HB Studio was founded in New York City in 1945 by Viennese actor and director Herbert Berghof as a workplace for the teaching of acting that encouraged experimentation based on classic traditions of theater. Berghof sought to create an institution that allowed for the continuity of education with the opportunities for performance that could include both established actors and beginning students.
In the early 1960s, Berghofand Uta Hagen were able to buy the one-story garage at 124 Bank St. with earnings from his work on the film Cleopatra, and the building was converted into a theater that could seat eighty people. The Studio thrived in its new space. In addition to the acting classes, a playwrights department was created with Gil Pearlman, Norman Rosten, Horton Foote, and William David Roberts as teachers. Movement, ballet and jazz, fencing, speech, costume and stage make-up classes were also offered. The HB Playwrights Foundation was officially created in 1965 to provide separate administrative support for the production of plays. As before, the productions were strictly volunteer efforts on the part of the directors and actors and sought to allow experimentation and growth away from commercial influences.
Noted alumni have included Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick, Billy Crystal, Hope Davis, Drea DeMatteo, Robert DeNiro, Faye Dunaway, Rita Gardner, Whoopi Goldberg, Harvey Keitel, Jane Krakowski, Jessica Lange, John Leguizamo, Dina Merrill, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Alfred Molina, Al Pacino, William Packard, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Peet, Christopher Reeve, Paul Roebling, Eva Marie Saint, Annabella Sciorra, Kyra Sedgewick, Molly Shannon, Barbra Streisand, Lily Tomlin, and Sigourney Weaver.