Born 1902, in New York, NY; daughter of Jacob P. (an actor and producer) andSarah (an actress and producer; maiden name, Lewis) Adler; married Horace Eleaschreff (divorced); married Harold Clurman (divorced); married Mitchell Wilson (died February 26, 1973). Addresses: OFFICE--130 W. 56th Street, New York, NY 10019.
"The teacher has to inspire. The teacher has to agitate," explained Stella Adler in a 1984 New York Times interview with Samuel G. Freedman. You cannot teach acting. You can only stimulate what's already there." For nearly half ofa century, this world famous acting teacher and actress has been stimulatingand inspiring students using the "Stanislavsky Method" of acting, a techniquethat encourages actors to tap into their own sense memories, emotion memories, and imaginations to bring their characters to life. Over the years, her students, most notably at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting established in 1949, have included such stars as Marlon Brando (who called Adler "a genius" in a 1979 Times article), Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro.
Adler, who acquired her basic theories of acting in Paris in 1937 from the great Russian director and teacher Constantin Stanislavsky himself, began her own theatrical career at age four under the tutelage of two of the stars of the turn-of-the-century Yiddish theatre, her parents, Jacob and Sarah Adler. "In my family," she told a New York Herald-Tribune reporter in 1946, "immediately you could barely speak, you were put on the stage." The young actress spent twelve years in her father's company, appearing in Yiddish translations ofShakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and The Lower Depths by turn-of-the-century Russian author Maxim Gorky. In the early 1920's, she began to take partsin English-language Broadway plays, the first being Josef and Karel Capek's The World We Live In.
Just after the Capek play closed, Adler, whose father had instilled in her arespect for European theatrical tradition, undertook her first formal actingstudy, with Richard Boleslavsky, a former student of Stanislavsky's, at the American Laboratory Theatre (ALT). In 1931 she, along with several other former ALT students, founded the Group Theatre, which became one of the most innovative theatrical companies of the 1930's, specializing in experimental and socially conscious plays. She remained with the organization until it dissolvedin 1941, taking some time off to act in Hollywood films.
During and immediately after World War II, Adler devoted much of her energy to fund-raising benefits for the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish Peopleof Europe and the American League for a Free Palestine. Adler actively supported these causes by purchasing guns and forging passports and visas for people wishing to immigrate to Palestine.
Following the establishment of the state of Israel, Adler turned her attention to teaching rather than performing and since founding her acting school in1949, Adler has appeared on stage herself only on rare occasions. On one suchoccasion, when she played Madame Arkadina in the Yale School of Drama's 1967production of Checkov's The Three Sisters, Robert Brustein, the school's dean, said, "This marks the return of one of the great figures of the theatre tothe American stage." Brustein also called Adler "the greatest teacher of acting in America."