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Stella Adler on America's Master Playwrights: O'Neill, Wilder, Odets, Saroyan, Williams, Inge, Miller, Albee

Stella Adler on America's Master Playwrights: O'Neill, Wilder, Odets, Saroyan, Williams, Inge, Miller, Albee
Your Price: $35.95 CDN
Author: Stella Adler
Edited by: Barry Paris
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Format: Hardcover
# of Pages: 400
Pub. Date: 2012
ISBN-10: 0679424431
ISBN-13: 9780679424437

About the Book:

This is a script analysis "master class" in a book from Stella Adler, who strongly believed that all of the clues necessary to perform a role could be found in the script. Robert De Niro says he owes everything to her unparalleled script‐interpretation class where she taught that it is the actor's responsibility to analyze why characters behave the way they do and to become immersed in the world of the play. In this collection of her lectures she gives you her extraordinary script analysis of America's plays and playwrights – the giants of the 20th century, men she knew, loved, and worked with.

An original member of the famed Group Theater, Stella Adler was one of few Americans to have studied the "Method" with its originator, Constantin Stanislavsky, and the founder of her own highly esteemed acting conservatory, she was an experienced film and theatre actress before she started training her students – among them Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro – in the art of script interpretation.

Stella Adler saw script interpretation as the actor's profession ("The most important thing you can teach actors is to understand plays"). Her classes on script analysis became legendary. She discussed plays as scripts for actors, exploring the texts for performance clues; brilliant revelations of the playwrights, the characters, the social class and the time of the play as opposed to one's own. She pressed her students to create characters by closely studying the text of the play and its historical context; how to search for the soul, for what is unsaid; all of this as a way of building craft as distinct from talent.

"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

The book Stella Adler on America's Master Playwrights, brilliantly edited by Barry Paris, brings together her most important lectures on script interpretation of America's plays and playwrights. 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.

The long-awaited companion volume to her book on the master European playwrights Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov, Stella Adler on America's Master Playwrights is illuminating, revelatory, inspiring: Stella Adler at her electrifying best.

What people say:

"Stella Adler had a very good script-breakdown-and-analysis class that nobody else was teaching. It was just a way of making people aware of character, style, period, and so on." — Robert De Niro

"We usually go to scholars, dramaturgs, and critics for detailed analyses of the modern American theatre. Well, forget that! Here in this amazing book is Stella Adler in full and insightful bloom, preaching, exhorting, insulting, provoking, and always helping her many acting students. Through character study and scene breakdown within a specific play, she manages to give us a personal tour of the times and lives of the 20th Century's most illustrious playwrights. She knew them, she knew the world they lived in, and she remembers EVERYTHING! A brilliant book." — Andre Bishop, Lincoln Center Theater

"Even on the page, Stella Adler projects to the back of the house. It is indeed the voice of a giant ... vivid ... as vibrant an impression as I've come across of the social and artistic chaos in which American playwrights of the early 20th century found themselves ... [Adler's book] provides invaluable insights ... and erupts into sustained verbal fireworks as you've never heard elsewhere." — The New York Times

About the Author:

Stella Adler (1901-1992) was an American actress and an acclaimed acting teacher. She 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 an author and journalist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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