Robert X. Modica, Famed New York Acting Teacher, Dies at 83

Gregg Brown
Robert X. Modica

His students included Marian Seldes, John Turturro, David Duchovny and Louise Lasser.

Robert X. Modica, the New York acting teacher who taught the craft to the likes of Broadway legend Marian Seldes, John Turturro, David Duchovny, Louise Lasser and Rachel Ward, has died. He was 83.

Modica, who taught alongside Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse for 25 years and for 50 at his prestigious studio in Carnegie Hall, died Saturday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., it was announced.

Modica also worked as an actor, with appearances in such films as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People (1969), Arthur Hiller’s Love Story (1970), Men of Respect (1990) and Fast Food Fast Women (2000) and on such TV series as Kojak and The Equalizer.

Several students spoke of Modica’s influence on his website.

“Sometimes in life you feel like an angel is by your side guiding you. This was true when I started taking class with Robert X. Modica,” Aida Turturro of The Sopranos writes. “I don’t look at my years of studying with Mr. Modica as just a ‘class.’ I look at that time as a life experience, a huge learning experience and the catalyst that brought me to understand the heart and soul of my acting.”

Adds Lasser of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fame: “He is a master teacher…a man who has tried to help so many find their way to their truth as actors and human beings. He has an unerring talent for knowing what is true and what is not true.… By far the best teacher I could ever imagine in this whole wide world.”

His other students included Bill D'EliaTyne DalyAli MacgrawJohn DomanScott CohenJennifer O’NeillJennifer Beals and Michael Badalucco.

Modica served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War and attended Adelphi College, where he studied speech and drama and was a standout football and lacrosse player.

Modica also taught in high school and at Philip Burton’s renowned American Music and Dramatic Academy. In 1966, he left the Neighborhood Playhouse to teach independently at his Carnegie Hall space.

D’Elia, the director and producer of such notable shows as How to Get Away With Murder and Boston Legal, said that what Modica taught him, “I use every day in my work.

“It’s hard to describe what he meant to me," he added. "But he lives on in those of us that took those classes. His was a singular talent and passion.”

Survivors include his son Robert X. Modica Jr.; daughters Dorothy, Josephine and Katherine; former wife Dorothy; partner Donna; and nine grandchildren.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4