“The Art of Acting” Quotes

I recently finished “The Art of Acting” by Stella Adler. This book focused a little too much on classical theatrical acting, which I’m not that interested in but there were still some quotes I found useful.

stella“The thing that makes you say, “I want to do something” – that is the beginning of talent.” (12)

“No actor is a success unless he feels inside himself, as long as he lives, that he is good. If you don’t feel you’re good, no money can give it to you! No applause can give it to you! No symbol of success can give it to you!” (12)

“When you stand on stage you must have a sense that you are addressing the whole world, and that what you say is so important the whole world must listen.” (22)

“My husband used to say that in our time ten years had been added to life. But not at the end. We didn’t add the ten years to maturity. We added them to adolescence. We’re still “kids” when we’re 28.” (23)

“Take an idea, paraphrase it, write it out in your own words, then come back here, stand on the stage and give it to us.” (25)

“Truth in art is truth in circumstances, and the first circumstances, the circumstances that governs everything is, Where am I?” (35)

“You will only fail to learn if you do not learn from failing. Falling flat on your face will uplift you!” (38)

“One primary reason many actors feel uncomfortable on stage is that they don’t work from the circumstances. They start with the words. The words can tell you about the place, but it’s the place that will tell you how to act.” (80)

“Knowing what it’s like on the stage, you would never trade that to be in the audience.” (82)

“Whatever you reconstruct from your emotional memory is no substitute for putting your imagination to work.” (83)

“If you leave the house without putting your clothes on, you have every reason to be nervous. Going on stage without having built the circumstances is the same thing. You’re naked. You have no protection.” (84)

“When we study a script, we’re trying to find what actions it requires of us.” (86)

“If two people simply agree on the stage, then we’re finished. There’s no play and nothing more to say. The modern theatre is based on our ability to consider two points of view.” (97)

“You think your beauty will help you. It won’t help your art. It’ll help you get ahead, but your art comes from somewhere else. Either what we do matters or it doesn’t.” (100)

“You can’t go on the stage unless you’re filled with things that give you life all day long.” (102)

“There are no small stories, only the actor makes them small.” (116)

“Stanislavski said, “throw out 99 percent and you still have 100 per cent too much for the theatre.” (117)

“Once you feel your talent working, there is a good side and a bad side. The good side is the pleasure of knowing your talent. The bad side is that this knowledge will be the big experience of your lives and you’ll never be satisfied with anything else.” (124)

“In life, as on the stage, it’s not who I am but who I do that’s the measure of my worth and the secret of my success.” (131)

“If you don’t justify your actions, you’ll be caught acting.” (135)

“Actions are doable, and if you do them correctly, they prompt the feelings.” (139)

“Every action consists of many little actions. If your overall action is to leave for a holiday, the action of the scene will be to pack a suitcase.” (145)

“Sarcasm is a symptom of weakness, not strength. It’s shirking from confrontation and the very opposite of defiance.” (155)

“An actor is one who uncovers and incorporates the secrets of words.” (161)

“If you can find three interrelated ideas in a text you have a play that’s in control.” (167)

“Several factors in particular play a crucial role in shaping character. One is profession. The other is class. Let’s start with profession. Americans admit to professions. They don’t admit to classes.” (169)

“Even a daffodil does something, has a profession. It gives off scent, professionally.” (170)

“The technique for playing a profession is simple: Build up a believable past in that profession, and, through imagined biographical data, to know how you came to be in it and who you are in it.” (170)

“The more you’re playing to the audience, trying to impress them, the less successful you are.” (173)

“The more you do it for the audience, the less they want it. It’s what made Willy Loman a lousy salesman. He was too eager.” (174)

“Before you live convincingly in the present on the stage, you must have a fully realized past. It’s the first thing an actor should do when preparing a character.” (175)

“Acting is hard because it requires not just the study of books… but the constant study of human behavior.” (180)

“It’s not what a person says but your reaction to what he says that creates your attitude toward the person. Without this attitude you don’t exist on stage.” (181)

“When we put on the costumes of another time we’re not just “dressing up.” We not playing “make believe.” We’re assuming another way of thinking. We’re donning an inheritance, intellectual and spiritual.” (190)

“A man’s clothes represent his culture the way a soldier’s uniform displays his rank.” (191)

“Most of us are caught in this fruitless cycle of work, success, money. The artist has a way out. He’s compensated by his joy in his work. But he’s excluded from the middle-class.” (248)

“You will begin to act when you can forget your technique – when it is so securely inside you that you need not call upon it consciously. By opening up, you allow it to happen to you. “ (261)

“When you most succeed, you do so by seeming not to act at all.”

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