Irene Gilbert, who co-founded the L.A. outpost of Stella Adler’s acting school and ran it for two decades, died May 21 of Alzheimer’s disease in Eureka, Calif. She was 76.
Gilbert persuaded the legendary Adler, her mentor, to launch the Los Angeles school.
“There would be no West Coast school if not for Irene’s drive and determination to keep it open,” John Jack Rodgers, executive director of the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre-Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times.
After a long career in New York, Adler started giving classes in L.A. in the 1960s. She and Gilbert became close friends and founded the academy together with thesp Joanne Linville.
The early ’90s brought disaster:
In 1991 the school was shut down after a fire, and the building at Hollywood and Argyle was to be demolished so the subway could be constructed; then Adler died in 1992.
Gilbert swore to Adler that she would rebuild the academy, and it reopened in 1994 at Hollywood and Highland.
Benicio Del Toro, Mark Ruffalo and Salma Hayek are among the Los Angeles school’s alumni.
Gilbert was born Irene Liebert in Germany; she and her family immigrated to New York City just prior to WWII, but her parents died when she was 5 at the hands of a drunk driver. An aunt and her older brothers raised her.
As an actress Gilbert made her TV debut on an episode of “Medical Center” in 1969 and went to appear in “Emergency,” “Barnaby Jones” and “Cannon,” among other shows. Her last credit was an episode of “Highway to Heaven” in 1989.
Gilbert was not only the nonprofit academy’s administrator but an instructor as well who produced and directed many plays.
Before Gilbert’s retirement, the school named one of its spaces the Irene Gilbert Theater.
Gilbert is survived by a son.
A memorial will be held June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the academy, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.