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My Early Days in New York City

I was talking to Herman the other night-campaign stories about my acting days. It was the 4th of July weekend and when the 5th came I was telling Herman about an acting school friend of mine who was born on July 5.

He said the 5th of July as his birthday would stick in everyone’s memory who met him because he always introduced himself as “Hi, I’m Ivan and I was born on the 5th of July, the day after the 4th. And you’ll never forget my birthday because of it.”

I’ve been racking my brain, but I can’t remember his last name. But I never have forgotten his birthday. This was right after I came to New York City after being on tour with the American Repertory Theater Company and prior to that being in college at Indiana University.

Looking back I can’t remember the others in that class, but Ivan is permanently stuck in my brain. This was my first NYC acting school and was called Theater in Action. My teacher there was Lev Schectman. He was also the founding director and he came to us from Russia. His feet were permanently planted in the Moscow Art Theater where the great Constantin Stanislavski taught. It became known as the Stanislavski System as he was the true father of method acting made famous by Marlon Brando.

At this time I was bartending at Amy’s Pub which was located in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen on the corner of 8th Avenue and 56th Street. I now understand it is an upscale yuppie neighborhood.

I had only been touring with the ART (American Repertory Theater) Reach traveling ensemble and had done some high school drama before coming to New York. But as far as training as an actress, this was my first formal study and was rooted in method acting.

It’s funny what I do and don’t remember about those early days. I specifically remember dating a musician there named Sammy Merendino who played guitar in a band.

It was through Sammy that I met my friend Deborah Goodrich as he was friends with her then boyfriend-also a musician. As I and Sammy fizzled, so did Deborah and her then boyfriend, but Deborah and I remained friends and still stay in contact today via e-mail.

When I first got to New York City I had no place to stay and I was walking along 57th Street with my suitcase when I must have looked lost because Cindy Dutton came up to me at a restaurant and asked if I had a place to stay. When I said no, she took me in.

I later worked with Cindy’s sister Stacey Dutton who has a reality show on cable TV and has been an agent for acts like Bon Jovi. I still keep in touch with Stacey as well. In fact, she recently kept me in the loop as her friend Michael Johns of 2008 American Idol runner-up fame and my personal favorite was putting out his first album as she had access to his studio recordings. She tried to get me some original recordings from his studio but was ultimately unable to. I recently got his album and think its great. So after all these years I still feel like I’m somewhat in the loop.

I met some great people when I first moved to New York and continue to meet great people as I now live in upstate New York.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site