Norman Ayrton 1924-2017

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017
Juilliard Journal
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Norman Ayrton
Norman Ayrton with Two Gentlemen of Verona during rehearsal for Group 7’s spring 1978 production of the Shakespeare play.

Renowned acting teacher Norman Ayrton (faculty 1974-85) died June 22 in London. He was 92.

Born in 1924 in London, Ayrton fell in love with the theater after a school trip. After World War II, some relatives who had survived being imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp came to live with his family, and the experience, according to an obituary in London’s Daily Telegraph, emboldened him “to do what I wanted to do. It gave me the courage to go into acting.”

Ayrton trained at London’s Old Vic under Michel Saint-Denis (Juilliard faculty 1959-71) and also taught movement there before opening his own teaching studio in London and becoming a drama coach for the Royal Opera House, where his pupils included the soprano Joan Sutherland. He then became assistant principal of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), where he would also serve as principal from 1966 to 1972. Though most of his career was devoted to teaching, he also worked extensively as an actor, director, and lecturer. At Juilliard he worked in the Drama (1974-81) and Opera (1980-85) departments, teaching acting, movement, and style as well as doing private coaching in dramatic and operatic roles. From 1986 to 1996 he was dean of the British American Drama Academy (BADA) in London.