Welcome to the

Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, July 3, 2015

Stella Adler--Teacher of Thespians

Stella! Mother of Modern ActingStella! Mother of Modern Acting by Sheana Ochoa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The subtitle of Stella by Sheana Ochoa is Mother of Modern Acting and that, indeed, is the way the subject was familiar to me. One of my favorite actresses, Elaine Stritch, often referred to her in interviews and it made me curious to know just how this woman, often associated with Brando and Malden, actually carried on her lessons. When the book dealt with that aspect of Adler's life it was engrossing and fascinating. Even the opening chapters of Stella's family background in Yiddish Theatre was interesting, since often in my youth my Mother, born the same year as Stella, would point out a movie actor or actress such as Maria Ouspenskaya or Edward G Robinson or John Garfield and another man whose name I cannot remember as having been actors from the Yiddish Theatre. It meant nothing to me and I certainly had no knowledge of this flourishing theatre district on 2nd Avenue. I did know that my own neighborhood of Chelsea had been a similar theatrical district and that Cavanaugh's Restaurant right around the corner had been quite a place in that hey-day. For these reasons the beginning of the book held my attention.

As the years approached the Depression and on through the War and into the 50's my interest waned. During these years it wasn't clear exactly what Stella was doing theatrically--a bit of study, some teaching, travel to Russia to observe the theatrical legacy of her family background, horrendous treatment of a husband who worshiped her and a great deal of political activism. Interesting but not directly related to her legacy as the Mother of Modern Acting. As a matter of fact mixed in with all this activity was her failure on stage herself and her less than stellar success as a director.

Although she seems to have been quite the character her personality as it comes through the page did not appeal to me. That, however, wasn't really a problem, since it was not her private life or flaws or type of person she was in private relationships that drew me to her but rather her performance as a teacher and the effect she had on her students. Perhaps, because I am a retired teacher, I wanted to see how she did it. How did she relate and how did she impart her passion for theatre? Was it in any way the same as my methods of imparting my passion for science to high school kids? I'd have to say there are many similarities and when the book in its later chapters dealt with that I was once more drawn in and happy that I'd stuck with it through the boring, to me, global history.

Each chapter had a quote by a family member or someone who was involved in some way with Adler. As a reader I wish there were more depth given to those involvements. Did James Coburn study with her, how extensive was her theatrical contact with Arthur Miller. Not gossip--there was enough of that--her incestuous adulation of her father was more than I needed to know, though I suppose it was the root of many of her male relationships. Just more in depth revelations of the performances of her students and how she helped them develop into the performers they became.

It is a well written book, and if like me, the middle pages aren't that engrossing, I'd advise the reader to read the chapter heading quotes and move on to the years she spent in the classroom at the end of the book. By the way, on page 157, you might want to note that Myrna Loy's co-star in the Thin Man movies is not DICK Powell, but rather WILLIAM Powell!

This book was a Goodreads Giveaway, which I misplaced and am reviewing a year after receiving it. Mea Culpa.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment