Synopses & Reviews
“Don’t use your conscious past. Use your creative imagination to create a past that belongs to your character. I don’t want you to be stuck with your own life. It’s too little.”
“You must get beneath the words before you can say them. The text must be in you. It is your job to fill, not to empty the words. They can only be used if they come out of what you need to say.” —Stella Adler
From one the most celebrated and influential acting teachers of her time, of all time, whose generations of students include Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn, Eva Marie Saint, Diana Ross, Robert De Niro, Warren Beatty, Annette Benning, Peter Bogdanovich, Mark Ruffalo—the long-awaited companion volume to her book on the master European playwrights Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov (“Evidence,” wrote John Guare, “that Stella Adler is hands down the greatest acting teacher America has produced . . . Nobody with a serious interest in the theater can afford to be without this book”).
She was a force of nature, an unforgettable personality. Once, when she walked into a crowded room and her presence caused a hush to fall over it, a little girl asked, “Mommy, is that God?”
Adler saw script interpretation as the actor’s profession (“The most important thing you can teach actors is to understand plays”). Her classes of script analysis became legendary; brilliant revelations of the playwrights, the characters, the social class and the time of the play as opposed to one’s own. Adler explored how to find the ideas and experience them; how to search for the soul, for what is unsaid; all of this as a way of building craft as distinct from talent.
Her new book, brilliantly edited by Barry Paris, brings together her most important lectures on America’s plays and playwrights, the giants of the twentieth century, men she knew, loved, and worked with. Adler considers, among them, Eugene O’Neill, Mourning Becomes Electra; his first play, Beyond the Horizon; and his last, Long Day’s Journey into Night (“O’Neill is a mystical playwright . . . his speech is vernacular, down-to-earth . . . it conveys the idea that there is nothing real outside, but that’s where I want to be—somewhere out in the fog. The answers are hard to get in a fog”) . . .
She writes about Tennessee Williams and The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, and The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (“Williams captivates us because of the romantic way in which he escapes the filth and frustration . . . The greatness in Williams is that [the characters] have a right to run away. What do they run away from? From the monster of commercialism and competition, from things that kill the melody and beauty of life”) . . . about Clifford Odets (“Clifford, if you don’t become a genius,” Adler once said to him, “I’ll never forgive you”); and about his plays Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy (on Lorna Moon and Joe Bonaparte: “You can’t put a whore together with a Napoleonic man and think they’re going to make it. They might make it under certain conditions—but not from the point of view of love. This is not a love story. It’s a hate story”) . . . about William Inge and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Come Back, Little Sheba; about Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (“[The salesman’s sons] are Biff and Happy . . . They’re not George and Jacob. Their names are shortcuts. It’s the American Way—a way of saying, ‘We’ll leave out tradition’ . . . That tells you something you’ll see throughout the entire play: they are cut off from custom”) about Miller’s After the Fall; and Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story and The Death of Bessie Smith.
Illuminating, revelatory, inspiring: Stella Adler at her electrifying best.
"Culled from the voluminous lectures of the late American actress, Group Theatre cofounder, and renowned teacher, this companion volume to Stella Adler on Strindberg, Ibsen, and Chekhov (2000) shares the same forceful qualities and inescapable drawbacks of the earlier selection, but will be essential reading for the actor as well as a bracingly original introduction (or refresher) for the general reader. Beginning with a discussion of O'Neill, Adler establishes key themes, including an explication of the marginality that produces great theater and its implicit challenge to the mainstream convictions of its audience. She then moves through playwrights who were defined by, and in turn transcended, their particular eras. With respect to the Great Depression, for example, there's a keen, stimulating consideration of Thornton Wilder (along with William Saroyan, discussed in a later chapter) as a Chekhovian writer of enormous, universalizing humor, paradoxically cosmopolitan and thoroughly (ambivalently) American. Although editor Paris (Louise Brooks: A Biography) takes pains to reduce the natural redundancy across these talks (in addition to offering synopses of the plays discussed and judicious explanatory footnotes), the transfer to the page inevitably entails compromise; chapters land somewhere between transcripts and cohesive essays. Nevertheless, nearly every page shimmers with Adler's bounding personality and discerning grasp of her subjects." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From one of the most famous and influential acting teachers of her time, of all time--whose generations of students include Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Warren Beatty, Meryl Streep, Jerome Robbins, Annette Bening, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Mark Ruffalo--the long-awaited companion volume to her book On Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov
("Evidence," wrote John Guare, "that Stella Adler is hands down the greatest acting teacher America has produced...Nobody with a serious interest in the theater can afford to be without this book").
In Adler's new book, she considers America's plays and playwrights--the giants of the twentieth century, men she knew, loved, and worked with. Among them: Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Clifford Odets, William Inge, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee. She turns her powerful, discerning gaze on O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra and Long Day's Journey into Night; Williams's The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire; Odets's Awake and Sing! and Golden Boy; Inge's Picnic, Bus Stop, and Come Back, Little Sheba; Miller's Death of a Salesman and After the Fall.
Illuminating, revelatory, inspiring; Stella Adler at her electrifying best.
About the Author
STELLA ADLER began her life on the stage at the age of five in a production that starred her father, the legendary actor of the Yiddish Theatre, Jacob Adler. Stella Adler was one of the co-founders of the revolutionary Group Theatre. In 1934, she met and studied with Konstantin Stanislavski and began to give acting classes for other members of the Group, including Sanford Meisner and Elia Kazan. Adler established the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in 1949 and taught at Yale University.
BARRY PARIS is the author of biographies of Louise Brooks and Greta Garbo.
Table of Contents
Beyond the Horizon (1920)
Mourning Becomes Electra (1931)
Long Day's Journey Into the Night (1956)
THORTON WILDER (1897-1975)
The Skin of Our Teeth (1942)
CLIFFORD ODETS (1906-1963)
Waiting for Lefty (1935)
Golden Boy (1937)
Golden Boy: Text Analysis
The Country Girl
Hello Out There!
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (1911-1983)
The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (1941)
The Glass Menagerie (1945)
Summer and Smoke (1948)
Come Back, Little Sheba (1950)
ARTHUR MILLER (1915-2005)
Death of a Salesman (1949)
After the Fall (1964)
EDWARD ALBEE (b. 1928)
The Zoo Story (1959)
The Death of Bessie Smith (1959)