In Spring 2017, Irish actress Jenn McGuirk received a scholarship to the iconic Hollywood school Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre in LA.

Here she tells about the legacy of one of Hollywood’s most beloved acting teachers who mentored stars including Marlon Brando and Robert de Niro.

Who was Stella Adler?

Born on the Lower East side of New York city on the 10th of February 1901, Stella’s whole family were actors, including her parents and her five siblings. They found their home of creativity in the Yiddish Theatre District, where Stella began acting at the ripe old age of four as part of her parents company.

As a theatre actress she toured Europe, studying with the famous Russian actor/director Konstantin Stanislavski in Paris before moving to LA.

She was also a member of Group Theatre with fellow icons of the art of acting, Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg with whom she differed on the interpretation of acting. Adler plumped more for the imagination whereas Strasberg focused on recalling the actor’s personal and past experience.

She founded the Stella Adler School of Acting in 1949 in New York.

Here are some fascinating snippets about Stella I’ve learned since packing my life into two suitcases and moving from Ireland to LA…


John Jack Rodgers, director of the Stella Adler School of Acting, recounts when he would pick Stella up to drive her to the school she would always have her nose stuck in a book. Exclaiming that she had learnt something new about a play she would have read already numerous times.

Stella was over 80 years of age at the time and still hungry to learn.


Adler didn’t hold back when Mark Ruffalo performed a scene from The Lion In Winter before his rise to fame. Adler stopped his presentation mid scene and asked, “Where did you get that costume?”. He replied, “I stole it”. Mark got a rousing laugh from his fellow actors but his playful reply was cut back with the following from Adler: “You mustn’t put anything on your body, which doesn’t feed the play, and which doesn’t feed your soul. Because you’re not acting words.”


Stella was well known for being tough on her students but she never really took herself too seriously.

While shopping for homeware one day, a curious sales representative asked Stella, “Where in England are you from?”. Her response: ‘Oh, I’m not from England dah-ling, I’m just affected!’ And the Sales rep was left baffled!

Each day I sit in class, there’s a new story. On my return to Ireland there will be three suitcases, an extra for all the plays I’ve read and a head full of incredible Stella stories.

How Amazon describes Stella Adler:

Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century’s greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career, both in New York and Hollywood, she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties, but her decades of experience and teaching have been brilliantly caught and encapsulated by Howard Kissel in the twenty-two lessons in this book.

You can buy The Art of Acting HERE

About Jenn McGuirk:

Jenn McGuirk is orginally from Greystones, Co Wicklow. Before moving to LA to study the Stella Adler approach to acting, she worked as a producer and voice-over artist at TV3, Dublin, now Virgin Media Television and performed on stage as an actress and singer.

Find Jenn on Twitter HERE