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John Hearst and
Elizabeth Fondaras
The Hearsts Host Soiree
To Celebrate Stella Adler

By Edward T. Callaghan
Photos by Rob Rich

HE sprawling Bridgehampton aerie, that John (Bunky) and Barbara Hearst call home-sweet-home, was the setting for one of the summer’s most gracious, least pretentious cocktail soirees, celebrating the life and legacy of a true American treasure, the late Stella Adler.

The legendary theatrical family, the Adlers, has influenced American theater over four generations.  The legacy continues with the internationally famed Stella Adler Studio of Acting, named for the person many believe was the greatest acting teacher in the country.

Roy Scheider, Ellen Adler,
Brenda Seimer

To celebrate the studio’s 2003 awards, the Hearsts and their good pals Roy and Brenda Scheider welcomed a Stella roster of old friends, alumni and supporters to the Hearsts’ wooded enclave for an evening of sparkling conversation, readings and music, celebrating the spirit of Stella and her vital cultural center.

Ellen Adler, kicked off the evening with the announcement of the recipients of the prestigious awards named in honor of her mother and family:  to Steven Spielberg, the Jacob Adler Award for courageous contributions to American culture; to Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, the Group Theater Award for prolific achievement in theater, film and television; and to John Travolta the highly coveted Stella Adler Award for consummate interpretation of the Stanislavski/Adler technique.

Eli Wallach, Frank Langella,
Anne Jackson Wallach

Roy Scheider, an alumnus and co-chairman of the famed studio, gave a short, but powerful, reading from Adler’s late husband, the esteemed drama critic Harold Clurman, who with Adler co-founded the ground breaking Group Theater.

Old family friend Phyllis Newman read one of Stella’s famous letters of encouragement to a young student, who clearly took her advice to heart.

The student, Milton Justice, a successful theatrical producer and now Yale drama professor, smiled appreciatively at the words written over twenty years ago by his late mentor. At that moment Stella must have been there overlooking the potato fields and ocean she so sorely missed when she went to Hollywood.

Among the stellar crowd were Elizabeth Fondaras, Frank Langella, Pia Lindstrom, Eli Wallach & Anne Jackson, John Gruen, Bonnie Pfeifer and Charles Evans, Stan Herman, the Marshall Brickmans, Mary Skillern, Kevin Conway, Marcie Bloom, Cornelia Foss, Gail Furman, Dina Merrill and Ted Hartley, Bob Balaban and Lynn Grossman, and Mercedes Ruehl.

Ted Hartley and Dina Merrill

Joanne Edelman, director of student affairs, spoke about the schools planned scholarship programs, expansion of community outreach and the hoped-for acquisition of a new building for the Harold Cluman Theater Laboratory.

Fundraising will kick off on November 17 with a gala dinner/awards ceremony “Stella by Starlight” at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan, at which time the 2003 Stella Adler Studio of Acting Awards will be presented.

Honorary chairman Marlon Brando and co-chairmen Mike Medavoy and Roy Scheider are spearheading the campaign.

A highlight of the evening is certain to be the star-studded tribute to American Musical Theater organized by Scheider and esteemed director Gordon Hunt, father of Oscar winner Helen Hunt.

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