Becoming a successful actor requires total commitment to your craft. There’s no such thing as a day off when you’re memorizing scripts, scouring the web for auditions and rehearsing lines on a loop.
When it’s time to sit back and unwind, you can still learn a thing or two about how to improve your acting, land better gigs and find the type of roles you long to perform.
These seven books are essential reading material for the aspiring and professional actor alike.
1. “Audition” By Michael Shurtleff
Written by the director of legendary shows like “Chicago” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Audition” offers actors detailed advice on how to develop their own unique acting style and tailor their performances to specific roles and auditions.
Although the book was written in 1987 and is dated in some aspects, it still offers plenty of sound suggestions worth learning today.
2. “The Actor and the Target” By Declan Donnellan
Actors like Alan Rickman and Peter Brook praised Donnellan’s work, which provides a guide to acting from a director’s perspective. Directing, like acting, is subjective, but you can gain a lot of valuable insight by learning about acting from the other side of the camera.
3. “True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor” By David Mamet
Mamet is an award-winning director who has earned a Pulitzer Prize and Tony nominations for his plays like “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Speed-the-Plow”. In his book, Mamet gives aspiring actors tips on how to approach agents, evaluate a role and work one-on-one with a playwright to bring out the best performance possible.
4. “Respect for Acting” By Uta Hagen
The Hagen acting method encourages actors to “become” their character. Uta Hagen also came up with the idea of “substitution” in acting, in which actors replace fictional events in a character’s life with real events from their own to draw out more authentic emotion.
“Respect for Acting” outlines Hagen’s teachings in her own words and is still widely endorsed over 40 years after its publication.
5. “In-Depth Acting” By Dee Cannon
Acclaimed acting coach Dee Cannon’s book is a practical guide to Stanislavski’s system. The Stanislavski method of acting helps actors develop their characters in stages. There are seven questions an actor should ask themselves when constructing their character’s persona:
Who am I?
Where am I?
When is it?
What do I want?
Why do I want it?
How will I get it?
What do I need to overcome?
6. “An Actor Prepares” By Constantin Stanislavski
While Cannon’s book offers an explanation of the Stanislavski method from a contemporary coach’s perspective, “An Actor Prepares” is written by Stanislavski himself. The book examines the internal evaluation and preparation the author believes an actor should undergo in preparation of any role.
“An Actor Prepares” is Stanislavski’s first book and one of the most famous acting books in print.
7. “Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus” By Marina Caldarone
Scripts can be daunting for many actors. The lines aren’t just words on a page but your character’s voice. All of their actions are embedded in their speech, so as an actor, learning how to evaluate dialogue, draw actions from a script and implement them into your performance is crucial to success.
Caldarone’s book offers lists of verbs and their synonyms that actors can use when making notes on their scripts.
Improve Your Acting By Reading
Books can make you a better actor. Everyone learns differently, and sometimes, taking our eyes off the screen and shifting them onto the page can put things into a better perspective and help us grow.
What are some of your favorite acting books?
Logan Sekulow is a renowned producer and director.