Are you an actor who desperately needs guidance? Or a director, a drama teacher, playwright, etc. who yearns for inspiration? Well, don’t you worry, I created a list of books that will guide you down the right path!
In order for you, the actor/director/playwright/other, to start on the right foot, I recommend that you read the books I will be listing below. There will be three must-read books sections: Stanislavski, Adler, Meisner. The names are of three acting teachers/figures who revolutionized the art of acting. Additionally, I will start the list off with a recommended book that does not fall under any of the five sections, but encompasses all of them beautifully in one read.
Why should I read these books?
- encapsulate most of the (or center on the specific) acting techniques, approaches, and/or methods
- are integral to your growth as an actor, director, playwright, etc.
- deal with the formation of characters and scenes (or moments in time), which can be applied to subjects other than acting (psychology, philosophy, etc.)
- Modern Theories of Performance by Graham Ley and Jane Milling:
When you research this book, you realize that it is more of a textbook than a cozy-sunday kind of book. Nonetheless, it holds valuable information about all the contemporary, bizarre, traditional and recent approaches to acting. It is the book you would want in your library for quick references about certain approaches/techniques you want to try out.
KONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI (OR STANISLAVSKI’S SYSTEM):
- My Life in Art by Konstantin Stanislavski (translated by Jean Benedetti):
I am currently reading My Life in Art, and it is a book about the life of the man who started it all: Stanislavsky. You learn that he is human--so in other words, he is confident, yet self-critical. It is a must-read because as actors, we must learn the root of Method acting in order to understand the mechanisms surrounding it. (If you want to read a good review about the book, click here.)
- An Actor’s Handbook by Konstantin Stanislavski:
I recommend you read this book after his My Life in Art, but if the autobiography does not interest you yet and want to learn the key concepts of his System, I would read this book first. In The Actor's Handbook, you learn about having an objective and using the Magic If. The title is quite evident--it is a handbook for actors!
- An Actor’s Work by Konstantin Stanislavski (translated by Jean Benedetti):
Many enjoy this version of Stanislavsky's writings because it is translated purely and wholesomely into English. Additionally, the book is a compilation of two of his acting books: An Actor Prepares and Building a Character. The book is didactic because Stanislavsky wrote in a manner where he is lecturing the reader. Thankfully, it has been translated faithfully.
- Creating a Role by Konstantin Stanislavski.
This book is great for those who want to focus solely on character building. This means that if you read this book, you will learn about the meaning behind movement, accent, voice impediments and physicalization of your character. Fun fact: he talks about how reading scenes with another character or person is very rhythmic! Oh, and try to notice people conversing when you're out at a coffee shop. It's fun, and you gradually learn how people talk and formulate their thoughts.
STELLA ADLER (OR ADLER’S TECHNIQUE):
- Stella! Mother of Modern Acting by Sheana Ochoa:
Sheana Ochoa is the author of this book--and yes, she has a blog! Most importantly, it is dedicated to Ms. Adler. This book is Stella Adler's first biography; and it was written by someone who took a great amount of time to research her. She met with actors who worked with Adler and interviewed them individually. The book is very personal, and from what I've read: very inspiring!
- The Art of Acting by Stella Adler:
There are twenty-two lessons in the book about acting in this book! Stella Adler was the instructor of these lessons. You should feel blessed to have access to this book because, well, she is considered the mother of acting. In The Art of Acting, you feel as if you are her student. It is a quick, an intimate, and a fun read!
SANFORD MEISNER (MEISNER’S TECHNIQUE):
- Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell:
If I were any of you, I would read this book for just pure fun and inspiration. Actors constantly need inspiration because it is a harsh business we are all workin' in. In Meisner on Acting, you learn about who Meisner is, and you also learn about his methods in a very fun way. The book follows one of his classes of 16 actors for 15 months. You specifically learn about his method and his ability to empathize with his students. It is essentially a very uplifting book.
- Meisner in Practice: A Guide for Actors, Directors, and Teachers by Nick Moseley:
Nick Moseley does a great job in this book, making Meisner's approach to acting accessible to others. He creates specific exercises that target a certain aspect of his approach. He also speaks about the difficulty Moseley has faced teaching Meisner in schools. Meisner in Practice is a very good book for moments when you need an acting exercise before a scene.
There you have it, friends! If you want me to create another post featuring more books actors must read or, simply, recommended books, comment below. (I can cover acting figures such as Grotowski, Strasberg, Boal, Alexander, etc.!)