A Celebration of the Life of Harry Mastrogeorge (’50)
Updated: Sep 24
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.