Marilyn Monroe Takes Acting Lessons From Actors Studios

I saw that what she looked like was not what she really was, and what was going on inside her was not what was going on outside, and that always means there may be something to work with. In Marilyn's case, the reactions were phenomenal. She can call up emotionally what is required for a scene. Her range is infinite.

— Lee Strasberg, creator-director of the Actors Studio

Throughout 1955, Monroe studied with the Actors Studio, and found that one of her biggest obstacles was her severe stage fright. She was befriended by the actors Kevin McCarthy and Eli Wallach who each recalled her as studious and sincere in her approach to her studies, and noted that she tried to avoid attention by sitting quietly in the back of the class. When Strasberg felt Monroe was ready to give a performance in front of her peers, Monroe and Maureen Stapleton chose the opening scene from Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, and although she had faltered during each rehearsal, she was able to complete the performance without forgetting her lines. Kim Stanley later recalled that students were discouraged from applauding, but that Monroe's performance had resulted in spontaneous applause from the audience. While Monroe was a student, Lee Strasberg commented, "I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the second is Marilyn Monroe."

After that time, she was allowed to join the regular classes at the Actors Studio, though she never became an official member. During her tenure at the Actors Studio, Marilyn focused on her craft with such intensity that she won the respect and admiration of many of her fellow students.

In addition to her class, which met twice a week, she sat in on other sessions at the Studio just to observe. Though she was terrified by performing in front of her class, she managed to work up a scene from Anna Christie for an audience of Studio members. Many were astonished at her skill and amazed at her depth.