What I love about acting literature is that EVERYTHING is your art and your art is EVERYTHING. Whether specific to acting itself, voice work, or improv, these books have each taught me about myself as a person and an actor, and continue to give me inspiration. I keep them close to me so I can read a chapter whenever I want. The images will take you to an Amazon list, where you can see prices/shipping information from many different publishers. Your girl has the hookups, so shop away!
1.) Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen
From the master herself. This book was a must-buy in college. Hagen’s voice is incredibly clear and honest, as well as uplifting: “If we realize our individual responsibilities to an art form, we must not only live up to it as individuals, but remember the collective form of this art, and that more than anything else it is one for all and all for one.”
***Love Uta? Challenge for the Actor was written as a follow-up to Respect for Acting, and goes into even more detail about what Hagen feared she didn’t make entirely clear in the former.
2.) The Right to Speak by Patsy Rodenburg
I can’t talk up this book enough. Geared toward public and artful speakers of all kinds, this book lays the framework for helping the reader discover and use their voice to engage their audience. Rodenburg identifies common habits found among speakers, and shatters them one by one: “What I think worth remembering is that every human voice has thrilling potential waiting to be discovered and unleashed.”
***Are you an experienced actor? Check out The Actor Speaks and Speaking Shakespeare for more by Patsy!
3.) Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater
I’m really into books that focus on vocal technique and how they relate to acting as a whole. Because I started as a singer, the vibrations and mechanism of the voice give me a key into how the character is thinking and feeling. I can’t seem to put this book down, as it focuses on how to remove habits and blocks from interrupting the natural function of the voice. “Actors must not use their voices to describe and transmit the story, but their voices must be wide and long and strong and tender enough to reveal the breadth and depth of the imagination.”
4.) Truth in Comedy by Del Close
I first read this book last summer when I was studying improv. It amazed me at how much I could relate my improv training to both my previous acting training, and life in general. This book, written by an improv master, goes into great detail about following impulses, trusting your scene partner, and how to specify the relationship between characters. It has taught me a great deal about how to embrace the surprise of live theatre. “After an improviser learns to trust and follow his own inner voice, he begins to do the same with his fellow players’ inner voices. Once he puts his own ego out of the way, he stops judging the ideas of others – instead, he considers them brilliant, and eagerly follows them!”
Read all the books I’ve listed here? PM me for more personal recommendations!