The tendency among acting teachers is too often toward deification of a particular process as an end in itself, rather than as a means toward an end. Stella Adler was, however, an actress first, a teacher second, and a theorist a far distant third. She was a discipline of Stanislavsky who made little claim of being a master. (Perhaps the same may be said of Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner, on whose behalf claims of mastery are often staked by their disciplines and adherents.) Stella’s approach to curriculum was eclectic, drawing teachers from a range of theoretical backgrounds. Some of her most trusted and influential colleagues were not former students but people who learned much of their craft elsewhere. In the classroom she was apparently not given to looking for only those symptoms that could be treated with predetermined remedies but those that could and would improvise brilliant solutions, addressing whatever problems might arise. If she contradicted herself, it was because she was an actress and therefore “contained multitudes.” In fact, most attempts to get a clearly defined picture of either her teaching technique or her ideas of discipline and process are met with a frustrated surrender to the idea that “you really had to be there.” This fact doesn’t imply that she didn’t have definite ideas about process and discipline, but the impression remains that the abundance of such ideas was presented more by example than by precept.
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