Stella Adler (1901-1992)  believed that an actor’s talents lie with their imagination. The theater and film actress turned acting teacher trained with Stanislavsky and studied his method, but didn’t believe that an actor needs to relive past experiences to connect with the play. Through years of teaching, she developed her own acting method that helps actors be truthful on stage by fully believing in the circumstances of the play. 

I personally think if you’re interested in acting and want to have a concrete way of approaching it in the future, that the Stella Adler method is a great place to start. It is all based on imagination. And when you’re just starting out, being creative and imaginative trains your mind to think outside of the box, but also allows for the most FUN.

Her Method:

  • Acting is Doing
    The actor must always do something on stage. They look for actions in the script (for example, “to teach, to confess, to beg”, etc.) where they can affect their scene partner. They must know exactly why they are performing each action (hint: to get what they want in the scene!)
  • Developing the Imagination
    An actor develops their imagination by first observing the world around them in great detail. They can then create specific images in their mind in order to surround themselves with things that are true to them on stage. If they succeed, the audience will see through their eyes!
  • Training the Mind
    Actors must have a real understanding of the play in order to reveal its secrets to the audience. They must study the text and its ideas, but also do their research.
  • Size
    Actors need strong bodies and voices for the stage so they can bring “size “to their actions. Not the literal size of your body, but in the way you use it! Adler encourages actors never to be “small.” Expressing yourself fully with big and bold actions leads to confidence on stage.  

What it’s like Studying the Stella Adler Method: 

  • Rehearsing
    Adler expected her students to prepare for every single activity and action they are going to do on stage. If you study her method, you will spend a lot of time creating specific images for the circumstances of the play to help you connect to it.
  • Thinking
    Stella Adler believes that an actor’s most important tool is their mind. She also believes that an actor must completely understand the words of the play to be able to communicate it onstage without “faking.” So expect to do a lot of work in order to make it your own!

How do you know if this method is for you? Studying the Adler technique is a great way to study acting if you’re a very creative person who feels limited by the more “structured” acting techniques. Here are a few other things to consider:

  • Stella Adler challenged her students constantly. Adler’s acting style is for you if you want to be a theater actor because she helps her students build the high level of energy required for the stage. It’s definitely a workout! It’s all about being bigger than life, so if you’re the kind of actor who’s great at being natural and being yourself- but not so good at “taking the stage,” study Stella Adler.
  • This is a good acting method to choose if you find yourself often “faking” or “indicating” as an actor. Stella Adler helps her students focus on creating true images for themselves so they won’t have “to lie” on stage. This method also helps with stage fright!