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"I started to develop characters…" (Video interview, 5:30)

   Irwin Leo Handman
Collection image
Irwin Handman [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Coast Guard
Unit: USCG Storis (WMEC 38); USCG Huron
Service Location: North Atlantic; Greenland; Key West, Florida
Rank: Lieutenant
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Though he wanted to join the Navy during World War II, Irwin Leo "Wynn" Handman was rejected due a heart arrhythmia. Not to be deterred from his dreams of going to sea, he joined the Coast Guard in 1942. To relieve the tension of life aboard an icebreaker escorting convoys to Greenland, he amused himself and his shipmates by doing impressions of famous actors. This character development would serve him well in his future career. When he left the service in 1946 and realized he needed a vocation, he used the GI Bill to attend acting school. He went on to co-found the ground-breaking American Place Theater in 1963. As well, he became a notable acting teacher, guiding actors such as Michael Douglas, Richard Gere, and Denzel Washington.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (73 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Took on the identity of a bunkmate who consistently missed roll call; previous experience in music; love of Lester Young; realizing art was part of life. (03:17) Anecdote about distributing cigarettes to the German POWs aboard ship. (01:37) In charge of showing movies aboard ship; incident in which the movie projector started a fire aboard ship. (02:02)
Doing humorous impressions and memorizing monologues; narrow escape from assignment to Pacific Theater. (03:39) (00:18) Deciding to become an actor. (NaN:NaN)
How the discipline he learned in basic training was useful in his theatre career. (01:35) Teaching acting; seeing the need for production of high-quality plays; deciding to found a new theater. (06:59) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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