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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

A Celebration of the Life of Harry Mastrogeorge (’50)

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Academy Alumnus Harry Mastrogeorge passed away this April in his home at the age of 92. The legacy he leaves behind is vast. From children to grandchildren to the countless artists he trained and mentored during his decades-spanning career, Harry’s mantra to work “from your soul” continues.


A graduate of the Class of 1950 (the same class as John Cassavetes and Anne Bancroft), Harry was able to work as an actor following his completion of the program on stage and screen. Early in his career, Harry landed a role in Edge of the City starring Sydney Poitier. Harry also worked in regional and stock theatre companies during this time and liked to say that every time he changed clothes (i.e. booked another role), he earned a paycheck.


The success of Harry’s career was fueled by his natural curiosity and innate sense of the work. As he progressed through the business, he would find himself directing episodic television including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, From Here to Eternity, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Miami Vice, Shell Game, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and the feature films Mystery of the Sacred Shroud and Venus and Mars.

Harry would return to The Academy to teach and direct students, formally joining the faculty in 1956. This would begin a teaching career that would bring Harry’s technique to some of the industry’s most sought-after actors. Through his Professional Acting Workshop, the likes of Heather Graham, Melanie Griffith, Bryan Cranston, Daryl Hannah, Djimon Hounsou, Brit Marling, and the late Ray Liotta would train under Harry. Liotta would comment on Harry’s teaching, saying, “Harry has impacted my career more deeply and fully than any other person in this business. He's given me the gift of self-reliance, and I am forever in his debt.”

Fellow alumnus and director of The Lords of Flatbush and Eddie and the Cruisers Marty Davidson (’61) remembers Harry with fondness, saying, “Harry's technique of working with actors is everything I ever utilize. I always asked myself, how would Harry handle this moment? And my whole way of working was based on what I got from Harry in sessions with him...sometimes where he would just talk,” he continues, “I learned through Harry the importance of rehearsal…that rehearsals were not only necessary but joyous.”

Harry’s method was based on digging deep into one’s soul to constantly get yourself to be personal and completely honest in your work. He conveyed the idea of using the “sum total of your existence” to Marty on more than one occasion before Marty would ask for its meaning. Harry would tell him, “…you’re the sum total of everything: the pains, the joys, the celebrations, the anticipations, the disappointments, that is the sum total of your existence, and that becomes your soul.”

Alumna Kathryn Leigh Scott (’64) likewise studied with Harry while he instructed students at The Academy. Following graduation, she continued working with him, attending his class that saw fellow alumni William DeVane, Harry MacCormack, and the previously mentioned Marty Davidson join. During Kathryn's run with Harvey at the Prince of Wales Theatre in the West End, her mentor attended a matinee. The two caught up during a stroll through the city between shows, and Harry expressed his approval while providing a note (or two) on her work. Kathryn would again study with Harry in Los Angeles from 2012 to 2015.

In 2019, Harry was honored with the Teacher’s Making a Difference Award presented at the Sundance Film Festival. The prestigious nonprofit group, the Creative Coalition, sponsored the award.


Harry Mastrogeorge received a private service and burial on May 6, 2023, in his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A planned Celebration of Life will take place in Los Angeles.

3 Comments


yabitsa
Jan 28

Stayed in touch with Harry long, long after I graduated from the Academy. Later on I took classes with him at his studio on 3rd Avenue. Having him as a teacher was life changing. I was very saddened today to discover he died last year.

Isabel Bau Madden (Class of '70) Graduated as Zaba Smodlaka

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wasp18bee40
Aug 31, 2023

I was fortunate to not only have Harry as a teacher and director while my time at AADA, but also to work with the multi talented Marty Henne. The 1st half of my freshmen year, Harry was my teacher, in which most of the time I couldn't grasp much what he was trying to explain to the our class.

After working in the theatre for years, I finally realized what Harry had been teaching about, not only in acting, but living one's life to its fullest. At the end of my 1st year, I was honored to have been picked by Harry to appear as a cast member in the "Three Penny Opera" at the AADA starring Laura Branigan, in…

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marty823
Aug 31, 2023

It was my very good fortune and indeed my honor to not only have studied at the Academy with Harry Mastrogeorge but to work with him on many projects outside of the Academy. We were good friends and business partners for many years in the late 60's and into the 70's. He informed my career, my sense of professionalism and my life. I miss him and honor him.

Marty Henne Class of 1968 and Academy Voice Instructor and Music Director 1969-1982

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