renovated and built from scratch several Los Angeles homes.
He is survived by two brothers and a sister.
Donations may be made to the nonprofit theater company he helped create, Camelot Artists Prods., 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.