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Robert Forster

Presenting the second in our series of profiles of Rochester Community Theatre Alumni
By Michael H. Arve

Robert Forster was born and raised in Rochester, New York and was a high school and college athlete. He graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in psychology with the thought of going on to law school. This never materialized, becoming an actor instead. Before moving to New York City he honed his craft acting in local theatre productions. Rochester Community Playhouse was his first theatrical home and is where he appeared in Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn.

Robert moved to New York City in 1965 and landed his first role on Broadway starring opposite Arlene Frances in Mrs. DaIly Takes a Lover. In 1967 his appearance opposite Julie Harris in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire garnered him the attention of John Huston who gave him his first film role in Reflections in a Golden Eye. He costarred with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.

His career has now spanned almost 50 years and he has done many films and television shows in those years. He is also an Academy Award nominee for his performance in Jackie Brown.

When I first contacted Robert to come to TANYS Festival 2008, he wrote me a wonderful letter. I had worked backstage on Robert’s first play at Rochester Community Players and I was absolutely amazed that he so readily agreed to be the Festival Chair. He did not charge us a penny, so strong was his feeling about community theatre’s importance.

This is what he wrote:

Michael Arve
Theatre Association of New York State

I got my first laugh in Community Theatre – an intoxicating event. The play was “Come Blow Your Horn,” the moment was when the showgirl asks whether she should massage my think muscle. A panicked look and quick closing of my legs brought down the house. I’d already been hooked – now I was landed.

Hattie and George Warren of the Rochester Community Players gave me an opportunity to test myself; to learn the rules, fight the fears and thrill to the satisfactions. It seems to me that it makes no difference whether you’re making a living at it (usually a poor one) or scavenging for props and trying to find a babysitter, the theatrical experience is universal: “Yer late for rehearsal! I can’t learn that *@?!% speech. No whistling! God, my legs are shaking.”

And I can’t think of anything better for community than for neighbors to gather, place trust in one another, and face the rigors of performance. The more the merrier. I like to say that the difference between being nominated for an Academy Award and actually winning might be like the difference between a 10 lb. box of chocolates and a 12 lb. box of chocolates – they’re both pretty sweet. Community Theater, in this case, may be the 12 lb. box. I look forward to old friends, and meeting new ones at TANYS 2008.



Robert Forster is just one of the illustrious people to have had their start on the boards of Rochester’s community theatres. Watch for articles about Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Park, John Bolton and Joe Calarco.

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