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The Art of Acting

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Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century's greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career, both in New York and Hollywood, she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties, but her d Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century's greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career, both in New York and Hollywood, she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties, but her decades of experience and teaching have been brilliantly caught and encapsulated by Howard Kissel in the twenty-two lessons in this book.


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Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century's greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career, both in New York and Hollywood, she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties, but her d Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century's greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career, both in New York and Hollywood, she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties, but her decades of experience and teaching have been brilliantly caught and encapsulated by Howard Kissel in the twenty-two lessons in this book.

30 review for The Art of Acting

  1. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Frank Langella was at a local art-house theater (the Burns) around 2013 or so and made it clear he held Stella Adler in high regard and Lee Strasberg in something beneath contempt. I've been fascinated by that "split" ever since. Both Adler and Strasberg lay claim to a heritage from Stanislavski - and "the Method," a term which seems like it was used more by Lee Strasberg. Strasberg emphasized emotional memory, and Stella Adler emphasized imagination. "Work on ten actions foreign to your persona Frank Langella was at a local art-house theater (the Burns) around 2013 or so and made it clear he held Stella Adler in high regard and Lee Strasberg in something beneath contempt. I've been fascinated by that "split" ever since. Both Adler and Strasberg lay claim to a heritage from Stanislavski - and "the Method," a term which seems like it was used more by Lee Strasberg. Strasberg emphasized emotional memory, and Stella Adler emphasized imagination. "Work on ten actions foreign to your personality. Do this to escape from your personality restriction, presumably one reason you wanted to be an actor in the first place." She believed that the theater could do more for society than just serve as a diversion. Noble, I think. A very interesting read, that gets deeper as it goes on.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gideon Hodge

    Probably the greatest theorist on modern realism. The one teacher who actually bothered to study with Stanislavski before trying to tell everyone else what he taught. Also had a significant acting background of her own before meeting with Stanislavski, as well as being the daughter of the renowned Jacob Adler who had made a study of people and their behavioral quirks. Her technique is for the imaginative actor that chooses to immerse in the story and the craft.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Edward O'Neill

    Somewhere between lessons, preaching and rants. Stella Adler, inspiration to generations of actors, has something important to say. Her insights are sharp, and her vision lofty. Serious students of theater and acting will enjoy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Phenomenal. Even if you aren't studying to be an actor it is still a good read. She has a way with words. It also has a self-help sense to it. Phenomenal. Even if you aren't studying to be an actor it is still a good read. She has a way with words. It also has a self-help sense to it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tslyklu

    Her acting theory is basically grounded in discriminating details about your situation and recognizing the social significance of those details so that you can elevate the piece. Also her acting theory is for realism, and she believes that the only way to act realism is to play the poetry, so elevation is huge for her-- but only if it comes from understanding of your responsibility. Her classroom was in the New York City Center and she sat on a throne. Along with her lectures she usually had stud Her acting theory is basically grounded in discriminating details about your situation and recognizing the social significance of those details so that you can elevate the piece. Also her acting theory is for realism, and she believes that the only way to act realism is to play the poetry, so elevation is huge for her-- but only if it comes from understanding of your responsibility. Her classroom was in the New York City Center and she sat on a throne. Along with her lectures she usually had students read "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran and "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rilke, which are very mystical but clarify a lot of what she bases her assertions on, and I think well worth reading on their own. "Have confidence in yourself. Don't feel it's your destiny to be more refuse: Free yourself! You must feel you're worthy of bigger-than-life ideas. You must have a nobility of mind, a sense of your own power. [...] You must believe you deserve to dress and think like aristocrats. You wear a crown, not a baseball cap. No one ever disposes of a crown." --Stella Adler, The Art of Acting

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This book is like a bible for any actor, whether they be professional or a hobbyist. A lot of what Adler gives as examples for physical or mental practice of character building is old-school. So you simply translate it into a modern situation (sounds obvious I know, but some examples; given the times she lived in, made me laugh). For me personally it was full of such valuable information I did something I usually never do with a new book; I highlighted large portions. I definitely recommend and w This book is like a bible for any actor, whether they be professional or a hobbyist. A lot of what Adler gives as examples for physical or mental practice of character building is old-school. So you simply translate it into a modern situation (sounds obvious I know, but some examples; given the times she lived in, made me laugh). For me personally it was full of such valuable information I did something I usually never do with a new book; I highlighted large portions. I definitely recommend and would read it again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Blair

    Not the best book on acting. Stella puts undue emphasis on given circumstances at the expense of a personal, emotional involvement from the actor. Stanislavsky, the father of The Method, had a broader and more accurate view of the actor's role than Stella would lead one to believe. She is, in many ways, the anti-Strasberg, and the unnecessary rift between the two has led to an unhelpful pendulum swing between "sense memory" and "given circumstances." In truth, the actor should use both. Not the best book on acting. Stella puts undue emphasis on given circumstances at the expense of a personal, emotional involvement from the actor. Stanislavsky, the father of The Method, had a broader and more accurate view of the actor's role than Stella would lead one to believe. She is, in many ways, the anti-Strasberg, and the unnecessary rift between the two has led to an unhelpful pendulum swing between "sense memory" and "given circumstances." In truth, the actor should use both.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Salvador Ibarra

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. “The Art of Acting” by Stella Adler was truly a great book to read. It has inspired me to pursue a fun career in acting. It also showed me how to truly appreciate life and what it has to offer. The book is presented in a way that makes you feel that you are physically present in her class because of its structure and tense. Stella Adler is speaking to you and the rest of her class, and asks you to work on exercises to develop your own voice. This ultimately makes you feel like her real student, “The Art of Acting” by Stella Adler was truly a great book to read. It has inspired me to pursue a fun career in acting. It also showed me how to truly appreciate life and what it has to offer. The book is presented in a way that makes you feel that you are physically present in her class because of its structure and tense. Stella Adler is speaking to you and the rest of her class, and asks you to work on exercises to develop your own voice. This ultimately makes you feel like her real student, and in some instances, making me feel pretty intimidated because I was in the presence of one of the most influential teachers and mentors in the industry. I felt that each chapter in the book managed to convey Adler's message clearly and powerfully. Stella Adler speaks on how she can’t make you become an actor, she could only reveal that path, but it is all up to you if you want to make that effort, and follow it. She also taught me to become a better person, and live life as a unique individual who truly loves and appreciates the wondrous world around me. Showing how everything has a meaning and purpose. “As actors, you must realize that what you see is a miracle simply because it exists.” (Adler 48). Everything has meaning and purpose, because its been there longer than you have, and that is what fuels your imagination. “The Art Of Acting” by Stella Adler was a phenomenal book to read. It gave me a powerful insight on acting and the art itself. It also served as a life lesson. It taught me how to truly appreciate the life that surrounds me, and how to be a generous person who gives and doesn’t hoard out of greed. I truly recommend this book who has an interest in acting, or an interest in literature and life in general. This is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Hull

    imagination vs personalization is the actor’s line to perpetually teeter.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Liam Semple

    I in no way want to imply that Stella Adler is not a phenomenal acting coach. She is one of the major successors of Konstantin Stanislavski and trained such no-names as Marlon Brando. Acting is an unusually personal profession, even within the creative world. The Art of Acting, accordingly, is as much a guide to general living as it is a guide to learning how to approach acting characters. I found the book easy to read, but difficult to finish. This is because it isn't really a book at all—it's I in no way want to imply that Stella Adler is not a phenomenal acting coach. She is one of the major successors of Konstantin Stanislavski and trained such no-names as Marlon Brando. Acting is an unusually personal profession, even within the creative world. The Art of Acting, accordingly, is as much a guide to general living as it is a guide to learning how to approach acting characters. I found the book easy to read, but difficult to finish. This is because it isn't really a book at all—it's a transcript of an acting course. After a while, it's hard to engage with the material as a reader (and not as a pupil in a classroom completing all the assignments). I would much prefer an acting instruction that is intended to be read. Well, obviously an acting class is ideal, but as far as books go, I'd prefer an actual book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Suju

    I'm not going to finish this book, let me just be honest about that. Ms. Adler of course has amazing insights into acting, but the book itself is not structured in a way that I find appealing. I read Sanford Meisner's book which is essentially a print documentary of a course he taught over several months. In it, you sense his personality with all its foibles as well as his student's, and you learn a tremendous amount. It's very readable. I find the Adler book to be more of a string of lectures a I'm not going to finish this book, let me just be honest about that. Ms. Adler of course has amazing insights into acting, but the book itself is not structured in a way that I find appealing. I read Sanford Meisner's book which is essentially a print documentary of a course he taught over several months. In it, you sense his personality with all its foibles as well as his student's, and you learn a tremendous amount. It's very readable. I find the Adler book to be more of a string of lectures and as such not terribly exciting as a book. So not for me, though I feel bad saying so!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    A great read and preparation for those interested in one of the main American theater (-er not -re ) film acting method teachers of the 20th century, the others being Strassberg, Meisner, and Stanislvaski. I'm firmly convinced that the lessons of acting are for everybody, not just for professional actors. This is stuff that enriches and nourishes your personal and professional life in general, particularly for the "plugged-in" generation that is quickly losing touch with rich human interaction o A great read and preparation for those interested in one of the main American theater (-er not -re ) film acting method teachers of the 20th century, the others being Strassberg, Meisner, and Stanislvaski. I'm firmly convinced that the lessons of acting are for everybody, not just for professional actors. This is stuff that enriches and nourishes your personal and professional life in general, particularly for the "plugged-in" generation that is quickly losing touch with rich human interaction opportunities. Acting is for human beings, not just celeb wannabes!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Robbie Bennett

    It feels like you’re in one of Stella’s classes. This is a practical technique that is easy to digest, easy to explain, but like with any craft, will take a lot of time and preparation to master. Stella gives you the tools to prepare and “get out of your own way” when you’re acting. The last couple of chapters were a bit more meandering and not as helpful as the rest of the book. I also would have made the Afterword the Foreword.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aly Zhang

    One of the best acting 'manuals' I've read! No longer do I feel embarrassed or ashamed of aspiring to be an actor. She thrusts poetry, history, dreams and the reflection of the world itself into acting, and I am utterly, completely inspired. One of the best acting 'manuals' I've read! No longer do I feel embarrassed or ashamed of aspiring to be an actor. She thrusts poetry, history, dreams and the reflection of the world itself into acting, and I am utterly, completely inspired.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Cool rant, bro. Gimme a call when you adapt it into a book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Turok Tucker

    The epilogue says it all, this book captures a certain person's personality. Miss Adler, as she requires you call her to be her student, must have been an intensely bright person. She has big ideas, and sees art as something steeped in ceremony, culture, and reverence for thousands of years which is being lost. Miss Adler believes an actor doesn't act if he does actions. Her thinking along with Konstantin Stanislavski are based upon: faking it until you make it, that the actor uses their imagina The epilogue says it all, this book captures a certain person's personality. Miss Adler, as she requires you call her to be her student, must have been an intensely bright person. She has big ideas, and sees art as something steeped in ceremony, culture, and reverence for thousands of years which is being lost. Miss Adler believes an actor doesn't act if he does actions. Her thinking along with Konstantin Stanislavski are based upon: faking it until you make it, that the actor uses their imagination, steeps themselves deeply into the big themes of a writer's work, functions at the highest levels of physical and mental function so as to bring forth the reverence for the art required. Miss Adler believes in the theatre, and the theatre isn't method acting because that isn't acting that's being. She believes the key to acting is ideas, understanding fundamentally how a person, a character, the writer, the time period view themselves. If one does their work, uses their imagination, costume, actions, and practices their craft they become the character and bring truth to the performance. It's a slow read. Not difficult in language, but full of ideas at every paragraph and to do the book well one should do the exercises. This book asks a lot of its reader, but her ideas and voice are well worth knowing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hai Le

    I think Stella Adler is a phenomenal acting coach. I think it’s extremely difficult for any book to capture her brilliance. I feel as if you need to watch her teach live in person to truly capture the mastery of her classes. She uses quotes and motivational speeches to cement her point to her acting class and often comes across as the pantomime villain. Her sayings are quite cryptic and reflect her techniques in the art of acting but she doesn’t just teach her class on how to act but how to be a I think Stella Adler is a phenomenal acting coach. I think it’s extremely difficult for any book to capture her brilliance. I feel as if you need to watch her teach live in person to truly capture the mastery of her classes. She uses quotes and motivational speeches to cement her point to her acting class and often comes across as the pantomime villain. Her sayings are quite cryptic and reflect her techniques in the art of acting but she doesn’t just teach her class on how to act but how to be a better person overall. She does sometimes speak in riddles to make her class really think. The only problem I had with the book was how it was written. I found it difficult to engage with it at times but it wasn’t due to the content but how it was written. I guess it’s hard for any writer to capture everything Stella Adler taught and make it engaging as most of the book were from previous notes Stella had wrote and left in her room. Highly recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Natalia Stornello

    Stella Adler’s method is REVOLUTIONARY. Everything she spoke about really spoke to me as an actor. She really believes in independence and self-worth. I love her work on actions, and how actions really define a character more than the words they speak. But, with dialogue, she goes into detail about making it truthful, not only for yourself, but for the audience. She says that if you don’t believe the circumstances, neither will the audience. I feel like my whole perspective on acting has done a Stella Adler’s method is REVOLUTIONARY. Everything she spoke about really spoke to me as an actor. She really believes in independence and self-worth. I love her work on actions, and how actions really define a character more than the words they speak. But, with dialogue, she goes into detail about making it truthful, not only for yourself, but for the audience. She says that if you don’t believe the circumstances, neither will the audience. I feel like my whole perspective on acting has done a complete 180°. The way the book was written is amazing, as well. It feels like you’re in the room when she’s teaching. Her personality came through very clearly through the writing, and I felt a connection. I wanted to learn, I wanted to apply myself. I will definitely be using this book (and The Method) throughout my lifetime.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    A very honoring recount of the teachings of one of the greatest acting teachers / theorists in history. The author in the end notes that there must be a sense of Stella’s words, the weight, power, and aristocracy in them, to understand her and her technique. And thus this book is nothing but her own words. The reader gets as close of a sense as they can that they are in the classroom with the students Stella was addressing, and, as she has long been deceased, it is one of the only ways in modern A very honoring recount of the teachings of one of the greatest acting teachers / theorists in history. The author in the end notes that there must be a sense of Stella’s words, the weight, power, and aristocracy in them, to understand her and her technique. And thus this book is nothing but her own words. The reader gets as close of a sense as they can that they are in the classroom with the students Stella was addressing, and, as she has long been deceased, it is one of the only ways in modern times in which you can truly understand her. Stella was a teacher, not only of acting, but of something greater. And this book certainly conveys this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Josephine Croft

    I was expecting a book that talked about acting technique and gave actual examples on how to introduce ideas I could use. Stella is clearly an intelligent woman, who is articulate and her observations are very in-depth. However this book is just a stream of consciousness, which seems to have been transcribed from a bunch of her classes. The editing is VERY bad, there are so many mistakes, I wonder if anyone looked over it at all. There is no grouping together of ideas, no linear anything, just a I was expecting a book that talked about acting technique and gave actual examples on how to introduce ideas I could use. Stella is clearly an intelligent woman, who is articulate and her observations are very in-depth. However this book is just a stream of consciousness, which seems to have been transcribed from a bunch of her classes. The editing is VERY bad, there are so many mistakes, I wonder if anyone looked over it at all. There is no grouping together of ideas, no linear anything, just a bunch of random words. Some paragraphs so random that I would describe them as fanciful absurdest modern art poetry.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sai

    This book provokes emotion. That's the best way I can describe it. Its primary audience is beginner students of acting at Ms. Adler's studio, and the book is structured into 22 classes with a mixture of verbatim and paraphrased quotes by Stella Adler as she conducts her class. However, I thought that the book is pretty approachable for people who might not have anything to do with acting as well and makes for a pretty stirring self-help book. Her commentary about human behaviour is brutally perc This book provokes emotion. That's the best way I can describe it. Its primary audience is beginner students of acting at Ms. Adler's studio, and the book is structured into 22 classes with a mixture of verbatim and paraphrased quotes by Stella Adler as she conducts her class. However, I thought that the book is pretty approachable for people who might not have anything to do with acting as well and makes for a pretty stirring self-help book. Her commentary about human behaviour is brutally perceptive, and it left me with lots to think about as I progressed through the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julz Day

    I always find insights in technique books and this was no exception. She is a stage acting purist and dismisses TV but I feel that's more a reflection on the era than the art. I did learn that she worked with Stanislavski and a bit about her life too. It is an interesting read probably best for the intermediate actor but could be a good brain bender for the newbie in areas. Overall an enjoyable read. I always find insights in technique books and this was no exception. She is a stage acting purist and dismisses TV but I feel that's more a reflection on the era than the art. I did learn that she worked with Stanislavski and a bit about her life too. It is an interesting read probably best for the intermediate actor but could be a good brain bender for the newbie in areas. Overall an enjoyable read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    The book is not a formal read by any means. One has to remind oneself this is a book made by lectures, speeches, manuscripts, and audio recordings. The book is a good read for those who want to do theatre as a hobby or as a career. It offers advice on how to act truthfully on stage or on tv or on film for that matter.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A wonderful book into the world of acting. I picked up this book since it was recommended by Bob Proctor on one of his programs, saying "if you want to change and be someone else, why not train on being someone else". That thought stuck with me and made a lot of sense, it's true. Why not, decided to read the book and I'm glad I did. A wonderful book into the world of acting. I picked up this book since it was recommended by Bob Proctor on one of his programs, saying "if you want to change and be someone else, why not train on being someone else". That thought stuck with me and made a lot of sense, it's true. Why not, decided to read the book and I'm glad I did.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    It takes a long time to get to her points and the core of what she is teaching. The lessons are not how to, but rather deeply intertwined with the idea of perception and body in relation to the world, class, and background. Interesting with some great nuggets, but it’s a lot of panning to find them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Caden

    Stella Adler has a wonderful approach to acting- that is come from truth. The TRUE acting is never false, it is never acting, it is always the truth of the characters circumstances. Can’t wait to read more acting theologies from other brilliant actors and broaden my scope of what acting is.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Krogh Stone

    Fantastic book wherein Adler simplifies and adapts Stanislavsky's teachings, with a focus on circumstances, imagination & rehearsal. Highly recommended for anyone serious about improving their acting craft. Fantastic book wherein Adler simplifies and adapts Stanislavsky's teachings, with a focus on circumstances, imagination & rehearsal. Highly recommended for anyone serious about improving their acting craft.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisha Hackney

    Great read!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Justin Eppley

    Dramatically over the top narrative style makes it inaccessible to individuals who are not dramatically over the top.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    I could see this being a fantastic resource for beginners, but for me it was too simplistic and broad.

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