Soap star and acting coach Gene Bua — who helped train the likes of Brad Pitt, Drew Barrymore and Katey Sagal at his Burbank school — died Saturday after a 13-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The Glendale resident was 72.
Bua is survived by his wife and creative partner, Toni Bull Bua, and his son, granddaughter and brother. He and Bull Bua met nearly 50 years ago on the set of CBS’s long-running soap opera, “Love of Life,” where they fell in love on and off screen.
“He taught me everything — he taught me how to sing, he taught me how to play baseball, he taught me how to marathon run, he taught me Shakespeare, he taught me how to feel,” Bull Bua said Tuesday. “He was magnificent.”
Trained at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse, Bua’s career kicked off in his teenage years after famed composer Richard Rodgers plucked him to play the lead in the Broadway revival of “The Boys from Syracuse.”
In 1980, shortly after the couple moved to Burbank from New York, they cofounded Gene Bua Acting for Life, a Burbank-based acting school that went on to receive honors from the White House, United Nations, six California mayors and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“Gene knew how to take an audience and sweep them away,” Bull Bua said, affectionately referring to him as her Lion King. “He knew how to teach his stars that, too.”
He continued to teach up until four months ago, Bull Bua said.
The pair wrote and directed “Pepper Street” in the 1980s, which at the time was the longest-running musical in Los Angeles. The musical, a story of a suicidal teen, inspired the city of Burbank to proclaim Youth Suicide Awareness Month, Bull Bua said. The couple subsequently developed a six-week acting program for at-risk youth with the Penny Lane Residential Treatment Center.
“The Young and the Restless” star Tracey Bregman, who studied under Bua, said in a statement that knowing the couple has been a gift.
“Gene and his beautiful wife and my Soul Sister, Toni, create such a safe and loving environment. I always feel, when I’m walking into class, all my defenses drop,” Bregman wrote. “They have been my teachers, my friends and always my family. I have used their techniques on every project I've worked on.”
Bull Bua will host a celebration of his life in February.