Growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous. The Stella Adler Studio of Acting is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of this insight, so elemental to the life, work and spirit of Stella Adler.
The Studio’s mission is to create an environment with the purpose of nurturing theatre artists and audiences who value humanity, their own and others, as their first and most precious priority while providing art and education to the greater community.
Growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous
To Stella Adler, the impulse to act was a sacred and important one but she was not dogmatic about any singular approach or method. Rather, her “system” centered on providing budding actors with the tools, training, and discipline to grow and to employ the limitless human imagination in their task of studying and bringing a script to life. The beliefs Stella held about actors and acting formed the framework for how the tools, training, and discipline were delivered, and these were — and are still — found in five basic principles which are present across all the classes at the Studio. These basic principles include:
The development of independent actors
Stella Adler, herself a fiercely independent theater artist, understood that acting becomes vital, exciting, and alive when actors do their own thinking and bring a point of view or a sense of mission to their work. One of her most frequently quoted statements is: “Your talent is in your choice.” At the Studio, the aim is to develop actors who think for themselves, respect their own ideas and ideals, and use the theatre as a means to share those ideas and ideals. Such independent actors are fully resolved to train their minds, bodies, voices, and spirits to achieve that end.
The power of the imagination
Actors’ imaginations are the most powerful source for them to draw on. To bring theatrical texts to life the actor must be able to create a transforming, living experience. To create such an experience, students at the Stella Adler Studio are asked to use their imagination to locate the fullest range of motivational force, rather than depending solely on their personal past and emotional memory.
The importance of action
Drama depends on doing, not feeling; feeling is a by-product of doing. Our approach to acting depends on connecting strongly to each other by way of actions and creating dramatic events that take place between “I and thou,” not between “me and myself.” These actions include the subtle, creative, onstage choices to which actors commit.
A text, once the author has surrendered it, is an object in itself with its own life, its own meaningful possibilities, and its own potential for impact. Another Stella Adler quote still used at the Studio is: “The play is not in the words, it’s in you!” It is the actor’s responsibility to respect the script with a willingness to read it deeply with a fertile imagination. This respect involves an understanding of where the playwright is leading the character, including understanding the character’s environment and investigating the full setting of the play.
The cultivation of a rich humanity
The actor’s instrument is the actor’s own body and brain but if the dramatic arts are to avoid shrinking to a self-referential, self-enclosed, detached, and isolated unit of a larger world, then the psyche upon which the actor calls must not be the actor’s own, but the character’s. Therefore, an actor needs to develop resources of information and experience that connect with the rest of the world — socially, culturally, historically, and politically — thereby enriching the actor’s instrument that is required to perform. This is why, in addition to world-class faculty and well-structured curriculum the Stella Adler Studio presents the Harold Clurman Arts Series which includes theater and dance theater, lectures and symposia, poetry readings and play readings, jazz and classical concerts. This is why we have created the Stella Adler Arts Justice Division whose mission is to bring free actor-training to severely underserved New Yorkers who can’t afford tuition while providing our tuition based students a model of social engagement.
Each of these principles permeates all of the Studio’s courses as the general teaching philosophy at the Adler Studio.