Remembering My Mother – Ellen Adler

October 8, 2019

Dear friends,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your generous responses to my mother’s death. I use the word “death” because she would have had it so. She always made big fun of what she thought of as an American predilection to use the euphemism “passed” for the word “death”. “He passed” she’d say with a scornful grin, “can you believe that we live in a country that won’t use the word death?” My mother was a realist without a sentimental bone in her body.

She died on Friday, September 20 at 2:15pm and your kind responses came almost immediately. Texts, voicemails, emails, notes, fuit, flowers, hugs – all of it so comforting. Many of you came to the funeral which was deeply appreciated and which my mother would have loved. She would have loved the service itself which was fun and funny, laced with irony and laughs (something she valued deeply) thanks in large part to Jimmy, Betsy and Nina, and she would have loved that so many of you were there. I saw her every week, sometimes more than once a week for the years before she died and she never failed to ask me each and every time how things were at the Studio. She cared deeply about this place. Your presence raised her, long enough for Sara and me to say a proper goodbye. Thank you, all.

Nina said in her beautiful eulogy that “even in the worst of loss you can make or do something beautiful.” Of course she’s right. In that spirit here’s what we plan: a public memorial for Ellen in late January. Details of this are still forming but it will be a one night event to include things my mother loved: Painting! Classical music! Show tunes! Theater! Humor! That kind of thing. Artists and friends, laughter and beauty…

We also plan a new program – one I’m so excited about – the Ellen Adler Art Gallery. This will be located on the 2ndfloor in the alcove between the front desk and the Broadway hallway, opposite the Adler family historical timeline.

The purpose of the Ellen Adler Art Gallery will be to bring the visual arts, painting, sculpture, and design into the core of the, Stella Adler Arts Center for the Arts, to act as a living, breathing reminder to both students and members of the surrounding community of the vital relationship between theater arts and the plastic arts. Therefore both set and costume design will be a key element in the galley’s exhibitions. The gallery will also exhibit the work of young artists. These exhibits will be seasonal and will occur when the work can spill over into studios that will be open in between terms. A third element of interest will be rotating historical surveys of artistic movements that organically connect to work covered by the curriculum in scene study and character classes and the HCLAB and MAD. These will be illustrated in timelines, photos, video presentations and reproductions.  

I’ve had wonderful conversations with colleagues about how this new division of activity will fit into our overall galaxy of activities and find myself so eager and enthusiastic. Somehow it clarifies so much for me. It pulls together cultural efforts we’ve activated, connects the many residency programs we’ve created, even sharpens the vision of an actor Stella contributed: actor as ever evolving, culturally connected, socially engaged individual.

Again, dear friends, thank you for your kind thoughts and wishes and for your generous outpouring of love.


Tom Oppenheim
Artistic Director

Posted in Toms blog


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