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Paperback A Practical Handbook for the Actor Book

ISBN: 0394744128

ISBN13: 9780394744124

A Practical Handbook for the Actor

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Book Overview

For anyone who has ever wanted to take an acting class, "this is the best book on acting written in the last twenty years" (David Mamet, from the Introduction).

This book describes a technique developed and refined by the authors, all of them young actors, in their work with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, actor W. H. Macy, and director Gregory Mosher. A Practical Handbook for the Actor is written for any actor...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Clear, DO-ABLE instruction

Ok. When you're studying an art, like acting, it is sometimes frustrating to hear people talk about "craft" and "technique" without getting really specific about what you must actually DO to achieve such things and develop as an artist. People often talk about art as if it is some vague, nebulous, magical thing. And, I guess, it benefits them to talk about it that way. Because then, everyone respects them immensely for being able to do such a thing, and (like a magician) they don't reveal any of their secrets. This book pulls the veil away. While I don't necessarily advocate relying ONLY on this resource (instinct, other techniques, etc., should all be in an actor's bag of tricks), this book provides clear, actionable directions on how to achieve more specificity in your choices as an actor, how to make your characters more focused, and how to deliver more compelling performances. Based on Stanislavsky's method, the book advises embodying each line with action (and tells you how), LISTENING to your stage-mates, and thinking about the physicality of a role (and tells you how). What I like best about this book is that it breaks something complicated, like rendering a complex character, down into manageable things you can do to get yourself there as a performer. Bravo!

For the teacher and the student alike

I've been an acting student in several settings (high school, university, amateur) and a theater teacher/director in a private high school. I had the privilege of studying under one of the contributors of this book, Scott Zigler - and have used this book long after my university days were over.This short, concise, easy-to-implement acting guide transformed acting from an awkward, synthetic emotional experience into a tangibly real, physical action. I HIGHLY recommend this text for anyone involved in theater performance, direction, or production. Bravo, Melissa Bruder and others!

This Book Saved my Life

I was recently enrolled in a second year acting class at a midwestern university with a decent theater department. The teacher was a no-nonsense Meisnerian with many years of acting and teaching experience, but I just couldn't get the method. I read many books, including those by Moni Yakim and Michael Chekhov. None of them helped. I was angry, frustrated, and despairing.On the night before I was to act in the first presentation of my final scene, I picked up my old copy of A Practical Handbook for the Actor. Suddenly everything I had been taught in class made sense. The book brought into relief all the effective aspects of the Meisner approach while trimming the nonsense. I stayed up till 2 a.m. analyzing my scene according to the guidelines in the book.The next day, December 7, 2000, I performed my first real piece of acting. I was powerful, alive, and in some small degree even knew what I was doing. I scared myself I was so good. Following the book's directions, I dispensed with "emotional preparation" and just silently told myself before the scene started what I would do. Emotional prep never worked for me, but by telling myself what I would do I was nearly quaking with rage. During the scene I was free to perform without worrying about whether I was getting it right. I didn't try to be emotional, yet the feelings poured out, just as the book said it would. Hallelujah!A Practical Manual is one of very few books on acting that is worth reading. (Acting One by Cohen is another.) It packs more wisdom and common sense than books many times its length. I've read it twice and will probably read it again. (I find myself extrapolating its ideas into playwriting as well.) Furthermore, if I were to study acting formally, the only school I would consider is the one formed by the Manual's authors: the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City. As David Mamet writes in the introduction, most acting teachers are frauds. Even the ones who know what they're doing--like my teacher--may not be skilled enough to help you grasp the fundamentals, and you may have to do outside research. A Practical Manual for the Actor may be just the guide you need to save your life. It did mine.

"Action", not acting

I am a firm believer that there is no one "right" way to be an actor. However, I *do* think that actors should expose themselves to many different schools of thought and find what works for them. So whether you are a Meisnerian, a Stanislavski-ite, or a Hagenist, you owe it to yourself to read this. It is what I would call "de-constructionist" acting technique -- breaking things down to their essential elements of action and intent. I was never able to get my mind around some of the more esoteric elements of other acting methods, but this one made sense to me. You may also want to read "True and False" by David Mamet, as it provides some of the philosophical underpinnings for this approach to acting.

Use This Book Well!

No matter what you think of David Mamet's aesthetic or opinions, he knows the basics of acting. 'A Practical Handbook for the Actor' is just that. Whether you're just starting out or are feeling stuck while you rehearse for that new Broadway phenomenon, this is the book for you. The common sense in this book is refreshing from all those "just feel it" methods, no pun intended. The best thing about this book is that it is a handbook, not a rule book. No matter what your training is, you will find this book helpful in the begining stages of working on a text from the actor's viewpoint.I use this book for myself and whenever I teach at the Seattle Children's Theatre and have yet to know of anyone's discontent.
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