Stella Adler’s Purpose in Life

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The Stella Adler Studio of Acting—founded by teacher, actress, and director, Stella Adler, in 1949—is highly prestigious with campuses in New York and Los Angeles and known as the home of the greatest actors.

What is the Stella Adler Studio of Acting?

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The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, or the Studio, has nourished and fostered the talents of many notable actors such as Robert De Niro, Warren Beatty, Salma Hayek, Mark Ruffalo and Marlon Brando. The Studio is meant to “create an environment with the purpose of nurturing theatre artists who value humanity, their own and others, as their first and most precious priority while providing art and education to the greater community.” Essentially, these ideas cultivated in the mind of the brilliant acting teacher, Stella Adler. She is a woman well-respected in the acting world, and everyone should know who she is and what she did.

Who really is Stella Adler?

Joanna Rotte, an actress who worked with Stella Adler before her death, interviewed her and asked her questions which many have not been able to get answered. Rotte was humble enough to share the personal interview with the public titled as “The Interview with Stella Adler.”

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In the interview, the reader learns that Stella Adler was born in 1901 to two theatre professionals, Jacob and Sara Adler. Stella, being exposed to diversity (her father who mostly acted in Yiddish plays) and female independence (her mother who started her own theatre company) instilled a great sense of ambition and drive in her. It is safe to say that during her liveliest times, she was a proto-feminist and a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. What Adler wanted the most was to… learn from the greatest.

Did Adler know Stanislavsky?

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Yes, she did!

In 1924, she joined the American Laboratory Theatre. This theatre was founded by English-speaking Russian actors who brought Konstantin Stanislavsky’s ideas to the United States. Then, Adler studied with Stanislavsky for five weeks in Russia and ultimately understood what Stanislavsky’s System was all about.

After Adler’s time with him, she specifically learned that “his emphasis [on nurturing the art of acting has] evolved from affective memory to doing an action in imaginative circumstances” (Rotte 192). In other words, he was moving on from the idea of depending on your own memory in an acting scene, and leaning on the idea of the Magic If. An example of a Magic If is:

Luna is performing in a scene where a doctor is breaking bad news 
to her patient. Luna is the patient, and she is having a hard time
connecting to the scene because she has never received 
life-changing news. Stanislavsky would say, "Use the Magic If. What
if you received fatal news? How would you feel then?" Thus, instead
of trying to recreate feelings that already happened, you depend
on your own imagination.

Ultimately, Adler adopted the Magic If and took it with her when she opened the Studio in 1949. She rephrased the Magic in a tangible manner and made it about creating humanity in a scene. In other words, she gave his idea her own twist, only making it stronger.

So what?

Stella Adler’s purpose in life was to teach actors how to be independent and autonomous. She wants you, the actor, to take what you learn in acting class and put your own twist to it. Putting your own twist to it gives you the liberty to be creative. She also wants you to build humanity within yourself in a scene. If you were in a show with Stella Adler, as your director, and she gave you directions that made you uncomfortable, she would say, “Try it once or twice. If it does not satisfy you, try what I told you again, but with your own twist.” Creativity, then, ensues and transforms into humanity.


Works Cited:

Rotte, Joanna. “An Interview with Stella Adler.” Theatre Topics, Vol. 12 No. 2 2002: 191-202. Article. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.

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One thought on “Stella Adler’s Purpose in Life

  1. Excellent article! I actually opened two extra tabs just so I can read up a bit more about the names you’ve mentioned. I’ll definitely continue reading what you’re posting.

    Like

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