JOAN SEE (PALMER), 83, revered founder of the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, took her final bow on April 5th to a standing ovation from thousands of dedicated actors whose training and careers she lovingly shepherded.
The Conservatory was her life, and throughout her five-year battle with cancer, Joan showed up daily to run the show. Her role model and mentor was legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner, with whom she studied after graduation from Hofstra University, intending to join the throngs of Broadway hopefuls. After major roles at Joe Papp’s Public Theater, Joan found she could support herself and her two sons through “nailing” commercials and voice overs. She appeared in more than 300, her favorite for AMEX as Paul Newman’s wife at a Bernini fountain in Rome.
In 1979 she had a vision: to help her fellow actors support themselves while waiting for their big stage break. Adapting Meisner’s techniques to film and television, she offered a single class with camera feedback. Its immediate success lead to her developing a full curriculum for The School for Film and Television taught by experienced actors and industry professionals, with onsite casting space to benefit students and casting agents. She soon founded a readings series, where playwrights were given space to develop their works; many gained productions.
Her book, Acting in Commercials: A Guide to Auditioning and Performing on Camera, published by Back Stage Books, is now in its second edition. Esquire Magazine once dubbed her “The Stanislavski of the 30-second spot.”
Joan often quipped to incoming students, “I want you to be able to put food on your mother’s table.”
Ultimately, Joan expanded the school into a comprehensive acting conservatory, renamed The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, which became accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre in 1995, with articulation agreements with Adelphi University and the University of Northern Colorado. The Conservatory began offering an associate’s degree in 2012.
Over the years many stage and screen luminaries served as advisors, teachers or board members, among them Julie Harris, Ann Meara, Jerry Stiller, Sandy Duncan, Frances Sternhagen and Lynn Cohen.
Outside of her work with the Conservatory, Joan loved travel, gardening, attending the ballet, and spending time with her many adopted animals as well as with her beloved grandchildren. Joan took in many local strays over the years, and was as generous with her "critters" as she was with all who were lucky enough to know her.
Joan is survived by sons David and John Palmer, David’s wife Kelly, and her two grandchildren Jeremy (19) and Alice Palmer (15), to whom she was devoted. She is also survived by thousands of her “theatrical children,” who now stand and applaud.
A celebration of her life will be scheduled and announced. Donations in Joan's honor can be made to Liberty Humane Shelter in Jersey City, NJ. www.libertyhumane.org/joan_see_palmer