We can’t take any credit for our talents,” notes writer Madeleine L’Engle. “It’s how we use them that counts.” This holds true for acting as it does for writing, and this month’s roundup of recently published books is all about making use of—and enhancing—the talents we may already possess.
Joanna Cazden’s Everyday Voice Care: The Lifestyle Guide for Singers and Talkers is based on her experience as a singer, voice teacher and speech pathologist. Her book combines current medical knowledge with common-sense suggestions for dealing with the demands of acting and singing—as well as the effects of food and drink, cold remedies, loud parties, travel, fitness routines and more. She even answers the age-old question of whether to put lemon or honey in your tea. [$19.99, Hal Leonard Books]
Larry Silverberg’s True Acting Tips: A Path to Aliveness, Freedom, Passion, and Vitality is concerned less with the technical demands of acting than with helping actors make a difference in the lives of audience members. Silverberg sees true acting as a “momentous burst of creation—new, surprising, and deeply human.” His 200-plus tips are inspirational and philosophical, with the goal of establishing a sense of communion with one’s acting partners. The approach, he believes, creates a meaningful onstage experience that strikes true for the audience. It’s an interesting concept, of greatest interest to those who are comfortable in their technique, yet feel the need for something more. [$22.99, Applause Books]
Each actor’s approach to a role is different, and The Routledge Companion to Actors’ Shakespeare explores the techniques, interpretive approaches and performance styles of actors such as Judi Dench, Kevin Kline, Adrian Lester, Ian McKellen, Vanessa Redgrave and Anthony Sher. The acting process is often difficult to explain, but the Companion simply lets the performers speak about their craft and development, and how they engage with the play texts. The insights are sometimes surprising, and almost always enlightening. [$35.95, Routledge]
To Play or Not to Play: 50 Games for Acting Shakespeare, by Martin Jago, encourages readers to feel the text both as a physical and an emotional experience by means of games and exercises that should appeal even to those who normally dislike such activities. There are sections on Shakespearean style, blank verse, rhymed verse, prose, characters and language interplay, production and performance. Directors especially will find much of value here in helping a cast feel comfortable in their roles, and ensuring that the result translates to the audience’s understanding and enjoyment. [$16.95, Smith & Kraus]
Jago believes that “naturalistic” acting is alien to Shakespeare’s world, and that belief also underscores Acting at the Speed of Life: Conquering Theatrical Style. Author Timothy Mooney takes on the challenges of asides, soliloquies and rhetorical speech with explorations of works such as Hamlet, The Misanthrope and Tartuffe. He offers tips on memorizing lines, incorporating the “stuff” of historical style, and going beyond naturalism and realism as it suits the playwright’s intent. Nicely done. [$19.95, TMRT Press]
Mooney is also author of The Big Book of Moliere Monologues: Hilarious Performance Pieces from Our Greatest Comic Playwright, which offers more than the title would suggest. True, there are 160 or so of Molière monologues in new, rhymed iambic pentameter versions by Mooney, taken from Molière’s plays, including Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, Don Juan, The School for Wives and The Imaginary Invalid. But he also provides plot summaries and contextual information for each piece, as well as an introduction to the life and work of Molière, guides to the performance of classical verse monologues and stopwatch timings of each piece for audition purposes. [$19.95, TMRT Press]
Finally, Auditions: A Practical Guide, by John Hester, takes a broad look at the auditioning skills needed to win a role, including how to impress a director, and common pitfalls to avoid. Hester advises on how to conquer a fear of auditions and develop a positive approach; work alone or with other actors; improvise and sight-read at auditions; improve your interview and communication skills in order to gain a director’s respect; network and develop strategies for obtaining auditions and further work. [$22.95, Crowood Press]