Monday, April 11, 2011

Post-Graduation Productivity: A "Brief" Summer/Life Reading List

After the 2010 Savannah Film Festival, my professor and mentor Sharon Ott spoke to us about the incredible people we had been given the chance to meet, to listen to, to discuss our craft with such as James Cromwell, Sir Ian McKellen, and Liam Neeson. There was a lot to talk about. But one of the points that came up was that these people who we watch, love, and follow on Twitter, are not only extremely intelligent, they are also well-read. Very well-read. I mean seriously well-read. And even though I was almost done with my BFA, I hadn't had a lick of time to read anything other than what was assigned. It made me feel like I had fallen behind in the race somehow. But that's what that weird in-betweeny time when you're living in your parents' house is for. Here's what I've collected so far as must-reads for actors.

  • American Theatre: This is a magazine by the Theatre Communications Group and you should have a subscription by the time you leave college or shortly after (as was the case with me). If 90 or so pages on theatre isn't enough incentive, how about $20 for 10 issues with a student ID? That's what I thought. You just fax/scan/snail mail a copy of your ID to them for your discount, so hold on to that handy little card, even after you graduate.
  • The New York Times: The go-to for current information on theatre and what tragedy has struck Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark this week. And we should also keep up with what's going on in the world outside of our dark black-boxes and prosceniums, which is a made little easier by their "Week In Review." And the online articles are free! Wait a second. NYT is trying to start charging for an online subscription once the reader has viewed more than 20 articles. Apparently the rules are very complicated, and have been sorted out a little bit by the folks over at LearnVest here. The word on the street is that the Times isn't doing a very good job of keeping track of who reads what and it doesn't take much to get around it. Say, deleting some cookies maybe? I'll keep working on it if you will.
  • Anything and Everything: This is a given. I have been collecting a ton of plays for a long time, since my dad volunteers at the county library by sorting through donated books to sell, and can take home anything he sees worth keeping. Next up for me is Our Town (I've never read it--shame on me.). I'm also occasionally ordering plays that are recommended to me (such as the last one I read and loved: Almost, Maine by John Cariani) or that are by playwrights that I like (Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl is sitting on my wish list). Looking to order? Try:
    • The TCG Bookstore
    • Dramatists Play Service
    • The Drama Book Shop in New York City. This place is fantastic to go to if you live in the city. If not, they do orders too!
    • Amazon, where you can receive it in the same box as incense, clothes, and EasyMac.
    • You should also try to read criticism and reviews of plays. You may be able to get these through scholastic search engines such as LexisNexis or JSTOR (I can still get to my school's library account for these). Or you can try GoogleScholar.
    • If you don't have a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, you should start saving now. I have always been steered toward the Riverside as the "actor's edition", but the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey likes the Arden.
    • If you're looking for a collection of pretty standard plays, I have kept my copy of The Compact Bedford Introduction to Drama. There is also a not-so-compact edition. It's a textbook, and expensive, but it includes great background information and articles on each of the plays.
Books On Theatre And Acting:
Also a given. Here are the ones that I return to over and over:
  • Speaking Shakespeare by Patsy Rodenburg
  • Actions: The Actors' Thesaurus by Marina Caldarone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams
  • How To Be A Working Actor by Mari Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers
  • Actors on Acting edited by Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chinoy
  • How To Take Care of Your Voice by Joanna Cazden 
  • The Stanislavski System by Sonia Moore
  • A Practical Handbook For The Actor by Bruder, Cohn, Olnek, Pollack, Previto, Zigler
  • Audition by Michael Shurtleff
  • Respect For Acting by Uta Hagen
  • And a couple that are more about being an artist in general:
    • The Courage to Create by Rollo May
    • The Inner Voice by Renee Flemming
Some titles that are in line for me to read:
  • Will In The World by Stephen Greenblatt
  • Emotion On Demand: An Actor's Workbook by Michael Woolson
  • My Life In Art by Konstantin Stanislavski
Books In General:
Mark Twain once said "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read." True, but too bad. We try to portray life. Kind of hard if all we know is acting, since most people aren't crazy enough to devote their lives to it. Reading everything possible gives us a broader knowledge of "life" and can be handy in use of references in rehearsal--"Think soandso from suchandsuch a book." Contemporary novels can be great sources of audition material, too. I've pulled from Chocolat by Joanne Harris and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison.

I'm not about to be that guy that gives you a list of the greatest literature ever. Google "100 Greatest Books" and see what happens. In the meantime, I just finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which I highly recommend. Looking at Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco next.

What are you guys reading? What books and plays do you love? Did I miss anything? Comment!

No comments:

Post a Comment