Our last post in this resources collection may have served the auditory learners out there, but here’s some recommendations for those who prefer something more tactile and visual.
Research shows us the benefits of making time for reading: relaxation, focus, memory enhancement, to name a few.
These reads are a wonderful way to learn between lessons, to mark ideas and take notes ready to refer back to. They remind us that acting really is a craft, and our growing ability is often reflected by the work we put in.
The list below contains eight great reads featuring lessons from acting legends, modern muses, awe-inspiring autobiographies and books that are bound to add more to your life than just a bitt’a personal development.
(in no particular order)
1. ‘Respect for Acting’ & ‘A Challenge for the Actor’ (sequel) by Uta Hagen
In drama school, we spent entire terms doing ‘object work.’ As a restless, first-year student who just wanted to get their hands on a script, it’s easy to take for granted the benefit and necessity of the seemingly simple, detailed exercises. Uta Hagen knows the importance of this work through years of acquired skill and experience, elucidating how the actor must learn to construct their private world within the public space. It’s a must-read that proves the importance of focus, detail, imagination, and ridding oneself of the inhibiting ego.
2. ‘On Acting’ by Sanford Meisner
Meisner technique may not be for everyone, but it’s enduring practise world-over proves it’s benefits. This book tracks the work of real actors under Meisner’s instruction. It’s about finding the truth in imaginary circumstances, working from instinct and impulse, getting out of your head and into the moment (also useful for the everyday).
3. ‘An Actor Prepares’ by Constantin Stanislavsky
An often challenging read, but interesting in its layout alone; follows an educational narrative as we track the journey of a young actor (hence the title). Through this, the discipline required to be a great actor is reinforced. This book delves into sense work, emotion memory, character development and sincerity in playing on stage.
4. ‘Power of the Actor’ by Ivana Chubbuck
A wonderful book for the 21st century from the highly sought-after acting coach, Ivana Chubbuck. Guide to many of the stars, Chubbuck draws on the great teachers of the past (including the three listed above) and delves deep into script analysis, how to feel and sink into emotion organically and find the humanity in your characters.
5. ‘The Intent to Live’ by Larry Moss
I was lucky enough to audit a session of Larry Moss’ during his 2019 Australian tour and was moved by his ability to provoke such vulnerability in the actors, which served them in developing detailed human idiosyncrasies. Moss is big on that - detail, and script analysis. I’ve heard some refer to this one as their ‘acting bible’, and takeaways are bound to serve you in both life, understanding human behaviour, and your professional career.
6. ‘Acting as a Business' by Brian O’Neill (see the fifth edition for updated info)
We figured it necessary to include this well-regarded, transparent acting-biz guide, because as exhilarating as it is to practise and create, understanding the workings of the industry is necessary for career longevity. It is American-ised, but many of the guidelines, like interview prep and social media marketing, can be applied to international markets too.
7. ‘Voice and the Actor’ by Cicely Berry
When it comes to technique and enhancing your craft, one cannot underestimate the value of voice work. Cicley Berry, known across the world as one of the vocal coach greats, was Voice Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company. In this book, Berry approaches voice work by providing practical exercises for relaxation, breathing and muscular control. She explores text and character construction, reinforcing the idea naturalness is best; that there is no ‘correct voice.’ Rather, it’s a book to help you find your own voice, and realise its potential.
8. ‘Green lights’ by Matthew McConaughey
Popular amongst the SceneWorkout team, the new top seller from natural story-teller and renowned ‘alright, alright, alright’ A-lister Matthew McConaughey explores lessons learnt throughout his life and rich career. A candid expose of experiences and insight, this will resonate with those who look for deeper meaning in the seemingly ordinary hum-drum of life. You don’t have to agree with McConaughey on everything to enjoy this book, and it’s not one to read for acting-technique, but offers up an interesting way of looking at the adventure that is life through his humorous and hearty culmination of stories and poems.
JUST ONE MORE (PERSONAL) RECOMMENDATION…
‘The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Mind, Heart and Soul’ by William Sieghart
Unapologetically throwing this one in the mix because it’s a moving example of the healing power in words, and can offer release for those whose job requires them to explore varied emotional landscapes. The anthology provides poetic prescriptions for all sorts of inner ailments (depression, anxiety, loneliness, loss, etc). It is a beautiful exploration into the universities of human experience, and shows how bending and crafting language can powerfully affect both mind and heart. Simply beautiful passages to get lost in.
Hope you enjoyed our short but sundry assembly of acting (and related) reads!
NEXT IN OUR RECOMMENDS SERIES: motivational social media accounts to keep your eyes to the stars, but on your toes and on the ground.