During his long and distinguished career spanning more than half a century, Gregory Abels has performed in or directed some 600 plays, television dramas, and films, and has been heard in numerous voiceovers and narrations. He has had the pleasure of working with many of the finest theatre artists in the English-speaking world.
Two of Mr. Abels’ productions are currently running:
Let It Be Art! Harold Clurman’s Life of Passion, written by and starring Ronald Rand. The play, about Harold Clurman, a co-founder of The Group Theatre, premiered in 2001 and to date has played in 18 states and 22 countries.
Roman Nights, by Franco D’Alessandro, opened in Prague in May 2006 and is still playing to sold-out audiences. It is about the deep friendship between Tennessee Williams and Anna Magnani, and features the great Czech actress Simona Stasova as Magnani.
In 2013, Mr. Abels' production of Gay Walley's Love, Genius, and a Walk played at the Manhattan International Theatre Festival. The play focuses on the last year in the life of the great composer Gustav Mahler as he struggles to complete his Tenth Symphony. His tempestuous marriage to Alma Mahler is central to the dramatic action, overlapping with scenes of a modern-day couple attempting to save their relationship. The production received five MITF Award nominations, including Best Direction.
Mr. Abels is also currently a Master Teacher of Scene Study at Circle in the Square in New York City.
In 1961, Mr. Abels began classical actor training under Stella Adler, and soon became part of the burgeoning American regional theater movement of the 1960s. His career went on to divide evenly between directing, acting, and teaching.
Mr. Abels’ directing work has been prolific, and supportive of new work. He has directed at New Dramatists and Lark Theatre Company; staged American premieres of Slavic plays at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Ukrainian Institute, Players Club and New School; and directed a series of Scandinavian plays at Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Theatre and the Samuel Becket Theatre.
Regionally, he directed Iphigenia at Aulis (Cleveland Playhouse); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Asolo State Theatre); Kidnapped, an adaptation or the Robert Louis Stevenson novel (Westerly Theatre); and Mass Appeal (Stage West).
In 1980 he founded St. Malachy’s Theaterspace, where he directed a highly acclaimed production of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral (starring Lee Richardson) and the world premiere of Sally Dixon Wiener’s Show Me A Hero. The former marked the first time in the history of the Archdiocese of New York that the nave of one of its churches was used for a professional theatrical production.
Mr. Abels is the leading American director in the Czech Republic. In 1992 he became the first American in the history of the Czech theatre to direct a play in the Czech language. It was Herb Gardiner’s The Goodbye People, and it ran at the Divadlo Komedie for four years. He also directed the Czech premiere of Arthur Miller’s The Archbishop’s Ceiling at Divadlo Na Zabradli. His production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Mestske Divadlo Brno) was the first of that play permitted in southern Moravia since the Russian invasion. Other directing in the Czech Republic took place at the Theatres of European Regions Festival; the City Theatre of Mlada Boleslav, the Marta Theatre in Brno; and in Prague at the Ypsilon, Abert v Dvora, and Celetne theatres.
Mr. Abels’ professional acting debut took place in 1963 at Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park as Landolfo in The Emperor (Eric Bentley’s version of Pirandello’s Enrico Quatro). The next year he played the title role in Shakespeare’s Henry VI at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival at the age of 22.
Over the years, he has interpreted again and again — as actor, director and teacher — those playwrights on whom he was reared: Shakespeare, Chekov, Moliere, O’Neill, Williams, Miller, Shepard, Beckett, Genet, and the Greeks.
His acting experience has covered experimental (La MaMa); new plays (Manhattan Theatre Club; Playwrights Horizons); regional (McCarter Theatre; the Kennedy Center); and the historic 1970 Joseph Papp/Stuart Vaughn production of Wars of the Roses in Central Park.
He is perhaps best known as an actor for his portrayal of the relentless prosecuting attorney in Nuts on Broadway. And daytime television audiences remember him as Michael Hathaway on Where the Heart Is (CBS, 1969–1973).
Mr. Abels retired from acting in 1990.
Mr. Abels is one of the foremost Master Teachers in the United States, having been profiled in the book Acting Teachers of America. He ran his own school, GATE, or Gregory Abels Training Ensemble, in Manhattan from 1996 to 2004. GATE was a classically-based, intense, one-year Conservatory Ensemble Training Program. The faculty of seven helped to start carefully-chosen student actors on the path to reaching their full potential. He directed student productions of works by Euripides, Marivaux, Pinter, Churchill, Fornes, and Laurence Carr.
Mr. Abels has also served as Master Teacher on the faculties of NYU (undergraduate and Gallatin); National Theatre Institute at the O’Neill Center; National Shakespeare Conservatory; Stella Adler Conservatory; National Academy of Prague (DAMU); Janacek Academy (JAMU); and the Warsaw State Academy (Alexsander Zelwerlowicz). He has been Master Teacher of Scene Study at Circle in the Square since 2006, and particularly enjoys coaching and mentoring young actors.