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What is the Stella Adler Acting Method?

We hope you are enjoying our series on different acting techniques as much as we are!  So far, we’ve discussed Stanislavski’s system, the Meisner acting technique, and Strasberg’s approach, known as Method Acting.  Here at 3-2-1- Acting School for kids, teens, and young adults in Los Angeles, we love educating our students on the variety of acting methods and approaches that are available to them.  Today, we dive into the wonderful world of Stella Adler.  If you are wondering, what is the Stella Adler acting method? You’ve most certainly come to the right place!

Who is Stella Adler?



Stella Adler was an American actor, acting teacher, and director.  She was born in 1901 in New York City, and, from a very young age, was acting on stage in plays.  She was first introduced to Stanislavski’s theories at the American Laboratory Theatre; she later joined the Group Theatre, which, founded by Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford and Harold Clurman, was America’s home base for Strasberg’s method acting, as based primarily on Stanislavski’s early writings about emotional memory/emotional recall. She is one of the few American actors that actually got to study directly with Stanislavski; she ultimately cultivated her own technique that differed greatly from Strasberg’s and was more aligned with Stanislavski’s later writings and philosophies.

What is the Stella Adler Acting Method?

Adler disagreed with Strasberg’s interpretations and usage of Stanislavski’s system, feeling that emotional recall was a psychologically unhealthy way to approach acting. When she trained with Stanislavski in 1934, she discovered that Stanislavski, too, had changed his mind about his own early concepts of emotional memory and emotional recall.  Like Stanislavski, Adler believed that actors must rely on their imaginations — and on doing external research — rather than digging up traumatizing memories and moments from their own personal lives.

If you visit the website for the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, you will see that the school lists the “core beliefs” behind Adler’s method and philosophy. In short, they are: artistic independence, imagination, action, script interpretation, and the cultivation of a rich humanity.

What, specifically, does Stella Adler’s Acting Method entail?

First and foremost, Adler believed that actors should be independent, creative, well-rounded beings with their own personal points of view and their own unique, strong choices.  She also strongly advocated for the use of imagination (vs. personal life experience/emotional recall) to bring text to life on stage.

Adler also strongly emphasized the use of action in acting — e.g. labeling, specifically, what one character is doing in relation to another character.  Actions are, in this sense, external, specific and achievable.  For example, if an actor let’s say an actor is playing character A, who is having a heated argument with character B.  Rather than playing the emotion (in this case, anger) the actor must decide, “what is my character doing to character B?” — and play that action.  Instead of simply “being angry’ with character B, perhaps character A provokes, lambast or incites character B.  This sort of approach prompts the actor to be focused and engaged externally and specifically on his or her scene partner — rather than internally on a generalized emotional state.



Adler’s students are also trained in comprehensive script interpretation and analysis methods, in which scripts are broken down into specific “beats,” and lines of text are associated with specific actions.

And lastly, of course, Adler valued the “cultivation of a rich humanity,” or holistic engagement with the world beyond the theatre or film set. She felt that actors should be exposed to a variety of cultural, social, political and historical ideas and experiences in order to become more worldly and well-rounded human beings and artists.

Where is the Stella Adler Acting Method taught?

The main educational centers for learning Stella Adler acting method are the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. and the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre in Los Angeles.

Who has studied the Stella Adler Acting Method?

Stella Adler’s method has been studied by many great actors, including: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Elaine Stritch, Martin Sheen, Diana Muldaur, Dolores del Rio, Bob Crane, Roy Scheider, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mark Ruffalo, Warren Beatty, Michael Imperioli, Salma Hayek, Sean Astin, Barbara Stuart, Joyce Meadows, Stephen Bauer, Christoph Waltz and Benicio del Toro.

Is the Stella Adler Acting Method right for me?

As we’ve said in our previous posts on acting methods, choosing an acting technique to study is a very personal decision.  You also may end up studying multiple approaches to acting, just as Stella Adler did — and just as many of the great actors of our time have.  Read up on different acting approaches, and see what school of thought “speaks” to you based on who you are as an individual and where you currently are in your career. We wish you all the best as you learn and grow through you acting training!


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