We had the good fortune of connecting with Arthur Mendoza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Arthur, what do you want people to remember about you?
Stella Adler was one of America’s premier acting teachers. She taught Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and countless others. Her teaching was based on the work of Stanislavsky and comes from imaginary circumstances. When I met her I had already graduated from UC San Diego (the inception of the La Jolla Playhouse, were Alan Schneider after he left Juilliard) with a MFA in acting. I auditioned for her in New York and we connected immediately. After my short stay, I moved back to Los Angeles to pursue an industry career. When she opened her original Los Angeles location, the “Stella Adler Conservatory West” (on Argyle and Hollywood Blvd) I trained with her again. After the end of one of Stella’s summer sessions, she was leaving to go back to New York and I asked her who I should study with when she left. She told me, “No one. Rely on all I taught you. You are trained.” Less than a year later, Ms. Adler invited me to be her principal acting teacher of the Stella Adler Conservatory West. Stella always told me I was meant to teach her work. I naively told her something to the effect of “Acting teachers are fail actors.” She slapped me across the face, which I deserved, because she was right. She predicted correctly that I was going to have my own studio and teach the “Stella Adler Technique”. I honor her memory and legacy by teaching her work exactly as it was taught to me by her, with no alterations what so ever. What’s the one thing about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of? That an actors training is endless. There’s no point where you are completely finished growing. Risk taking: how do you think about risk. What role has taking risk played in your life / career? My entire life has been nothing but chances. I’ve taken what’s propelled me and done it passionately with my entire being behind it. When you keep risking and feel what that’s like, you become addicted to that taste. Acting is a risk with great reward. There is nothing like it. Breathing life into the author’s words, lifting the text off the page by being a character in the story, becomes an undying thirst that can never be satisfied. To take a piece and devour it. To make the most aggressive and passionate choices for each character you play. The artist is not satisfied with duplicating old work. One of my talents as an acting teacher and director is teaching my actors to make their own choices and take risks. Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision that you made that contributed to your success. It’s not the choices I made, it’s the choices I didn’t make. I was a working actor before I became a teacher, but I was no longer fulfilled with what the industry allowed me to play. Being a Hispanic, six foot tall man, there weren’t many, if any, parts written for me in the 90’s when I stopped auditioning. Stella identified my hunger to use my full capabilities, training, and technique. That’s why she offered me the position as primary acting teacher of her west coast conservatory. She taught, Ron Burris and I, how to teach her technique, process, exercises. “…the exploration is everything.” That’s where my old student, Benicio del Toro’s success comes from, it’s his love of the work. What is the most important factor behind your success/ the success of your brand? I do not change any of the exercises Stella Adler taught. To understand how important that is, let’s go back to Stella’s beginnings. Her father was Jacob Adler, a star on Broadway. When Stella was a girl, Broadway was Yiddish theatre and verity acts. Then came a traveling theatre group from Russia lead by Stanislavsky, it changed Broadway and American acting. The play was entirely in Russian but American audiences packed the house. It was realistic and America had never seen anything like it. Many young actors, including Stella trained with Stanislavsky until his return to Russia. Shortly after that, the “Group Theatre” was formed, with actors that learned techniques from today: Stella Adler, Misner, Strasberg and many others. The Group Theatre met for many years until they disagreed about the technique. Stella didn’t agree with “sense memory” (when an actor uses their personal life to pull from to act) and other discrepancies. Many years later, when Stella heard Stanislavsky was in Paris on his death bed, she went to him again to clarify the technique of acting. She brought with her two stenographers. One to write what he said in Russian and another to write the conversation in English. Stella’s main question was, “Should you ever use sense memory: pull from your own life?” Stanislavsky said, “…we did use that for a bit, but then we stopped using it because, the sane mind can’t be two different things at the same time. The imagination is that most effective.” When Stella asked me to teach for her, I said I would only if she let me read the transcripts of her conversation with Stanislavsky. My success, my brand is the Stella Adler Technique with no alterations. 6. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? Making the choice to “move on” to the next chapter in my journey as an artist was difficult. I was a trained dancer as well as an actor in my teens and twenties . Collage made me choose. I was on scholarship at UC San Diego when I auditioned for “Evita” (the national tour) and got it. I was ready to drop everything and start my career as a dancer. I told UCSD, and they informed me that if I left, my parents would have to pay the scholarship back in full. That was the end of dancing for me. The choice to stay, set my path headfirst into acting. I loved dance and it still holds a place in my heart. I graduated with my MFA and then I found Stella. She gave me her technique and her blessing to teach the craft she taught me. Then there came a point (as Stella predicted) when I was no longer satisfied with the parts that where available to me. However, I was and very much still am, in love with the craft of acting. Like the stages of caterpillar to butterfly, I had to make another difficult decision to let my representation go and teach acting. I am so lucky to share what I love… the craft of acting with other artists. Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? How do you think about the balance? I don’t think about it. I am fortunate to have carved out a small corner in the world to do the thing I love most. Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career? I didn’t make a choice to become an artist, it chose me. The most frustrating thing, is that I resisted so long that it became painfully apparent that teaching is what I was supposed to do, and Stella told me before I knew it. To be picked by a titian of acting like Stella Adler gave me the blessing to teach her work. She believed in me! That is beyond any complement any artist could ask for. What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to remember you about? I want to be remembered as an artistic guide who never gives up on my students. I hope I inspire in them a desire to act with all their being. To inspire them to do whatever they do with everything they have.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The life of an actor takes resilience. One evening Stella Adler had a dinner party. I was lucky enough to find myself sitting next to Marlon Brando at the table. I turned and asked him, “What is the key to acting?” To which he responded, “Stick around.” The response puzzled me. I asked Mr. Brando to clearily. At that point, he insisted I call him Marlon and his clearifiation was, “Stick around long enough and they’ll pick you.” The Stella Adler Technique will teach you to act. I can teach you to act but you need resilience to perceiver.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Lady Bird Cafe in Echo Park Dupar’s at the Grove 24 Cafe in West Hollywood Olivera Street for the authentic
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Stella Adler, Alen Schneider, my grandmother, and my mom
Shots with Jeth