Stella Adler, Script Analysis, Film/TV Acting

Stella Adler

„I no longer know how to read or to study or to think or to memorize without inviting Stella into my consciousness. Stella, you see, taught me how a play was built, how ideas were inserted as if they were bricks and windows and cornices and buttresses; how characters were inserted to allow light or shadow or a better view; how a playwright transmitted thoughts and ideas, and how actors were then empowered, required, to pick up those thoughts and ideas and transmit them to both their fellow players and to an audience. – She taught me everything.“Marlon Brando („Believing in Majesty“ by James Grissom)

„I had the fortune to attending classes with her, but not acting classes but the script interpretation. It was the most important thing in my training…“ – Christoph Waltz (Charlie Rose)


„Theme of the whole script. Theme: the largest subject of the human condition that the main character or leading characters revolve around.“ – Ron Burrus

„Every play has a central line that encapsulates the meaning, the DNA of what it’s about…The central line of something can be quite obscure or quite not what you’d expect. But once you discover it, then you can work on your part, so that everybody knows what the play is about and serves that central line in their choices.“ – Emily Watson (Backstage/Article: Successful Actors Talk About Their Trainng)

„Kings Speech“ – „Finding your voice“ 

„American Beauty“ – „Rites of passage – Film about imprisonment and escape from imprisonment“ – Sam Mendes and Alan Ball (Huffington Post by Alex Koenig)

„Laurence of Arabia“ –  „An constant attempt to find out who he was in this world“ – TED Talk Andrew Stanton

„Six Feet Under“ – „Six Feet Under refers not only to being buried as a dead body is buried, but to primal emotions and feelings running under the surface.“ – Alan Ball (Six Feet Under)

Stella Adler Technique Workshop

„A movie that I was in, called On the Waterfront; there was a scene in a taxicab, where I turn to my brother, who´s come to turn me over to the gangsters, and I lamentto him that he never looked after me , he never gave me a chance, that I could been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum….“You should´ve looked after me, Charly.“. It was very moving. And people often spoke about that, „Oh, my God, what a wonderful scene, Marlon,….“ It wasn´t wonderful at all. The situation was wonderful. Everybody feels like he could have been a contender, he could have been somebody, everybody feels as though he´s partly bum, some part of him. He is not fullfilled and he could have done better, he could have been better. Everybody feels a sense of loss about something. So that was what touched people. It wasn´t the scene itself.“ Marlon Brando (Playing To The Camera, Film Actors Discuss Their Craft published Yale University Press)

    • What is the situation through your characters eyes?
    • Characters interpret things
    • What is your characters POV on….?
    • Who does my character represent? What group of people? Example: „Summer & Smoke“ by Tennesse Williams. (Summer – Sex, Appetite | Smoke – Spirit)
  • What does the character represent? The Truth Sayer/X-RAY man (Revolutionary Road/John Givings)

by Steve Schapiro - Taxi Driver

„With writing, great writing especially, you see how the material affects everything on a grander scale so that this character . . . represents an attitude of the world, or this part of humanity, if you will. Stella gave me that sense when you’re reading these characters they represent more than just themselves but they are themselves in a very real way. That made an impression on me: she taught how acting applies to a bigger vision.“ – Robert De Niro (Interview: „A Life in Art“ by Sheana Ochoa / Photo: Steve Schapiro)

    • What is the 80% character word (describing my character) – integrity, loyality, ambitious, honest,…The dominating colour. Example Silver Linings: Pat & Tiffany share the same, they are „transparent“
    • What are the things he/she does the most?
  • What experiences have shaped my character?

Stella Adler Technique„I’m looking for what’s universal—what the writer is saying to the world. If you work on a period play, it takes place at a different time; it could be a different country, its best you do research. And if you’re interested in playing character, (not just your own character), it’s up to the actor to rise to the material, instead of bringing the material down to your size. Actors can only play a projection of themselves for so long in TV and film, and even ‘personality actors’ have edited their persona so that we see a selected side of them. There are exceptions—those actors who fight for the chance to show a very different side of themselves. It’s matter of finding a ‘key’ into your character’s world. The understanding of the human condition is the actor’s responsibility. When I watched Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor,” there is a scene when the emperor is at the train station, with his guards nearby. And he couldn’t tie his shoe. He didn’t know how to. This was the genius of Bertolucci and the writer to allow us this understanding of his character. Of course, he was raised that he never had to tie his shoes. He was dressed everyday. That’s a key to showing what the actor has to look for, to get in. Once you do, then you can run.“ – Ron Burrus (Q: From Acting Teachers Of America by Ronald Rand)


    • How do I feel about the partner at the top of the scene?
    • What is the attitude to my partner at the beginning of the scene?
    • Make it light, where the words are heavy
    • Get the action in front of the words
    • Why is the scene in the movie? Every scene is there for revalation?
    • To what part of my partner am I talking to: Am I talking to their soul, their heart, their mind, their body?
    • Imagination – Build a story that makes you feel responsible
    • Giving things life, makes me care, makes me respond
    • Build the past to influence the present
    • Using the partner specificly; Using your partner general, leads to explanation
    • What „must“ happen in the scene? What is the type/titel of the scene? „Bonding scene“, „Breaking the ice scene“
  • Reveal one by one not all once
    • Make choices that sharpen your talent
    • You are hired to find the cause that produces the effect (not just the effect/an emotion)
    • You pay a price for doing things – for yes, for no. Let us see the price you pay.
  • Find universal, bigger than life actions
„You´re the master of the spoken word, they are the masters of the written word.“
 (Notes from past workshops 2015, 2016, 2017 in Berlin)

Camera Acting Workshop with Ron Burrus (Stella Adler Master Teacher)

Acting Workshop January, 2021

Teaching both in LA and NYC, Ron Burrus spent many years studying the teaching alongside Stella Adler and is known to be the greatest living exponent of her work. Her techniques have been studied by actors such as Robert De Niro, Martin Sheen, Roy Scheider, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mark Ruffalo, Warren Beatty, Salma Hayek, Michael Imperioli, Christoph Waltz, Benicio del Toro, and Marlon Brando.

Workshop January 2020: Camera Acting with Ron Burrus click here
 Camera Acting
„Ron helped me to look at my life without judgment, to be present. I’m able to articulate what I want to do with the material. I can have a discussion with the director, whether I do a play on the West End in London and rehearse for six weeks, or a CSI in Miami. I always keep an open mind. What I love about his way of working is that it has to do with the universal. Ron also said that a script is skeletal, and it’s our job to add the heart, the soul.“ – Michael Landes (Acting Teachers Of America by Ronald Rand)