BERTON BRAMLETTE "BRAM" LEWIS

Bram was born in July 1953 on a farm in Lebanon, Ohio and educated at The Buckley School in New York City, St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, and at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England.

He was assistant to Ted Mann at Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway, and then assistant to Hugh Southern at the Theatre Development Fund. Besides playing the recurring role of Jocko on One Life to Live for ABC, he also did 45 national network commercials and voiceovers, and then played Freddie on the NBC primetime series Tattingers written by multiple Emmy-award winner Tom Fontana.

 

During the next ten years, he acted in and directed over 40 dramas, comedies, classics, revivals and world premieres nationally and internationally, from London to New York to L.A. and back again.

 

He then founded The Phoenix Theatre Company which became one of the most prestigious theatres in America over the next decade. At its inception, during the crash of 1987, the company began with only 250 subscribers, no corporate, foundation, or government support of any kind. Thanks to early and vocal praise from Helen Hayes, the company started selling out. By the end of a decade, in its facility at the Performing Arts Center, SUNY/Purchase, subscriptions topped 10,000- a record unequaled in the county of Westchester then or since.

 

A short list of Stars who worked for and supported the company include: Alan Arkin, Ellen Burstyn, Billy Crudup, Ruby Dee, George Grizzard, Julie Harris, Rosemary Harris, Helen Hayes, Kevin Kline, Michael Patrick King, Carrie Nye, Jason Robards, and Elaine Stritch. Celebrated directors included John Barton (founder The Royal Shakespeare Company), Liviu Ciulei (founder the Bulandra Theatre of Bucharest), Marcia Milgrom Dodge (President of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers), Jose Quintero (founder of Circle in the Square), and Ellis Rabb (founder of the APA-the first non-profit rep company on Broadway).

 

The Phoenix Theatre achieved more than 60 glowing notices and reviews from The New York Times, Gannett, NY Post, NY Daily News, The Village Voice as well as a multi- page spread in the nationally syndicated magazine “Theatre Week”. Additionally, Mr. Lewis also created and hosted “In The Wings”, a weekly TV talk show devoted to The Phoenix and to theatre in general. It ran on Westchester cable and aired to over 250,000 households.

Concurrently, Mr. Lewis also taught acting at many conservatories including the American Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts, The Actor's Space, The T. Schreiber Studios, as well as being an adjunct professor at the State University of New York (SUNY Purchase).

 

Additionally, he created workshops and master-classes devoted to acting for the Phoenix Theatre, with Alan Arkin (improv), Ellen Burstyn (acting technique), Ruby Dee (Scene Study), Jose Quintero and Jason Robards (O'neil workshop), and many master- classes with John Barton, Harriet Walter, Kevin Kline, Sam Waterston and others on Playing Shakespeare....which subsequently were produced at The Public Theatre and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

For the past seven years, Bram has run The Schoolhouse Theater and Art Center in Croton Falls, New York.   Dubbed "The Venerable Schoolhouse Theater" by none other than The New York Times, the Theater is elegantly situated, high on a hill, in an old Elementary School and has a charming one of a kind history. It is the oldest professional Theater in Westchester. 36 years and counting.  Many gifted folk from the World Theater have found a home here.  John Barton from The Royal Shakespeare Company, Tony Award Winner Jim Dale, Tony Award Winner Dasha Epstein, Multiple Emmy Award Winner Emily Kingsley(Sesame St.), Legendary Actor/Comedian Robert Klein, Tony Award Winner Richard Maltby Jr., to name a few.

Bram’s focus until the Pandemic hit,  was on new plays that could test their metal, new-fired in the safety and security of the Schoolhouse. In other words, a place where things begin. In the past four years, three of our productions moved on to find new life off-Broadway; BH Barry's The Enlightenment of Mr. Mole (The Sheen Center); Stevie Holland and Gary William Friedman's Love, Linda (The Triad)...Then our third show to move in as many years, Lois Robbin's L.O.V.E.R (The Griffin Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center).

Two other highly successful productions at the Schoolhouse which have generated discussion for future life downtown are:  Gladstone Hollow by Emmy Award winner Dorothy Lyman and  The Color of Light.​..by highly acclaimed Author and Journalist Jesse Kornbluth.  

Since the onset of Covid 19, all Theaters have shut their doors across America. In late Spring, Schoolhouse's team of managers, Madeline Acton Rae and Bram have initiated weekly Zoom readings with New York’s best and brightest Actors for the benefit of subscribers from Croton Falls to St.Louis to L.A and back again. To date, more than 26 plays have been delivered for free and their team of Actors has been newly baptized as "The Pandemic Players".

 

We are excited about our future plans!  MacArthur "Genius" Award Director and Choreographer Martha Clarke is readying her next World Premier: God's Fool, all about St.Francis of Assisi.  Further plans are also under way for this production to subsequently travel to The Spoleto Festival in Spoleto, Italy.  

After 36 years, “The Venerable Schoolhouse” is busier than ever!  Avanti!