Brilliant lectures on the American masters from the late, legendary acting teacher.
The indomitable Stella Adler (1901–1992), who tutored Marlon Brando, displays both her omnivorous intellect and decades of experience in this generous second volume of acting-class lectures (following Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov, 1999) edited by celebrity biographer Paris (Garbo, 2002, etc.). Here, the teacher covers Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Clifford Odets, William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee. Adler knew the play, she knew the writer, and her message to her actors was direct: You must understand the play and the playwright at both the macro and micro level. You can’t do O’Neill if you don’t know about his tormented Irish-Catholic background; you can’t perform A Streetcar Named Desire or Death of a Salesman if you don’t know about postwar alienation. “If you don’t use the play’s world, you are not an actor, because the play is taken from that world, not yours, and you have to go there to find it.” Also, you must know the character’s inner and outer life: “Does he have an accent? How does he dress, how does he wear his hair?...What are the circumstances he lives in?” In Beyond the Horizon, Robert is weak, but don’t play him weak; he thinks he is strong. In Mourning Becomes Electra, play Christine like a queen; “use your epic voice, not a little intimate voice.” In The Glass Menagerie, Laura wears a leg brace; when she sits on the floor with her gentleman caller, she’s in pain. Read between the lines; follow what’s said and what isn’t. Adler has another, subtler message for her actors: Stay true to your art.
An exciting, inspiring and essential book for anyone interested in American theater.