In 1983, in response to Francis Ford Coppola’s engaging the late Julian Beck (founding director of The Living Theatre) to play the role of Sol Weinstein in his film The Cotton Club the decision was made to create a new organization to represent artists – mostly actors – in a management capacity.
Julian Beck as “Sol Weinstein” in The Cotton Club
We began in earnest in 1984 after the film opened and Beck received a cascade of rave reviews. It made perfect sense to invite many of the artists who had been or were still working in the “downtown/experimental” theatre that were our colleagues during the years of Universal Movement Theatre as well as to extend to new and upcoming actors.
When we first got the call from the Coppola casting directors Beck was in Europe working on a new production and had been recently diagnosed with cancer. I phoned Julian and his immediate response was: “when, where, how long and how much?” And, with some sketchy information Julian exhorted: “NEGOTIATE!” (Which is exactly what we did).
During the long shooting period we also brought The Living Theatre back to New York City for a six-week residency performing four productions in repertory at the recently opened Joyce Theatre.
World of Culture began representing about 10 actors including Judith Malina, Spalding Gray, Karen Ludwig, and Shami Chaikin among others.
During the first year Beck (despite his late stage cancer) appeared in the title role of Poltergeist 2, guest-starred on the hit tv show Miami Vice (as a big-shot wall street honcho), on the soap opera, All My Children (as a Tibetan monk)… When the offered Julian the role of “Kantu” he asked the director, writers and casting people, “There are so many talented Asian actors, why me?” to which they replied: “We don’t want things to be too realistic”. Aha! As well he did an Off-Broadway run at LaMaMa in Beckett’s That Time. Sadly Beck died in September 1985 even before Poltergeist 2 premiered.
We continued on working with Spalding Gray during his break-through period monologues: Swimming to Cambodia, brought Judith Malina to a role with Woody Allen in Radio Days and by 1986 expanded to over two dozen clients.
One of the joys of this time was finding actors such as Steve Buscemi while he was performing in a John Jesurun play at LaMaMa. He’d just completed his break-through role in the iconic film Parting Glances that played only briefly in NYC and LA but garnered him glowing reviews.
This led to expanding to work with many more from the burgeoning performance art scene such as David Cale and Paul Zaloom.
As the director of World of Culture I saw the need to better prepare actors to work on film and auditioning, in order to fulfill the requirements of the more “commercial” world. With their encouragement I began teaching on-camera and auditioning classes (over 40 of them privately, at The New School and at colleges and universities) as well as scene study classes.
Through this venue I held auditions and found a number of very talented younger actors whom I trained and then represented including: Jena Necrason (now the head of movement at the Stella Adler Conservatory), Peter Facinelli (co-star in the Twilight films, co-star of the Edie Falco Showtime series Nurse Jackie and dozens of films dating back to 1996), Wilson Jermaine Heredia (winner of the Drama Desk and Tony Award, and Olivier Award nominee for his ground-breaking role of Angel in the original RENT ).
We had myriad actors playing on Broadway, in the major regional theatres, on TV series and starring in films.
World of Culture for Performing Arts also arranged tours and produced runs of some of the performance artists in many cities including NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and at major festivals world-wide.
During the period of 1995-1998 I personally took a partial break and accepted invitations to teach in Israel at several institutions (Tel Aviv University, School of Visual Theatre, Seminar Hakibbutzim, a series of lectures at both the U.S. Embassy and at the American Centre and at Hebrew University). I also took this extraordinary opportunity to do a 6 week workshop at the Al Hakawati Theatre (Palestinian National Theatre in East Jerusalem) and began a three year collaboration training actors and working to the creation of a theatre piece in Gaza.
We continued representing artists, the presentation of performances and conducting classes and workshops.
In 2002 New York University’s Fales Collection at the Bobst Library purchased the Amitin/World of Culture archives for their “Downtown Collection”. In October 2003 I was curator for an exhibition of over 200 items from the archive that ran 5 months and was kicked off with a full day of symposia and celebration with 20 notables from the academic and theatre community to discuss our work from 1968 to that moment in time.
Amongst the participants were: Rosemary Quinn (Director of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing – who worked with me beginning in 1974 upon her graduation from college), James Leverett (head of dramaturgy at Yale), Bill Coco (Actors Studio), Dr. Serge Ouaknine (Universite Paris, University Quebec), Richard Schechner (founding editor, TDR), Bonnie Marranca (founding editor, Performing Arts Journal), Erika Munk (Yale/Theatre) and Gordon Rogoff (Yale).
The two later panels included Martha Coigney, (International president, International Theatre Institute), Lee Breuer (Director, Mabou Mines), Jean-Claude van Itallie (playwright), Judith Malina (Living Theatre), Roselee Goldberg (NYU), Steve Buscemi, David Cale, Mark Russell (director PS 122), and Joe Melillo (producer BAM/Next Wave Festival).
There is a complete list of all the artists we represented and a link to the NYU archive on the site.
Also, many items that are a part of the archive (posters, programs, photographs, videos etc) are available for purchase under the COLLECTIONS tab.