One Evening at the Theater with Stella Adler

Stella Adler (early 1940s) photo by Marcus Blechman

Stella Adler (early 1940s)
photo by Marcus Blechman

What is a biography without photos? I love to read about a person or place and then flip forward in the book to the photo inserts and actually see what I’ve been reading about. I’m keeping this in mind as I begin culling the pictures of Stella I have amassed along my travels.

Although I would love to have photos throughout each chapter, it isn’t “economically” plausible for the publisher. I can choose 24 maximum. In a way, it makes my job easier. I have to glean the best from what I have in an order that looks good design-wise on the page.

One major hiccup: I didn’t always note where I found a particular photo. Oy vey! You see, now I have to track down each photo and get permission to print them in the book. Blasted copyright!

Stella Adler circa 1990 photo by Irene Gilbert

Stella Adler circa 1990 photo by Irene Gilbert

When looking through my own collection, I found a photo of Stella at ninety years old standing in front of a mirror. On the mirror is attached a poster of the Serenity Prayer. The prayer is not affiliated with any particular religion; it’s a sage and humble mantra that I actually use myself in a pinch. 12-Step programs have adopted the prayer, which leads me to a “Stella Story,” not in the book, in which she has a delightful cameo.

Betty Garrett in "Spoon River Anthology" (1963) photo by Life

Betty Garrett in “Spoon River Anthology” (1963) photo by Life

In her memoir Betty Garret and Other Stories: A Life on the Stage and Screen, Garret writes about one raucous performance at which Stella was present during the run of Spoon River Anthology in 1963:

At a Matinee performance one day, the oddest thing happened. We were nearing the end of the first act when, from a box at stage right, I distinctly heard someone say, “Bullshit!”

 During intermission, I asked Chuck Aidman if he’d heard someone say“bullshit.”

 “Yeah, what was that?”

We came back out for the second act and the voice continued. It kept moving around the theater and every so often we would hear someone say, “Crap!” or “Bullshit.” Finally, when Joyce Van Patten was doing one of her most sensitive and beautiful characterizations, the voice said, “Act it, Miss Van Patten! Act it.”

 If was so upsetting that finally Chuck moved up to the front of the stage and said, “Excuse me, I must stop the show. There is someone in the audience who is very disturbing to us on the stage and I’m sure to you out there. Will he please leave.”

And the voice called out, “The essence of drama is conflict, Charlie!”

With that the great acting teacher, Stella Adler, who just happened to be sitting in the second row, stood up, and said very dramatically, “Throw that man out!”

That inspired Bob Elston to jump off the stage, run up the aisle, and go smashing against a locked door he thought would take him to the heckler.

We never knew what it was all about until years later when Joyce told me she had received a letter that read: “Dear Miss Van Patten, I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and one of our twelve steps is to make amends for any hurt that we may have caused anyone. So I want to apologize very deeply for interrupting your beautiful performance in “Spoon River.” Please extend my apologies to the other members of your cast.

For anyone curious, the Serenity Prayer reads:

God (or fill in the blank), grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.



4 responses to “One Evening at the Theater with Stella Adler

  1. Sheana, looking forward to the publication of your book. Stella Adler is a worthy subject.

  2. Awesome pics Sheana! I’m looking forward to the release of your book! Keep us posted 🙂

  3. Your posts are always so fascinating and always leave me wanting more!

  4. Thanks everyone for reading my latest post. No one could be as excited about the book coming out as I am.

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