I went to a movie audition, and the director had seen The Three Musketeers. So I worked in my first movie — I think it was called Zombies of the Stratosphere, I don’t know — because of a kids’ show at the Coronet.”
Nimoy speaks with enormous devotion about acting teacher Jeff Corey — “the Lee Strasberg of the West Coast” — with whom Nimoy studied, beginning in 1958. “He cast me with Paul Mazursky and Michael Forest in Death Watch by Jean Genet. We did the play in a coffeehouse on Cosmo Alley, off of Vine Street. Because Genet had never been produced on the West Coast, and there was this intrigue about this exotic writer, the industry people came.
Courtesy of Leonard Nimoy
Nimoy (right) onstage on La Cienega Boulevard, circa 1953
“The L.A. Times referred to it as a ‘miasma of homosexuality.’ Of course, everybody wanted to see this. I started working steadily as an actor after that.”
Before Star Trek, Nimoy continued to do theater around L.A. and occasionally out of town; in 1953, Nimoy, who reads and speaks Yiddish, acted in a production of Sholom Aleichem’s It’s Hard to be a Jew, with Maurice Schwartz, founder of the Yiddish Art Theater, in New York. The production ran for a few weeks at the Civic Playhouse, a now-defunct theater north of the Coronet, on La Cienega.
Meanwhile, Nimoy was teaching for Corey, who’d been blacklisted until 1960. When Corey finally returned to work, several of his students came to Nimoy and asked if he wanted to start an acting company. They said they’d found a place behind a restaurant on the corner of Waring Avenue and Vine Street.
“I laid it all out for them, the design, and they tried this tedious process of making this into a working theater.”
That was the beginning of Company of Angels.
The Company of Angels 50th-anniversary bash, on October 17, at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., dwntwn. Arrivals start at 6 p.m. For more information, go to companyofangels.org.