Stel­la! The Moth­er of Mod­ern Acting

Sheana Ochoa, for­ward by Mark Ruffalo
  • Review
By – August 21, 2014

Mar­lon Bran­do, Robert de Niro, Shel­ley Win­ters, Peter Bog­danovitch — they all stud­ied with Stel­la Adler, one of the lead­ing pro­po­nents of Stanislavsky’s method in Amer­i­ca. The daugh­ter of Jacob and Sara Adler, Yid­dish the­ater roy­al­ty, Stel­la spent her whole long life (19011992) in the the­ater. As a child, she act­ed in her family’s stage pro­duc­tions on the Low­er East Side, before mov­ing uptown to the Great White Way.’ Dur­ing the Depres­sion, she worked with Lee Stras­berg, Cheryl Craw­ford, and Harold Clur­man to form the Group The­atre. The rise of Hol­ly­wood, the out­break of World War II, and the ven­om of the post-War Black­list recon­fig­ured many careers, but Stella’s call­ing remained the the­ater — as a direc­tor, an actor, and lat­er, as a teacher of act­ing. Even Adler’s brief role as a gun­run­ner for the Irgun almost seems an exten­sion of her act­ing skills! Ochoa recounts the his­to­ry of Adler’s career and relation­ships, care­ful to include every last sto­ry any­one told any­one about Stella…and even a few Ochoa sim­ply imag­ines. A good edi­tor would have pruned away some of the irrel­e­vant tales and reined in Ochoa’s awk­ward, over-embell­ished prose. Still, read­ers who can ignore style may find the sub­stance use­ful. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, notes, photographs.

Relat­ed content:

Bet­ti­na Berch, author of the recent biog­ra­phy, From Hes­ter Street to Hol­ly­wood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezier­s­ka, teach­es part-time at the Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­mu­ni­ty College.

Discussion Questions