ED HOOKS' RECOMMENDED BOOKS for ACTORS
"THE ACTOR'S LIBRARY"
These titles are Ed's "recom-mended reading" and are good candidates for your core actor's library. To order any of these books – or just to learn more – click on the cover image.
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Routledge (Theatre Arts Book) 2014
This is my personal favorite of the “acting for camera” books and is one I routinely recommend to my students. It is written with humor and perception by a British director/teacher. His basic perspective is that you must make your performance the right size for the frame of the shot. In other words, your technique is different in a long shot than in a close-up. He's correct about that. Lots of drawings in the book, too.
Harper Perennial, 1993
Michael Chekhov was the nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov and a student of Constantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre. He eventually differed with his mentor on how best to approach acting. Stanislavsky believed that memory was the key and Chekhov thought it was imagination. He is probably best known as the the teacher who codified the “psychological gesture.”
Literary Licensing LLC, 2011
First published in 1933, this slender book distills essential acting theory down to six comprehensible lessons. There may be an actor or acting teacher somewhere who does not have this book nearby. Important and influential.
Johnstone bases his improvisations on "status transactions,” a truly remarkable concept that greatly rewards exploration. Again, I consider this a must-read and routinely recommend it to my acting students.
Walker & Company, 2003
Theatre Communications Group, 1994
In this volume Peter Brook is in dialogue with college students and faculty. Theatre professor Dale Moffitt has edited and arranged by subject twelve hours of spontaneous question and answer sessions from Brook's visit to the Southern Methodist University campus. Ranging widely over many topics, Brook talks about his innovative and award-winning production of Marat/Sade, his film and stage versions of King Lear, his nine-hour production of the Indian epic, The Mahabharata. With passion and clarity he discusses acting, directing, auditions, film vs. the stage, his responses to the work of other theatre figures like Grotowski and Artaud, and the multiculturalism which characterizes his most recent work.
Kathrine H. Burkman & John L. Kundert-Gibbs
Indiana University Press, 1993
A collection of essays about Pinter, his work, the acting of his plays, etc., by an assortment of scholars. And at last, here's a book that will help you understand his famous “silences” and “pauses.”
Smith and Kraus, 1993
Mainly interviews with talented actors at the Williamstown Theatre Festival who have made it their business to play a lot of Chekhov. The late Nikos Psacharopoulos, former head of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Williamstown, was an acknowledged expert on acting Chekhov.
A companion to a fabulous BBC television series of the same name (see next). It is by far the best text I've seen on how to act Shakespeare.
The 1983 acting workshops upon which John Barton’s book is based. Includes Oscar winners Dame Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley and Peggy Ashcroft, along with Sir Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and David Suchet.
Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, Berg Professor of English at New York University, and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. He is a renowned Shakespearean scholar and teacher, and this book is essential for your personal library. It's not the kind of book you read cover-to-cover in one sitting - though I suppose you could - but rather one to turn to when you are looking for perspectives on a Shakespeare play. (I regularly refer to it when students are putting up Shakespearean scenes.) Professor Bloom's references and ideas are stimulating, original and challenging. I adore this book and recommend it highly.
Da Capo Press, 1983
The Group Theatre was the breeding ground for Lee Strasberg’s “Method” acting, and it is a key link in the evolution of theatre in the United States. Harold Clurman was a prominent director with the Group Theatre, and his first-person account of the events and their participants is essential for any serious theatre student.
Eleonora Duse was a self-taught Italian actress who was famous for how “natural” and truthful she appeared on stage. Hers was a revolutionary new style of acting, and her work was the inspiration for Stanislavsky. He wanted to understand how she was doing what she did, and Ms. Duse never talked about it. Stanislavsky began working with actors at the Moscow Art Theatre, and the rest – as they say – is history. Lovely biography, extremely well written.
Da Capo Press, 1997
This man was the director of choice for Broadway dramas in the 1940s and 1950s, and for dramatic movies such as On the Waterfront and East of Eden. It was Kazan who first directed the most important plays of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. He was a talented novelist as well. This is his autobiography, and it is the single best theatrical autobiography I have ever read. Highly recommended.
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