Miss Stella Adler

Article Detail

Tuesday 19 October 2010
Ron Brownson

http://assets.aucklandartgallery.com/assets/media/blog-stella-adlrt.jpg

 

Stella Adler, the famous Yiddish New Yorker, was one of the most influential mentors of actors to ever work in America. She transformed acting in a way that was more influential and enduring than even Lee Strasberg. She was tough, tenacious, incisive and frank enough to put the theatre’s results before any consideration of her manners. She was a knowing player, as a stage performer she was braver even than the amazing Tallulah Bankhead. Stella was a trooper with no patience for either cant or cunning.

Terrifying as a teacher, she had no time for ordinary actors. She wanted to encounter the extraordinary at all times. I have studied a number of videotapes of her in master classes. If you survived a session with Stella, you were a survivor at the front line of danger.

Here are some of her statements. She had a PhD in one liners! In person, she was a fatally effective presence.

Don't criticise, recognize.

Acting, creating, interpreting, means total involvement; the totality of heart, mind, and spirit. Acting is the total development of a human being into the most he or she can be and in as many directions as you can possibly take.

Do you know what you did, sweetheart? You interrupted the whole scene with your one throw away line. That's very American of you.

There is a certain kind of excitement in the theatre -- Nobody's completely sane!

Take a chance children, you're not going to jail.

It's a drama. You're playing it like you're picking up a magazine in a beauty parlour.

You're acting the hell out of it. You're giving the performance of ten thousand actresses!

I was at a rehearsal once and an actor yawned -- The rehearsal was dismissed.

Listen where the ideas come, darling. Listen quickly, grab the ideas... Like the C.I.A. does.

Darling, the theatre is not as small as you want to make it

Do it! Don't talk about it.

When an actor meets another actor, he doesn't have to say, 'How do you do?,' he says, 'Oh, you're in the same trouble I'm in.’

Sweetheart, she's going to commit suicide in the next scene, and you want to powder your nose!

If tears were talent, then my Aunt Sadie has more talent than anybody in the world.

You have to make magic out of lines.

Leave the audience alone. If you want them, they won't want you. If you ignore them, they'll like you.

You're playing an actress that's pretending to be pretending to be whatever you're pretending to be. 


You could be good if you gave up acting.

Naturally he is destructive, because the nature of art is to destroy you -- look at me. If I were an artist, I would be at least ten times more destroyed. I'm just a teacher...

The theatre doesn't permit all that inner psychological acting without an insane asylum being attached to it.

It's great! The arrogance of modern man, who says everything and knows nothing!

Cut out nine-hundred and ninety-nine percent and we'll still have you acting to much.

Louder! for God's sake, before we all die!

That's not acting! That's lunacy!

Take a chance children, you're not going to jail.

It's a drama. You're playing it like you're picking up a magazine in a beauty parlour.

You're acting the hell out of it. You're giving the performance of ten thousand actresses!

Listen where the ideas come, darling. Listen quickly, grab the ideas... Like the C.I.A. does.

Darling, the theatre is not as small as you want to make it.

Do it, Don't talk about it.

When an actor meets another actor, he doesn't have to say, 'How do you do?,' he says, 'Oh, you're in the same trouble I'm in'.

Sweetheart, she's going to commit suicide in the next scene, and you want to powder your nose!

If tears were talent, then my Aunt Sadie has more talent than anybody in the world.

You have to make magic out of lines.

Leave the audience alone. If you want them, they won't want you. If you ignore them, they'll like you.

You're playing an actress that's pretending to be pretending to be whatever you're pretending to be.

You could be good if you gave up acting.

Here is the eulogy written by Burt A. Folkart for the Los Angeles Times:
"Stella Adler was an icon of drama and a mentor to actors whom Marlon Brando once called 'not just a teacher of acting but of life'."

"Adler, a devotee of Konstantin Stanislavski, father of the dramatic concept called the Method, was among the last survivors of those few but significant experimental American theater groups that will continue to influence actors and playwrights into the next century and beyond."

"Although she had been on stage since she was 4, appearing in her parents' Yiddish theater productions in New York, she did not become prominent until the 1930s as a member of the Group Theater co-founded by Lee Strasberg.

Dominated by the Russian Stanislavski's emphasis on inspiration from within, the Depression-era experimental company attracted some of the finest dramatic talents of its day, and they in turn passed their experiences on to Brando, Robert De Niro, Lee J. Cobb, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Geraldine Page and many more."

— Los Angeles Times 22 December 1992

To see Stella Adler in action see:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?gl=NZ&client=mv-google&hl=en&v=WQzyARZwIFM