With 20 years of acting and teaching, Ed Claudio has shaped Sac’s theater scene
He’s produced more than 150 full-length plays (mostly classic scripts with literary “oomph”) and some newer scripts as well, including originals by local playwrights. Then there are also the evenings of one-acts, featuring his acting students.
That’s Ed Claudio, who’s been acting and teaching acting in Sacramento for two decades.
“Tim Busfield brought me here in 1989,” Claudio recalled over coffee at a Midtown cafe. “He said, ‘You come out to Sacramento, and I’ll help you set up an acting school.’” That’s exactly what they did.
Claudio joined what was then called the Fantasy Theatre, a company that took a “show in a van” touring to schools. It is still a touring school company, associated with the B Street Theatre’s children’s programs.
The local theater scene in those days was smaller. “When I came here, there was the Music Circus in the summer, and STC [Sacramento Theatre Company] and the Fantasy Theatre.”
Claudio looked around and saw an opportunity. He wanted to start an acting school patterned after his own experience in the early 1970s, studying in New York under the late, legendary Stella Adler. And he wanted to launch an actor-driven theater. He was inspired by the Actors Studio that Elia Kazan had started in the late 1940s. It was “‘a place for actors to get out of the rain,’” Claudio said, quoting Kazan’s description.
“That’s the way I feel about it,” Claudio said. “I’ve put over 2,000 actors on stage over the past 20 years. And 50 or 60 of them have gone on to get an Actors’ Equity card, or join the Screen Actors Guild.”
Claudio’s put them in great plays that you read about in college but don’t often see in Sacramento. He mounted Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Claudio’s also staged Saroyan, Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Stoppard. His shows—modestly produced under the banner of The Actors Theatre of Sacramento—have a common trait.
“First and foremost, they’re all about the individual actor and his or her relationship to the text and the interpretation of the text,” he said. It’s about “finding and following the author’s intentions, and fulfilling those intentions.”
Claudio also acts in professional productions. He was in the first show at the B Street Theatre. He’s done Music Circus shows. He did Athol Fugard’s Valley Song at Foothill Theatre. He’s done classics at STC (Othello, Tartuffe). And he’s done countless broadcast voice-overs.
He’s watched as others have opened up their own acting schools around town. “But I was the first one to have a summer theater camp. I’ve been doing it for 18 years! I’m still here, and getting students!” he said.
Claudio operates these days out of the California Stage complex at 25th and R streets.
He’s been onstage for more than 40 years. But don’t ask about retirement. He’s planning productions of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology and Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape this season. “And I’d like to do another Hamlet, maybe The Winter’s Tale,” he said. “I want one more shot at Death of a Salesman. And there’s a play they’re doing in Ashland [Oregon]—I won’t be able to get the rights for a while—called Equivocation. I’d like to do that.”