On Monday, October 19th, the Stella Adler Studio of Acting celebrated its 60th Anniversary with the Stella by Starlight Gala at the New York City residence of Island Def Jam Chairman and CEO Antonio L.A. Reid and his wife Erica. The Studio, founded by the late Stella Adler in 1949, counts Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Leslie Uggams, Harvey Keitel and Elaine Stritch amongst the many, many renowned actors who have honed their craft at the legendary Studio over the last 60 years (and counting). Elaine Stritch, in attendance to receive the prestigious Stella Adler Award for “prolific achievement in the art of acting,” said it meant “a whole lot” to be the recipient of such an honor. Ms. Stritch currently performs the role of Alec Baldwin’s TV mom on the award-winning NBC sitcom, 30 Rock.
According to Stritch, she first met Stella Adler in 1943 upon her arrival in New York to study acting. As fate would have it, Stella Adler was her first dramatic teacher. “She was sensational, just sensational. I looked forward to class like it was a party or an underground meeting,” she said. Presenting the award to Stritch was actor James Gandolfini (in photo with Stritch above).
Ruby Dee (at left, with Stritch), presented the Marlon Brando Award “for a life committed to social activism and excellence in film art” to Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi, like Brando, she explained, “Used what they are with concern for the human condition. The arts help us to reach other dimensions of ourselves,” she said. “That’s why this award is so important.” Dee arrived with her date for the evening: her musician grandson, Jamal Dee.
The Reverend Al Sharpton agreed that people in the arts could lend their creativity and sensitivity to social issues at whatever level an individual might feel comfortable. “Just to lend their name to a cause they believe in would add significantly to people who are trying to do good things around the world,” he said. “They need to find an area they believe in, that they’re passionate about and work with groups in that area. No one—artists or non-artists—should be on the planet and not do something for a cause bigger than themselves. There are safe issues to support—education and global warming—but too many people in the arts are safely not involved.”
The mission of the Stella Adler Studio is “To create an environment that nurtures theatre artists who value humanity, their own and others, as their first priority, while providing art and education to the greater community. The Studio’s programming centers on the idea that growth as an actor and as a human being is synonymous.”
With the Studio’s mission in mind, a number of additional honorees received awards during the evening. Debra Wasser (in photo above), who also sits on the Board of Directors of the Stella Adler Studio, was presented with the Harold Clurman Spirit Award. Bennett Zier, CEO of Air America Radio received the Stella Adler Corporate Award and Suzanne Shank, President and CEO of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. LLC, received the Harold Clurman Corporate Award.
Monday evening’s Gala served as a fundraiser with tickets ranging in price from about $2,500 for a single ticket to $25,000 for a table. Plans are underway to finance the Studio’s move and transformation into a fully formed arts complex to be named “The Adler Center for the Arts.” With a new facility, the opportunity to continue offering superior arts education as well as expanding to include additional performing arts disciplines, will exist. Tom Oppenheim, the Studio’s current Artistic Director and the grandson of Stella Adler, said, in a press release, “In the next 60 years and beyond, the Studio will continue to fight for the dignity of humanity by producing strong actors, important theatre and public access.” (Whoopi Goldberg, photo above).
Also in attendance were Actor Kate Mulgrew (above), Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, First Lady of Wall Street, New York State Governor David Paterson and Charlie Kierker of Air America Radio.
For more information on the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, go to www.stellaadler.com