âDonât use your conscious past. Use your creative imagination to create a past that belongs to your character. I donât want you to be stuck with your own life. Itâs too little.â Â âYou 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.âÂ Â Â âStella Adler Â 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 Ruffaloâthe long-awaited companion volume to her book on the master European playwrights Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov (âEvidence,â wrote John Guare, âthat 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 bookâ). 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, âMommy, is that God?â Adler saw script interpretation as the actorâs profession (âThe most important thing you can teach actors is to understand playsâ). 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 oneâs 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 Americaâs plays and playwrights, the giants of the twentieth century, men she knew, loved, and worked with. Adler considers, among them, Eugene OâNeill, Mourning Becomes Electra; his first play, Beyond the Horizon; and his last, Long Dayâs Journey into Night (âOâNeill is a mystical playwright . . . his speech is vernacular, down-to-earth . . . it conveys the idea that there is nothing real outside, but thatâs where I want to beâsomewhere out in the fog. The answers are hard to get in a fogâ) . . . She writes about Tennessee Williams and The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, and The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (âWilliams 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 lifeâ) . . . about Clifford Odets (âClifford, if you donât become a genius,â Adler once said to him, âIâll never forgive youâ); and about his plays Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy (on Lorna Moon and Joe Bonaparte: âYou canât put a whore together with a Napoleonic man and think theyâre going to make it. They might make it under certain conditionsâbut not from the point of view of love. This is not a love story. Itâs a hate storyâ) . . . about William Inge and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Come Back, Little Sheba; about Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (â[The salesmanâs sons] are Biff and Happy . . . Theyâre not George and Jacob. Their names are shortcuts. Itâs the American Wayâa way of saying, âWeâll leave out traditionâ . . . That tells you something youâll see throughout the entire play: they are cut off from customâ) about Millerâs After the Fall; and Edward Albeeâs The Zoo Story and The Death of Bessie Smith. Illuminating, revelatory, inspiring: Stella Adler at her electrifying best.
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