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The Art of Acting Hardcover – November 1, 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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From Library Journal

This second collection of Adler's papers precedes the material found in the previous collection (Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekov, LJ 4/15/99), ending as she begins text analysis. Here Kissel (David Merrick) has taken tapes, transcriptions, notebooks, and other sources to reconstruct an acting course in 22 lessons. What results is Adler at her strongest. Coming from a theatrical family and having studied with Stanislavsky, she became an old-fashioned autocratic teacher determined to pass on the best that she knows. She was certainly the best of her generation. The lessons are graduated from very basic matters to quite complex issues of textual analysis and decorum. Though mostly monologs, they include enough exercises and student responses to get the flavor of Adler's work. Some themes run through these classes: American culture is bankrupt, Lee Strasberg got Stanislavsky wrong, and class and its formality must be learned in order to do major plays through the realist period. This is required reading for anyone interested in theater practice.DThomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

When Adler died in 1992, the theater lost a great teacher, whose depth of experience alone made her invaluable. Daughter of one of the greats of Yiddish theater, Jacob Adler, she studied with Stanislavski, was a founder of the Group Theater and appeared in many of its seminal productions, married the brilliant critic Harold Clurman (they later divorced), and after the Group Theater folded, founded an acting school that rivaled Lee Strasberg's. But she never wrote a book about her theories and techniques. This collection, culled from sound recordings of her at work, at least re-creates the feel of her classes. Editor Kissel deserves great credit for shaping what could have been a chaotic collage of pronouncements into a coherent whole. The book's 22 lively chapters detail Adler's techniques for preparing her students for a life on the stage. Theater aficionados will appreciate Adler's discussion of modern plays and her belief that acting is a rare, privileged profession, and young actors will benefit from the many acting exercises sprinkled throughout the text. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; First Edition edition (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557833737
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557833730
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This great book has a quick and enthusiastic Introduction by former student Marlon Brando, and then consists solely of transcripts of cogent and thought-provoking lectures of the legendary and revered acting teacher Stella Adler (1901-1992). Howard Kissel has compiled, or possibly combined, tapes in order to come up with these "classes," or chapters.
Adler was an eloquent and reverential philosopher of acting, a teacher and acting coach extraordinaire of Brando, de Niro, Warren Beatty, Harvey Keitel, Candice Bergen, and many more. As a young, serious actress she had traveled to Paris, in order to study with Konstantin Stanislavsky, founder of "Method" acting. She was his only American student. She brought his philosophy back to the US, but added her own considerable beliefs to it. She cautions students: "Don't read his book, because it makes absolutely no sense. He came from a culture entirely alien to yours, and you won't understand it."
The twenty-two classes are seemingly presented verbatim. Each 'class' forms a chapter, and has a named subject as its organizing principle. ("Acting is Doing," "Developing the Imagination," Building a Vocabulary of Actions," "Understanding the Text," Dressing the Part," "Instant and Inner Justifications," etc.) Each class is clear, thoughtful and thought-provoking, and wonderfully stimulating. Adler focuses on meaning and the soul of the thing - at all times. In addition, she is delightfully concrete, so you are never lost in well-meaning platitudes.
Right off the bat, you are educated as to why acting is not a cousin to, for example, fashion modeling. Adler is blunt, and supports her assertions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is going to the top of the "books my kids must read" when they are going off to college or leaving home. This book is a supposedly a series of Stella Adler's lectures about acting, but it is also very inspirational as a series of lectures about how to live.

Addler says that "The whole thing about acting is to give. The actor must above everything be generous. He doesn't hoard his riches...But before you can be giving and magnanimous, you must have something to give. Ideas don't come from your legs. They don't come from your voice. They come from your mind. The theatre is built on developing your mind. It's an education for your mind."

She works on critical seeing, self-awareness, discipline, self-control - skills that are important to everyone, not just actors. She discusses the importance of developing your imagination, "Eventually your imaginative reach will extend to other things, until you can say, I know how it feels to be in mourning, how it feels to be isolated, what it means to be abandoned, what it's like to be engaged or to be married." She means this in the context of acting on stage, but for the non-actor, it translates into becoming truly empathetic, to being able to truly understand and communicate with others.

Every page is full of memorable comments:

"You must be aware that even a subject of profound importance can be trivialized and degraded if you haven't the energy and interest to match it."

"Sometimes, when a husband and a wife go on a trip together, he might say, "My God! Do you know what that is? Why that's Notre Dame!" and she replies, "Yes I know. I can see it." They are seeing in Notre Dame something entirely different. As actors you must make everything you see come alive."

"You will fail.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book changed my life! I never write reviews but felt inspired to write one for this book. It was recommended to me by Bob Proctor and another one of his coaches. I kept asking for a way to change my self-image so that I could lose the extra 10 pounds I wanted to get rid of and they highly recommended this book.

After reading the first 5 chapters I was so amazed. The most important thing I learned was that I could use my imagination to act as my ideal self and therefore create it.

I imagine all the time being a fabulous, stylish, slender Queen as well as everything around me. I imagine wearing the stylish clothes, eating slowly and with delicate, fancy silverware on gold lined royal plates with high-quality, artfully designed foods. I sit like a Queen, I walk like a Queen, I even drive my car like a Queen. Just totally elegant, confident, beautiful and like I am so important and lucky. And it's so fun!

As silly as it sounds — it totally works! I barely have food cravings or overeat. I feel so much more confident in myself. I feel like I honor and respect myself more. And definitely a whole lot happier :)

Highly recommend this book not just for acting but if you want to change the way you think about yourself. And to change negative habits, thoughts, and self-sabotaging behavior.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stella Adler puts forth the idea that an actor must have SIZE. That is, to stand in front of the world and speak great words and perform great actions, one must have a mind and presence poised to take on the universal problems presented by great playwrights. An actor must develop a mind worthy of great ideas.

And that's just where the fun begins. From there, an actor must learn to dissect text and create circumstances. An actor must learn to visualize and experience those circumstances in vivid detail. An actor must learn to identify action and disassemble it until every bit of that action is seen and performed by every bit of the actor.

I enjoyed Sanford Meisner on Acting. It presented a series of exercises and examples of students failing at those exercises. At the end of the book, one appreciated Meisner's system and how the practises may help develop strong impulses. Stella's book has exercises too, and it also has short examples of students attempting them. But this is not where the heart of the book is. The heart is in its passionate declaration of what an actor's responsibility is, and how an actor - an artist - perceives the work and seeks to be worthy of it.
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