Alec Rubin was born in Leningrad on September 6, 1920 and emigrated to the United States at the age of seven. In his remarkable 66-year career in the performing arts, he was well known as a master teacher, celebrated therapist, innovative director and daring performer who pioneered work in the relationship between deep-rooted feelings and the creative process.
As a young artist Mr. Rubin studied music at the Julliard School and dance with Martha Graham. He was a member of the Chicago Opera/Ballet Company and the San Francisco Ballet. He later studied with Anna Halprin and Welland Lathrop and then founded Dance Associates, where he taught and performed with Paul Taylor, James Waring and Katherine Litz.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Rubin was one of the artistic mavericks of the Off-Off Broadway movement, directing productions at the legendary Caffe Cino. He trained with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, where he was a member of the Director’s Unit from 1965 – 1972 and again from 1995 – 2000.
In residence at the Master Theater, Mr. Rubin directed the works of Chekov, O’Neill, Brecht, Genet, Ionesco and Shakespeare, as well as original plays by young playwrights. In 1965 he was invited by the Moscow Art Theatre to conduct a seminar on the Stanislavski method in America.
As an acting coach and teacher, Mr. Rubin had an incalculable impact on generations of actors. In 1962 he founded Theatre of Encounter and soon developed a simple and ground-breaking technique for artists to access deep feelings and create emotionally-charged work for the stage. As a performer himself, he appeared in many original solo shows, including Anatomy Of A Performance, which he presented in 1983 at the Spoleto World Theatre Festival.
His study of psychology brought him into contact with Fritz Perls and the Human Potential Movement. He studied gestalt and neo-Reichian techniques, as well as sensory awareness. He worked with famed therapists Alexander Lowen, John Pierrakos and Arthur Janov and became a leading practitioner of Primal Therapy and one of the founding members of the International Primal Association. His dual skills as therapist and director, along with his unique capacity for empathy and nurturance, allowed those who worked with him to break through psychological blocks and find their real creative voices.
Mr. Rubin taught or directed Rod Steiger, Anna Sten, Maureen Stapelton, Ali McGraw, Valerie Harper and many other acclaimed performers. Under his innovative direction, Theater of Encounter produced a bold series of original theater and dance performances, including Why Is A Crooked Letter featuring a young Al Pacino. Other notable members of Theatre of Encounter included co-author of Hair, Jerome Ragni, and Obie Award winning actor, Thurman E. Scott.
As a workshop leader, Mr. Rubin was in demand around the world. He taught at Yale, Cornell, NYU, Esalen, Topanga and in California, Hawaii, Europe and Australia. In the mid-1970s, to reflect his conviction that deep inner work was the key to unlocking the artist’s full potential, he changed the name of his company from Theatre of Encounter to Theatre Within. At his “Center for Feelings and Creativity” he trained psychotherapists and taught ongoing classes in “primal improvisation,” while developing and directing provocative new performance works, most notably, Orphans.
In 1981, with his then student, comedian Joe Raiola, Mr. Rubin created The Annual John Lennon Tribute, which he directed for 20 years. From then forward he worked closely with Mr. Raiola, grooming him as his successor and directing him in his New York debut, Call Me Lunatic, as well as in four other full-length solo shows and countless workshop performances.
During this period Mr. Rubin collaborated frequently with Barbara Pitcher, who directed him in many workshop projects, including Celebrating Paddy Chayefsky and Chekov With Music. Meanwhile, he continued to have enormous impact as a teacher by working with choreographers Gloria McLean, Anne Hammel and Wendy Osserman, and with a core group of actors, storytellers, writers and musicians.
In the late 1980s a heart condition led Mr. Rubin to winter in Miami Beach. He soon established a new Theatre Within company and developed a series of “authentic improvisation” workshop performances, including Irreverent Voices and Messages From Planet Earth.
He continued to maintain a private therapy practice and lead experiential seminars with Joe Raiola in “Deepening Your Creative Process And Commitment” and “Shamanism, Healing and the Primal Path.”
In 2001, due to growing health concerns, Mr. Rubin established full-time residency in Florida. He died on November 10, 2005 from complications following a stroke, just a month before the Annual John Lennon Tribute celebrated its Silver Anniversary at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Alec Rubin is remembered with great affection as a rare and gifted healer. Because his students trusted him so completely, they felt safe taking big creative risks in his presence. He was infinitely patient, kind and a great champion of self-expression in the simplest and truest manner possible. By opening his heart, he inspired others to open theirs.
He changed lives.