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Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

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Sheana Ochoa
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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 11:48 am

Sandy K,
Disenchanted with the way the work was going in the Group Theater in the 30s under the direction of Strasberg, Stella began to hate acting. Strasberg's emphasis on sense memory took the joy out of acting for her. She didn't need to delve deep into her past or even deeply anywhere to emote. Then, in 1934 she went to see the Stanislavsky's theater for herself in Moscow, she studied. She learned. She was resurrected.

But it wasn't until later that same summer that she actually met and studied with the master himself. So when it was time to return to the Group Theater's summer retreat, she couldn't get off the boat quickly enough and go upstate to tell her fellow actors they were doing it all wrong! They didn't have to use there own personal past. They could make it up! Create, as it were, like any artist does. That year marked the beginning of Stella's teaching career, 80 years ago as of the publication of her first biography last year (although no one in the media/press picked up on that!) So, to answer your question, Stella didn't really fall into teaching so much as teaching became the conduit through which she could "pay Stanislavsky back," which became her mission in life: to clarify how one creates emotional truth in his performance. Like everything sacred, her teaching came from a place of generosity.

Stella would answer the second part of your question differently on any given day. Do people have natural talent? Can acting be learned? She might say, "Of course, darling, but you have to give up your soul for it." If a student came unprepared to class, she couldn't be subjected to it. On such an occasion, she might just say, "Give it up, darling. Go find yourself a desk job." :D

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 12:16 pm

Oh dear The Question has arrived: the rivalry between Stella and Strasberg!

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Hmmm, how do I go about this without spoiling the book? Strasberg's the external antagonist through much of the story, although he had nothing on Stella's inner conflicts. Just look at the way he's looking at her while she's entertaining the dinner party?
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That pretty much sums it up, no? Here's a book excerpt from my blog "Adler vs. Strasberg" https://stellaadleralifeinart.wordpress ... nal-truth/

And finally I'll defer to Brando:
Marlon Brando, her most well-known student, wrote: “Little did she know that through her teachings she would impact theatrical culture world wide. Almost all filmmakers anywhere in the world have felt the effects of American films, which have been in turn influenced by Stella Adler’s teachings.” Stella did know what she was doing; she always understood the universal size of art through storytelling and its interpretation. If acting craft had not been revolutionized, modern day acting would be unable to portray Realism and its successors. Ibsen, Shaw, Ionesco, Miller, Williams and others would be left rudderless in an unrefined profession unable to interpret their depth.

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 12:27 pm

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To all of you, this is so much fun. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for these wonderful questions. I'm going to step out now and have brunch with the family. I'll come back before we have a date with the symphony tonight. If any of you who have read the biography and would be so kind to leave a review, I'd be ever so grateful: http://www.amazon.com/Stella-Mother-Mod ... eana+ochoa

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Rita Hayworth » April 26th, 2015, 12:46 pm

Thanks for the rundown on Stella and Strasberg earlier on this thread and I appreciate the blog that you've provided for us/me to read and it's sums up what the answer that I'm looking for. Thanks Sheana. :)

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 26th, 2015, 1:38 pm

Thank you so much for these wonderfully candid comments about a woman whom you've been able to describe in such detail.

Any stories or events that you've unearthed in your journey that didin't find a home in your biography of Stella that you'd like to share?
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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 3:20 pm

I really don't know how Stella didn't become a movie star. She had the looks and the talent and the desire. After shooting her first film "Love on Toast" with John Payne, Stella said she didn't like the "leisure" on the set. She also didn't like the early call times! She was at heart a theater actress, which let her sleep in until the afternoon and stay up until 3 AM to study plays. She'd much rather perform night after night than sit around a movie set waiting for some director to set up the shot.

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 3:22 pm

Erik,
I'm so glad my response and the links to my blog clarified the schism between Stella and Strasberg. Thanks for asking.

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby moira finnie » April 26th, 2015, 3:40 pm

Sheana Ochoa wrote:Moira, you've asked a question I've never been asked before. How do you know so much about Boley and Ouspenskaya? I love it!


Thanks for the great answers to my questions. I have your book on order and will be glad to post an online review once I've had a chance to delve into it--your stories have whet my appetite.

First, to return to your book, how did Stella Adler regard the arc of Marlon Brando's long and varied career? Did the teacher and student remain in touch over the years?


In answer to your question about my interest in Boleslawski and Ouspenskaya, it stems from a longing to have been around the NY theater in the creatively vibrant '20s & '30s as well as a fascination with what might be called the Russian diaspora following the revolution by a diverse group of artistic and czarist refugees. Boley got my attention via his direction of a few visually striking but little known films featuring unusually good realistic performances (esp. Fugitive Lovers, Men in White in 1934 and 3 Godfathers in 1936) & misfires (the lugubrious all-star Rasputin and the Empress). And I have always wondered about his early life as an actor and adventurer...along with his work in the NY theater as a performer and mentor to the likes of a very young John Garfield, among others, has also been intriguing.

As to Ouspenskaya, she always scared me when I saw her in old movies such as The Wolf Man, but I have come to appreciate her dramatic authority and flair in films such as Dodsworth and Beyond Tomorrow (in the latter her performance as a woman who lives somewhat in the past is most touching). Reading about her attempts to establish her own acting school in NYC and later in Hollywood have made me appreciate her bravery as well.

Thanks again for allowing us to ask you about this engaging topic.
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Sheana Ochoa
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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 3:45 pm

I would be remiss not to share this video where I discuss why I wrote Stella Adler's biography and the interview process with people like Karl Malden and Robert De Niro and Stella's daughter, Ellen Adler.
:
phpBB [video]

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 26th, 2015, 4:57 pm

Thanks for sharing that video here with us, Sheana.

Here's another photo of Stella Adler that I had wanted to post. Please feel free to comment if you'd like:

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And I love this photo of Stella:
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I saw this photo on your website of you with Bonnie Adler Lowenthal....
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Could you tell us a little about your meeting with her and how she and Stella Adler are connected?
Thanks!
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Sheana Ochoa
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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 5:09 pm

Christy, how cool is that photo of Odets, Stella and Luther? I love it because they're arriving in London (in 1938) where they brought "Golden Boy" to tour, and this is when Stella becomes politically involved in the Jewish cause. I didn't mention it yet on this thread, but did you all know that Stella was a gunrunner? She supplied arms for the Irgun. It's the eve of the war of course, but Stella can see and is informed about what's coming. Fascinating history.

The second picture you just posted with Bonnie Adler Lowenthal is a great personal story. I didn't even know she existed until after the book was published. And here I was claiming I had interviewed all of Stella's living relatives. More soon . . .

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 26th, 2015, 8:06 pm

I really enjoyed Moira's question about what Stella might have thought about the arc of Marlon Brando's career, and I must admit that she's gotten me curious about it, too.

I'd loved to know what Stella thought about all the choices Marlon made. Is it true Ellen (Stella's daughter) kept in touch with Marlon until right before he passed away? :D

Also, I felt very lucky to have met you at the Brazos Bookstore in Houston, and so grateful to have my signed copy of your book. I almost didn't make it that night because of the thunderstorms lingering on my side of town. And I couldn't believe that I ran into one of my former colleagues that I hadn't seen in 20 years. It was fortuitous.
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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sheana Ochoa » April 26th, 2015, 11:40 pm

I missed Moira's question. Thanks for bringing it up, Christy. As you may know, Ellen dated Brando for a spell. She was a striking brunette and we know Marlon loved that look. He and Ellen kept in touch their entire lives. They would talk over the phone every week. Brando did not, however, remain in close contact with Stella after their first decade together. They both led busy lives and I deduce they "moved on," for lack of a better word. Brando to the Actors Studio to chase skirts and then to Hollywood. Stella to teach yet more "Brandos." He might drop in on a production she was directing, or a class, come around for dinner, but it wasn't a steady, intimate relationship like the one he maintained with Ellen.

As for Stella's thoughts to the arc of his career. I doubt she gave it much thought. She could be a tad myopic when it came to current events. She didn't see Brando in terms of his "success." One of my favorite things she said when asked who was her favorite student was that there are no favorites and just because some students became famous, they were no more successful or talented than the ones that did not. She emphasized that fame was simply luck.

Actually, that's quite comforting presently. I thought there'd be a larger audience, more reviews, more attention for a biography on a luminary such as Stella Adler. When I was on tour in New York I went to Sardis and saw there was a glass display case of biographies. I asked the hostess -- some looker in her early twenties -- who I would talk to about having them showcase Stella's biography. I said, "Stella Adler's biography." She led me to the maitre d' and said, "We have a question about displaying Ms. Adler's biography." It's 2015 and the youngsters still know to refer to her as "Ms. Adler"! Anyway, what I'm getting at is Stella left an indelible mark on our culture and I'd have thought The New York Times or the Jewish Forward would have at least reviewed the book, but as Stella said: it ends up being just about luck. I did my part. I didn't write the book for my own recognition, but for Stella's and I imagine people will discover it in their own time.

I do appreciate you writing a review though, Moira :wink:

As promised, to wind things up, the wonderful thing about delving into biography is the people you meet. After the book was published, someone on Twitter of all places asked me if I had spoken to Stella's cousin who lives in Long Beach. What?! My college town? You mean just down the 405 freeway? I'd been traveling to New York from LA throughout the years and I missed a cousin in my own back yard?

It was really a shame because I didn't know anything about Jacob Adler's sister, that he risked his life returning to Odessa to bring her and her children to America, or where "the other half" of the family ended up. I knew that Stella had a cousin who was a famous Broadway star, Francine Larrimore, but I didn't know where she fell on the family tree until I began talking to Bonnie and her cousin Eric Brown. It would have been great to add that in the book. I did at least blog about it: https://stellaadleralifeinart.wordpress ... and-story/

I love this picture of Larrimore
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What Paul Valery said about poems is true for biography: a biography is never finished, only abandoned.

Thanks for having me!

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Re: Sheana Ochoa, Author of STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 27th, 2015, 7:12 am

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, your journey, and your insight into the life and work of Stella Adler, Sheana!

Please feel free to stop by from time to time. We have enjoyed our visit with you immensely. :D
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