Legendary actor and acting teacher Stella Adler was put onstage as soon as she could walk and never left. The newly released first biography of Adler (written by yours truly) explores how the daughter of Yiddish theater pioneers Jacob and Sara Adler grew up to star in and produce Hollywood films, while remaining identified with her parents’ Russian Jewish roots and the social justice their plays promulgated. During WWII, she even ran guns for the Irgun, a militant group that helped establish the state of Israel.
Despite her acclaimed acting, Adler’s greatest contributions were offstage. She was the only American teacher to study with Russian master Constantin Stanislavski. In 1934 she brought the Stanislavski system to the Depression-era theatre company, the Group Theatre. That year marked the beginning of Adler’s teaching career as she demonstrated to her colleagues how an actor builds his character from the play’s circumstances through research and the imagination rather than her limited personal experience. Stella would spend the rest of her life training generations of actors from Marlon Brando to Mark Ruffalo.