Noted acting teacher Charles E. Conrad dies

Instructed Robert Duvall, Dennis Quaid, Joanne Woodward

Charles E. Conrad, one of the entertainment industry's most distinguished acting teachers, died Oct. 29 of kidney failure in Port Townsend, Wash. He was 84.

A disciple of famed acting coach Sanford Meisner, Conrad made his own mark at his CEC Studio in Burbank, which he opened in the 1960s after a move from New York.

There, he taught Kim Basinger, Dennis Quaid, Ali McGraw, Keith Carradine, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Ross, Carl Weathers, Joanna Cassidy, Teri Garr, Linda Gray, Valerie Perrine, Victoria Principal, Penny Marshall, Chuck Norris, Suzanne Somers, Karen Valentine, Ed Begley Jr. and Lindsay Wagner, among others.

Like Meisner, Conrad relied on the "repetition exercise" of learning scripts (fast repetition of the words until they are memorized). He believed that the technique would enable the actors to work in a highly intuitive state, spontaneously and naturally reacting to one other.

Conrad's directorial thesis of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" earned him a Fulbright Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but he was unable to attend because of a lack of finances. He began studying the craft of acting in 1952 with Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.

Meisner made him his senior assistant, and Conrad would go on to instruct the likes of Robert Duvall, Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon and Joanne Woodward. He opened his CEC Studio after Meisner sent him to the West Coast to train studio contract players at Fox, a program that fell through. He retired from teaching in 1994.

Conrad is survived by two sons, Erich and Drew, and his wife, Pamela Mansfield-Conrad. Donations in his name can be made to the nonprofit animal sanctuary he helped create: D.E.L.T.A. Rescue in Glendale, Calif.