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Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov Hardcover – March 23, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (March 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679424423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679424420
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Cofounder in the 1930s of the Group Theater and best known later as the formidable force behind the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting, Adler was an articulate, opinionated, intellectually gifted member of the profession, as these talks on Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov attest. Culled from a lifetime of lectures and edited into rough essay form by Barry Paris, they exhaustively examine the major works of those three seminal modern playwrights. They are not academic exercises, for Adler's goal was to show her acting students how to break down those intimidating plays into easily digestible parts, the better to bring them to life onstage. Adler's microscopic dissection of a role like that of Nora in A Doll's House is fascinating. Unfortunately, her close, complete reading has a downside in this book--repetitiveness. Furthermore, not even Paris' expertise disguises the fact that these pieces were originally spoken. Digression and repetition may be helpful in a classroom lecture but are not as forceful on the page as a lean, careful essay would be. Sadly, this is all she "wrote." Jack Helbig

From Kirkus Reviews

The late acting teachers legendary lectures on script interpretation lose something when transposed to the printed page, though they still make a fine introduction to modern drama and the acting style it requires. Like Moscow Art Theatre director Konstantin Stanislavsky, with whom she studied, and like her fellow members of the Group Theatre, which popularized his revolutionary acting technique in America, Adler (190192) stresses the actors role as servant to the playwright. Ibsen and his successors created a new kind of drama based on middle-class life and speech, she asserts; since what people say isnt necessarily what they mean, actors in these plays must imagine and convey their characters inner lives beneath and beyond the textbut always for the purpose of illuminating its themes. Adlers interpretations stick closely to received wisdom: Ibsen depicts the individual struggling for liberation from societys conventions; Strindberg portrays men and women in mortal conflict; Chekhov is the poet of nostalgia and loss. Nonetheless, her specific examples of how an actor can particularize these themes in an individual characters actionse.g., Noras habit of hiding things in A Dolls Houseare fascinating. Its hard to say what exactly film biographer Paris (Garbo, 1995, etc.) did to edit Adlers talks, which, judging by internal references, date from the mid-'70s through the mid-'80s. He provides very few footnotes, and he eliminates neither her repetitions nor her actressy asides for the benefit of her audience (Ill tell you because I want you to love me). More rigorous cutting would have better highlighted Alders very serious commitment to these plays and to the art of acting. Despite these flaws, Adler is majestic and inspiring as she speaks to us from a bygone age in which the theater was the principal creative home for actors who achieved dignity from their abilities as interpretive artists, not from their celebrity status or their paychecks. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

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When I got this book, I also picked up a copy of each of the plays she discusses.
TEA
There is a marvellous relationship between the author and the reader in Stella Adler's book on Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov.
Malcolm Robertson
Stella gives straight up advice on how to approach the material of these three great playwrights.
James A. Myl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a must for serious actors who wish to further their understanding of the great writers for the stage. Before reading this book, I was, as an actor, very intimidated by the works of all three writers, but now feel like I can approach their plays with some degree of clarity and purpose. Adler writes from the point of view of performer, literary analyst, and teacher, a combination that serves to leave the reader inspired to tackle these three catalysts of the theatre.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Damon Navas-Howard on July 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is definitely a theater must. Stella Adler, probably one of the best American acting teachers talking about three of the greatest playwrights (Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov) ever. It is hard where to categorize this book for it points out ways (or I should say one way for Chekhov) to approach the plays of these Playwrights to the Actor but it is also very academic and analytic of the plays at the same time. Most of the entries, broadly discuss the play going from the actor's point of view to the directors to historical facts to the author's life etc. It is very insightful and inspring but There is only one problem I have with this book is her aggressive assumption that the only approach to Chekhov can be through Stanlisvaski's method and any other way is wrong. Now I agree that Stanislavski goes hand in hand with the Realism period but as Chekhov himself said "I wrote vaudevilles and Stanlisvaski has staged them as sentimental dramas". What is my point? That in theatre you cannot approach everything from one school of thought. We in the Theatre fight too much about Technique instead of moving audiences and transforming them. Still though, this book is worth reading and has great insights on these three playwrights.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By TEA on June 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Whether you are an actor, director, or just someone interested, these lectures of Stella's make you feel as though you are in a class with her, gaining the benefit of her years of experience in the theater. Given her significant experience observing her father (a noteworthy actor) but also her own experience in the famous Group Theater, she has a unique background and a wealth of understanding that fuels her ability to convey the essence of these three playwrights and their works.

Her goal is to get the actor (or director, for that matter) to understand the absolute criticality of getting at the heart and soul of any play and any of the roles (characters) within. In the case of any playwright, Stella Adler points out through wonderful examples that one must not only seek to understand a playwright, but also the time in which he or she lived, all in addition to the time period within the play itself.

Her vibrant soulful expression of the material seems connected itself with grasping the material. She's does not mull over reams of boring details of fringe intellectual material, but rather she's full of uncompromising excitement and clarity about how the material of Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov is full of issues which have stakes that are no different than the sort of dilemma's people deal with today. Yes, some standards and things are different, but that's part of what she helps one to overcome. From what she conveys, I walked away from the book having deep passions for what the different characters had to deal with.

Before I read this book, I had no clue who Ibsen, Strindberg, or Chekhov were. When I got this book, I also picked up a copy of each of the plays she discusses. They were distant to me at first, but I'm grateful I didn't shy away.
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By James A. Myl on June 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
As good as any book I have ever read on acting. Stella gives straight up advice on how to approach the material of these three great playwrights. Especially great that she saved Chekhov till last. She has a real affection for him and gave me insights I would have never arrived at on my own.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a marvellous relationship between the author and the reader in Stella Adler's book on Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov. The great quality of integrity, respect and love towards those authors that Stella Adler demonstrates is the one of the reasons to contnue to believe that the American Theatre has more going for it than commercial success.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stellar Adler's lectures, as featured in this volume, are brilliant and insightful. Her understanding of these authors is both highly visceral and intellectual. I felt as though I was partaking of a rich and fulfilling meal. This is volume that is essential to the actor, and to anyone interest in the works of these playwrights.
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