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Books on Acting

Updated on July 18, 2013

Want to make it big in movies, fancy a career treading the boards or do you just want to improve your amateur stage performances?

Whatever the reasons for your interest in acting, there are plenty of books on the subject for you to add to your collection. There are books on technique and books with career advice for anybody hoping to break into this competitive business.

An Actor Prepares

Do you know anything about Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavski? If you have studied theater, you probably do. His system of acting which focuses on 'emotional memory' has been incredibly influential and could be thought of as the basis for many other acting techniques. He promoted the idea of aiming for artistic truth and taught actors to "experience the part" which they are playing. An Actor Prepares is the first of three books detailing Stanislavski's approach. It's a must have text for anybody who is serious about becoming a theater practitioner.

True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor

While Stanislavski urged actors to really get under the skin of the characters they are playing, playwright David Mamet has a slightly different view. "A strong voice, superb diction, a supple, well-proportioned body and a rudimentary understanding of the play," according to him. He challenges ideas of an actor 'becoming a character' as a way of preparing for a performance. His book True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor also deals with other aspects of the acting life, including the audition process and the selection of roles.

Respect for Acting

Uta Hagen was a German-born American actress and drama teacher who won many awards for work in theater. Her book Respect for Acting is a classic text, which explores a range of techniques which can be used in performance. A useful book for anyone who is serious about acting.

The Art of Acting

Stella Adler was an American actress and acting teacher who founded the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City and the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles. Students of the New York school school include Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro. Mark Ruffalo, Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek are some of the stars to have studied at the LA school. The Art of Acting contains twenty-two lessons which editor Howard Kissel has put together from tapes, transcriptions and notebooks.

Sanford Meisner on Acting

The book Sanford Meisner on Acting follows an acting class of eight men and eight women for fifteen months. It starts out with basic exercises and moves through to work on scenes from American plays. Sanford Meisner was one of the founding members of the Actors Studio, along with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold Clurman.

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

A book which is important not only for actors, but also for teachers and anybody interested in creativity is Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. Written by British drama instructor Keith Johnstone, a key figure in the world of improvisation, the book is divided into four sections: Spontaneity, Narrative, Status and Masks. The book has some particularly interesting things to say about how school can often stifle creativity.

Michael Caine - Acting in Film: An Actor's Take on Movie Making

British actor Michael Caine has starred in more than 100 movies, so he clearly knows what he's talking about when it comes to acting for the screen. Acting in Film: An Actor's Take on Movie Making is based on a masterclass given by the actor. It includes chapters on preparation, being in front of the camera, characters, directors and being a star. The distinguished cockney actor offers practical advice in a highly accessible and very down-to-earth style.

Acting: Advanced Techniques for the Actor, Director and Teacher

A book full of useful exercises for actors is Acting: Advanced Techniques for the Actor, Director and Teacher by Terry Schrieber. It suggest techniques which the author suggests will enable actors to create a character, as well as advice on how to make the best use of rehearsal time. The book has a foreword written by movie star Edward Norton.

Self Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business

If an acting career is something you are seriously considering, being able to act as not enough if you want to be a real success. Managing your career is a full-time job in itself. Acting is a competitive business and it takes a lot of effort to get yourself known. Self Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business by Bonnie Gillespie is a book of tips which may be able to help you on that score. The book provides advice on maintaining a career in acting through networking, classes, workshops, and day-to-day interactions.

Acting: Making it Your Business - How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor

Another book with solid advice for anyone seriously thinking about acting as a career is Acting: Make it your Business. The book contains tips on auditions, marketing and networking, combining traditional techniques with those best suited for the digital age. The book was written by casting director, director and former actor Paul Russell.


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