Person - Will Lee

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WILL LEE LUBOVSKY (1908 - 1982)

Short and balding, wearing thick glasses and looking like Woody Allen, Corporal Will Lee Lubovsky was one of the first US soldiers stationed in Sydney in 1942. An actor who’d worked at New York’s Group Theatre, he turned up in uniform at the New Theatre League (NTL) during rehearsals for Marx of Time and stayed about six months before being transferred north with the Americans after the invasion of Italy. He helped with the production of Golden Boy in 1943.

Theatrically dynamic, Lee thought NTL a lazy lot and started classes with the more experienced actors – the best were John Gray, Alan Herbert and Joan Boots. (Others who attended were Oriel Gray, Rex Chiplin and Verlie Dyson.) Senior NTL members ridiculed his methods but those in his classes benefited from his rigorous discipline and knowledge of stagecraft. He conducted exercises in rhythm and concentration and animal mimicry, and helped the actors with their makeup and to adopt or refine the Stanislavsky method.

Lee attended weekend workshops held in an old house at Narrabeen where lectures on politics were combined with swimming and boating on the lake. Black servicemen who used the club rooms to rehearse their choir were also invited to these weekends away.

At an Actors Equity meeting Lee kept his head when others became hysterical during a blackout when a Japanese plane was spotted. He was surprised by Australians’ naivety and lack of aggression.

The son of Jewish immigrants, Will Lee trained with Peter Chakausky, knew Clifford Odets, Franchot Tone, Harold Clurman, Elia Kazan, Frances Farmer, Lee J Cobb and Arthur Miller, had worked at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and took over John Garfield’s role in Golden Boy when Garfield went to Hollywood. After the war he returned to New York. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Lee played Sesame Street’s Mr Hooper from the show’s inception in 1969 until his death following a heart attack.

While in Australia Lee wrote an article on the importance of workers' theatre. It was published in the Cairns Post 8 June 1943 page 1.

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