What is a “good actor?” Being an actor myself, there have been many times where I’ve questioned this. I believe the best actors are ones who are dedicated to constantly learning and developing their craft. Whether you are an emerging artist in the industry, or simply love to watch film and theatre, you might wonder how actors keep developing their skills and “talent”. Well look no further! Here is a list of 5 useful books for actors to continue exploring their craft.
1. “A Challenge for The Actor” by Uta Hagen
I read this book when I was in my Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program and found it extremely valuable. A Challenge for The Actor was published a couple years after Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting. Both books include her famous nine character building questions and have helpful insights about the craft of acting. I appreciate Uta Hagen’s straightforward way of sharing her knowledge in this book, and it is definitely a top read for actors.
2. “Meisner on Acting” by Sanford Meisner
Sanford Meisner is one of the most well known acting teachers in the industry, and Meisner on Acting is a great book for actors at any level in their training. It follows Meisner’s acting class for over a year, and it is jam packed with knowledge and skills that are still shaping the way actors take on their rolls to this day.
3. “Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus” by Marina Caldarone, and Maggie Lloyd-Williams
Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus is a life saver for actors. It is exactly what the title suggests, a thesaurus of active verbs to use when actioning your text. This book helps actor’s avoid making generalized choices about their actions. With this thesaurus, whether you’re rehearsing, working on an audition piece, or performing, you have hundreds of active verbs at your finger tips to assure specificity of action and intention. I highly recommend it!
4. “Freeing the Natural Voice” by Kristin Linklater
Great voice training is key! According to Educational Theatre News, this book is “the best and only work of its kind for vocal training.” It focuses on Linklater technique, which is, “[…] a series of step-by-step practical exercises that include relaxation, awareness of breathing, the experience of voice vibrating in the body, how to open the throat, the development of resonance and range, and the articulating activity of lips and tongue.” It is all about mastering the use of your natural voice. I really value voice work and vocal warm ups as an actor, and I feel that they are essential to keeping you refined and ready to jump into acting work.
5. “Acting as a Business” By Brian O’Neil
There is a reason they call it show business! Sometimes it is easy to forget that acting is a business—as actors we’re the “product” and have to continually be advertising ourselves in the best and most authentic way possible. In Acting as a Business, Brian O’Neil provides guidelines on how to promote yourself as an actor. He is a former talent agent and provides valuable information on how to approach agents, as well as how to use social media as a promoting tool!
“As actors we must not consider ourselves immune from the need to learn about our world, our country, and our immediate community. ” —Uta Hagen From A Challenge For the actor
All of these books have rave reviews! Some next steps after reading these would be to put your new-found skills to the test. It’s a difficult industry to navigate, believe me I know, but remember to stay true to who you are and where you want your career to go. Go forth in your acting journey both with your own unique point of view, and in pursuit of continued learning about your craft. If you enjoyed this list, “6 Books Every Actor Needs on The Shelf” by Denise Simon has a list of 6 more must read books for actors! What does your actor reading list look like? Let us know your recommendations in the comments! Wishing you all the best in your acting endeavors. Never stop learning and experiencing!