Act Up

by Stephen Peithman

Books for actors, directors, teachers to soak up in between performance and class.

Acting is as much a process as it is an art, and that process is the focus of this month’s roundup of new books. Since actors and directors have only weeks to transform the words of a script into a living and breathing organism, the rehearsal period is key to a successful production.

That’s the focus of David Hlavsa’s An Actor Rehearses: What To Do When — and Why. In simple, sequential and detailed fashion, he starts even before rehearsals begin and continues through first readthrough, blocking rehearsals (“Relationships in Motion”), technical rehearsals (“It’s Not About You”) and performance. Hlavsa’s introduction is a masterful encapsulation of the rehearsal process, almost by itself worth the price of the book. It also sets the stage for his later explanation of how to work effectively with directors, get the most out of the language of the play, create compelling stage relationships with other actors and connect with an audience. It’s all done with a common-sense approach and easy sense of humor, making this a wonderful resource for the beginning (or experienced) actor, teacher or director. [ISBN 1-58115-462-3, $18.95, Allworth Press]

Through work on monologues and scenes, actors learn to develop a strong point of view on a particular text, leading them to make dynamic acting choices. To help in that process, Smith and Kraus continues to publish its yearly anthologies, including The Best Stage Scenes of 2006. All the selections are from published, readily available plays (publication and rights information are provided), from authors such as Keith Reddin, Pearl Cleage and Don Nigro, as well as new dramatists Ron Fitzgerald, Eisa Davis, Michael Golamco, John Cariani and Kenny Finkle. Most scenes involve characters under 40 years old, and editor D. L. Lepidus has included both comic and dramatic situations. [ISBN 1-57525-558-8, $14.95]

Lepidus has also edited The Best Men’s Stage Monologues 2006 [ISBN 1-57525-554-5] and The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2006 [ISBN 1-57525-555-3], both $11.95. The men’s collection includes monologues from contemporary plays by Theresa Rebeck, Don Nigro, Terrence McNally and Athol Fugard, plus up-and-comers such as Jonathan Dorf, Sheila Callaghan, Josh Fox and Michael Puzzo. Again, there’s a nice variety of comic and dramatic pieces. Most of the pieces in these two volumes are appropriate for actors or students in their 20s or early 30s.

The acting process needs an audience, and The Back Stage Guide to Working in Regional Theater offers a coast-to-coast overview of regional companies, Shakespeare festivals, touring theatres, university/resident theatres, youth and children’s theatres and outdoor theatres. Based on interviews with a wide range of professionals, the book offers detailed information on each of the League of Resident Theatre (LORT) houses in the U.S., plus sections on the business of acting, career strategies and personal marketing for the actor. Also included are essential Web sites, a sample organizational chart, contact names, a guide to theatre unions, and behind-the-scenes stories of the regional movement that has been a major force in American theatre for more than two generations. [ISBN 0-8230-7880-9, $19.95, Back Stage Books]

Inside The Actors Studio — Icons is a DVD anthology of four extended interviews by James Lipton (from his Bravo Channel program), featuring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand and Clint Eastwood. These actor/directors reveal much about their own creative process, and the credit for those disclosures must go to Lipton, who manages to put the usually guarded Streisand and Eastwood at their ease. The DVD set includes Lipton’s new introductions to each interview and a section of outtakes as a bonus feature. Lipton’s manner is often an odd blend of scholarly intensity and starry-eyed fan, and yet he gets these four people to talk about acting and directing in ways they have not elsewhere. [$39.98, Shout Factory]