To baby boomers, Barbara Bain is best known for the two TV series she did with her ex-husband, Martin Landau: "Mission: Impossible," for which she won three consecutive Emmys (1967-69) as the coolly efficient agent Cinnamon Carter, and the 1975-77 British sci-fi action-adventure, "Space: 1999," which aired in the U.S. in syndication.
But despite her TV and feature film work, Bain is really a theater animal. She honed her craft in the 1950s in New York with the legendary Lee Strasberg, who remains a strong influence on her. "Lee was a very important teacher," she said. "There is always something to learn."
Bain, 80, still takes acting class Wednesday evenings at the Actors Studio here. "I get up and [do scene] work," she said. "It is run by a wonderful colleague, Lou Antonio. It is stunning what he does. I have been teaching a private class there Saturdays from 11 to 3. There are 10 students. I don't like it to be too big. I do a lot of exercise work and scene work. I have a wonderful mix: I have some kids who have done nothing before, some who have been acting since they were kids, and some older people."
On a recent late afternoon at the Crown City Theatre in North Hollywood, Bain has just completed rehearsals for the day on "Love Struck," a collection of new one-act plays on the subject of love penned by Dale Griffiths Stamos and directed by Maggie Grant that opens Friday at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Bain is dressed in black and her long blond hair is pulled up into a makeshift bun. Even with just a modicum of makeup, she's still stunning.
"Love Struck" comes at a particularly busy time for Bain. While rehearsing the play, she was also appearing at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in "Why We Have a Body," in which she played a "feminist, archaeologist, historian and bilingual student of the human brain." And no sooner does Bain finish "Love Struck" than she begins directing the world premiere of "To Quiet the Quiet," by Christy Hall, which opens July 13 at the Elephant Theatre in L.A.
"Love Struck" marks the second time Bain has worked with Stamos. Last year, Bain appeared in a series of her one-acts, "Thicker Than Water," that was also directed by Grant.
Stamos contacted Bain about participating in "Love Struck." "I approached her saying, 'Shall we do it again?'" Stamos recalled. "'I would like to write you a piece, brand-new pieces that are specifically for you.' She said, 'How could I say no to that?' She is just knocking it out of the park. We're very pleased."
Bain appears in two of the seven-one acts: "Identity," in which she plays a woman suffering fromAlzheimer'swho mistakes her adult son for someone he's never heard of before, and "Matchmade," which finds Bain playing a widow who runs a matchmaking service for septuagenarians.
"She writes very well," Bain said of Stamos. "She writes very, very rich characters. They are not fluffy."
Stamos described Bain as an "old school" actress. "She is all about the work," said Stamos. "She is the first one there [at rehearsal], the last one to leave. She was there at all of our auditions. She works harder than anybody. She is Actors Studio and you see a lot of that in her finding the meaning in every movement. She is all about the process."
Bain started talking about her process of playing a woman suffering from Alzheimer's. "You look at what you can bring to it," she said. "You have an intrinsic feeling about how horrible it must be not to relate to what's going on around you. If you think of how to play that, it becomes much more a question of craft."
The purpose of an actor, said Bain, is to "illuminate parts of our life. That is what we are here for."
Where: Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Price: $32; $25 for seniors, students and groups
Info: (323) 960-7787; http://www.plays411.com/lovestruck