Steve Arkin devoted his life to making our world a better place, from becoming an educator, captivating storyteller, and talented musician – to serving his community through numerous humanitarian organizations.
He began playing bluegrass music in New York with Hudson Tubes, a band featuring Stecher on guitar and David Grisman on mandolin; later he would join Maria & the Washington Square Ramblers.
Early Life and Education
Steve Arkin began his theater career with an off-Broadway role in 1958. Subsequently he joined both Missouri’s Compass Players improv troupe and then Chicago’s Second City for formal training as an actor.
Arkin then entered filmmaking, appearing in various shorts before landing his breakthrough role as Joseph Stein’s Enter Laughing’s star of 1963 Broadway production that garnered critical acclaim and garnered him a Tony Award nomination. Since then he has continued acting both onscreen and offscreen across film and television for decades to come.
He was also renowned as a banjo player, penning music and performing with the Hudson Tubes jam session band that he established in New York in 1960. Jody Stecher played guitar while Gene Lowinger provided fiddle work.
Arkin has appeared in many films throughout his career and earned several critical accolades. Norman Jewison’s comedy film The Russians Are Coming won him great acclaim; also appearing in Vittorio De Sica’s Woman Times Seven and Terence Young’s psychological thriller drama Wait Until Dark.
Music remained his passion, and he played clawhammer banjo with mandolinist John Stecher and fiddler Gene Lowinger of the Hudson Tubes band – later transformed into New York Ramblers that included singer Maria Muldaur – during this period.
He can be found playing guitar and flute, and is an enthusiastic jazz enthusiast. In music camps he taught bluegrass and old-time banjo styles he still practices clawhammer playing and his own 3-finger style banjo today.
Achievement and Honors
At just 26, he became one of only three actors ever to earn an Academy Award nomination with their debut film performance and three more since. Additionally, he enjoyed a fruitful directing career – his most noteworthy Broadway production being Neil Simon’s play The Sunshine Boys.
He was well known for his extensive personal interests that ranged from Irish literature and the Modern British Novel, Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf to family life and subscribing to the Bloomsbury Group’s twin values of Art and Friendship.
Mr. Roberts was an exceptional banjo player, performing with several New York-based progressive bluegrass bands as well as Boston-based old-time groups. Additionally, he specialized in clawhammer banjo and fiddle; working closely with fiddler Richard Thompson, guitarist Peter Hoover and bassist Alexandra Tottle on various projects.
Arkin was an exceptional educator and mentor, dedicated to making academia and the world a better place. He inspired his students to reach their academic potential while exploring what wider goals can be achieved through study and hard work.
As an actor, he appeared in various popular films such as Rendition, Sunshine Cleaning, Get Smart and Marley & Me. Additionally, he received two Academy Award nominations for playing two memorable characters – his grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine and an arrogant studio executive in Catch 22 respectively.
As a musician, he was part of the Hudson Tubes and later the New York Ramblers along with guitarist Jim Field and mandolinist David Grisman – both being early members of Second City comedy troupe.
Arkin is an award-winning actor, director, and writer renowned for his charitable efforts and work as a voice actor on various television shows. Additionally he founded the Geffen Playhouse Foundation which provides educational opportunities for theater arts participation by young people. Additionally he founded Voice Acting International which provides voice talent services. Arkin won several awards including nominations from the Academy Award as Best Actor.
Arkin made his Broadway debut in Joseph Stein’s Enter Laughing comedy in 1963. New York Times critic Howard Taubman was so taken with his performance he wrote an enthusiastic review praising it as “an outstanding example of a skilled actor lampooning his profession”. Since then he has appeared in multiple stage productions; on film he was featured as leading man in Vernon Zimmerman road comedy Deadhead Miles by Gene Saks adaptation, Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Gene Saks adaptation and western comedy Hearts of the West.