” I no longer know how to read or to study or to think or to memorize without inviting Stella into my consciousness. Stella, you see, taught me how a play was built, how ideas were inserted as if they were bricks and windows and cornices and buttresses; how characters were inserted to allow light or shadow or a better view; how a playwright transmitted thoughts and ideas, and how actors were then empowered, required, to pick up those thoughts and ideas and transmit them to both their fellow players and to an audience.
She taught me everything.
All actors, I believe, arrive eager and alive but dumb: They don’t really understand anything outside of their desire to act, to be seen, to be understood, to bring understanding to others. I was particularly dumb, because I had come from a background, from a habit, of expression, of acting out, of feeling and thinking things, and I did not have a foundation of literature, of philosophy, of art, of music. I was a big, beautiful, blank sheet of paper, as Stella told me, and it was my job to impress on this blank page some notes, some thoughts–to make an impression. She would help me, she said, but she could not make it happen; she could not make me into an actor; she could not make me sensitive or intelligent.
What she could do, she said, and what she emphatically would do, was kick me out of her class and her life if I did not subscribe to her standards, did not appear to be working at my highest potential, if my page remained blank.
She was a tough, brilliant, beautiful teacher.
She taught me everything.”
– Marlon Brando
(From James Grissom’s book, “Follies of God”)
*Footage from Stevan Riley’s wonderful documentary, “Listen To Me, Marlon”