Stella! Mother of Modern Acting

Arthur Miller decided to become a playwright after seeing her perform with the Group Theatre. Marlon Brando attributed his acting to her genius as a teacher. Mark Ruffalo writes, "In Stella’s eyes, service to the great ideas of a play or film were the actor's greatest responsibility.”

Stella! Mother of Modern Acting is the first biography of Stella Adler, chronicling her journey from the Yiddish Theatre on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to starring on Broadway and in Hollywood to revolutionizing modern day acting. From her Depression-era plays with the Group Theatre to her covert freedom fighting work leading to the rescue of hundreds of Jewish refugees during the 40s, Stella used her talent and notoriety as tools for change.

Her life story is as much an account of the sociopolitical milieu of the 20th century as it is of the evolution of contemporary acting. Always “on stage,” Stella’s magnetism also served as the costume she donned in order to reconcile a deep sense of not belonging in the world.

Art was forever her savior. Through her emphasis on the actor, not merely as an interpreter, but as an artist who imagines and creates, her teachings continue to capture audiences on stages and screens around the world. Who was Stella? How was she so instrumental in igniting the talent of such actors as Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Shelley Winters, Benicio Del Toro? What made her devote her life to the craft of acting?

How was such an imperialistic grande dame a member of the democratic theatrical company known as the Group Theatre? What was her role in securing passage for 700 displaced Jews during and after WWII? Why did she leave Broadway and Hollywood to teach? Why did the FBI and the Department of Army keep records of Stella’s every move during the '40s and '50s?

What exactly was the debate between Stella and Lee Strasberg whose "Method" acting rubbed her the wrong way? What is "Method" acting, and how does it differ from Stella's technique?

Stella! Mother of Modern Acting takes you through the life and times of a luminary who has  been described as "a force of nature." Stella revered the actor as the aristocrat of society who both nourishes and serves his culture through his greatest tool: the imagination.


"What Stella brought to the American style of acting was a depth of naturalism that had not been seen up until then. It was naturalism mixed with a deep reverence for the actor as an artist and the writer as a teacher of mankind. For me she is still a bright light in a particularly dark time for the culture of Actors. In Stella! Mother of Modern Acting, Sheana Ochoa has captured a life lived well and large, always striving for more."— Mark Ruffalo, Actor

"Over the four decades I have been producing films in Hollywood I have continuously heard the name of Stella Adler spoken with enormous reverence by actors. Now, after reading Sheana Ochoa's biography, I understand why her legacy as an actor and teacher burns so brightly. An excellent, rich, and informative book."— Michael Phillips , Film Producer (The Sting, Taxi Driver)

"Stella Adler's passion for acting and teaching actors merges with tales of her personal struggles and triumphs in Ochoa's detailed, compelling narrative ... As Adler's life unfolds, Hollywood's past and present come alive—with names, places, and dramas as informative as they are entertaining."— Deborah Martinson , biographer of Lillian Hellman: A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels

"Stella Adler had a gigantic influence on American theater and film in the twentieth century. With rich insight, Sheana Ochoa traces her career, from Adler's father Jacob's central place in Yiddish theater to her time in the pioneering Group Theater to her fostering of the talent of Marlon Brando and beyond. It's a great read and a great story."— Leo Braudy, Cultural Historian and Film Critic