(Updated 2021) Top 100 Theater Books Every Theater Maker Should Read.
I came up with the idea for this blog 17 months ago.
That’s how long it took to curate it.
The title says it all. The list below contains 100 books that I think every theater maker should read. It’s made up of books I’ve read that have had an effect on me, as well as recommendations from my peers (including several of my podcast guests), other lists I’ve seen and before you know it . . . 100 books on the major theatrical disciplines of Playwrighting, Producing, Directing, Acting, and more.
And that’s all I’m going to say about it. Because it’s a long list and if you’re going to get through it, never mind read even one of the books, you’re going to need some time.
- Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
Organized into four sections, “Nuts and Bolts,” “Special Effects,” “Blueprints for Stories,” and “Useful Habits,” Writing Tools is infused with more than 200 examples from journalism and literature. This new edition includes five brand new, never-before-shared tools.
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it) — even on choosing a restaurant in which to write.
- The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and Michele Montez
The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself. The previous two editions of this book have sold over 180,000 units, making this book a ‘classic’ for screenwriters, writers, and novelists.
- How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish
In this entertaining and erudite New York Times bestseller, beloved professor Stanley Fish offers both sentence craft and sentence pleasure. Drawing on a wide range of great writers, from Philip Roth to Antonin Scalia to Jane Austen, How to Write a Sentence is much more than a writing manual — it is a spirited love letter to the written word and a key to understanding how great writing works.
- On Writing by Charles Bukowski
On Writing reveals an artist brutally frank about the drudgery of work and canny and uncompromising about the absurdities of life — and of art. It illuminates the hard-edged, complex humanity of a true American legend and counterculture icon —the “laureate of American lowlife” (Time) —who stoically recorded society’s downtrodden and depraved. It exposes an artist grounded in the visceral, whose work reverberates with his central ideal: “Don’t try.”
- Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Guide to Writing Funny and Getting Paid for It by Mark Shatz and Mel Helitzer
The Must-Have Guide to Humor Writing. Bring on the funny! With Comedy Writing Secrets 3rd Edition, you can discover the secrets of humor writing that will keep your readers rolling in their seats. Learn the basics of joke construction, as well as in-depth comedy-writing techniques that you can apply to a variety of print and online markets. If your aim is to make ’em laugh — and make a career in comedy writing — then look no further.
- Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet
Temporarily putting aside his role as playwright, director, and screenwriter, David Mamet digs deep and delivers thirty outrageously diverse vignettes. On subjects ranging from the vanishing American pool hall, family vacations, and the art of being a bitch, to the role of today’s actor, his celebrated contemporaries and predecessors, and his undying commitment to the theater, David Mamet’s concise style, lean dialogue, and gut-wrenching honesty give us a unique view of the world as he sees it.
Mastering the Craft of Writing presents 52 practical techniques to improve your prose. Spend a week with each technique, or use this book as a go-to reference. Either way, you’ll have the tools to enliven your writing and delight your readers.
- Sensory Writing for Stage and Screen by Michael Wright
Through a series of systematic explorations across a wide range of scenarios, Sensory Writing for Stage and Screen offers script writers exercises for attending to their own sensory experiences as a means to exploring the sensory experiences — and worlds — of the characters they create.
- Writing Dialogue for Scripts (Writing Handbooks) by Rib Davis
The 4th edition of Writing Dialogue for Scripts includes a look at recent films, such as American Hustle and Blue Jasmine; TV shows such as Mad Men and Peaky Blinders; and the award-winning play, Ruined. Extended material on the use of narration within scripts (for example in Peep Show) and dialogue in verbatim scripts (Alecky Blythe’s London Road) is also featured.
- The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel
A New York Times Bestseller. For almost a century, Americans have been losing their hearts and losing their minds in an insatiable love affair with the American musical. It often begins in childhood in a darkened theater, grows into something more serious for high school actors, and reaches its passionate zenith when it comes time for love, marriage, and children, who will start the cycle all over again. Americans love musicals. Americans invented musicals. Americans perfected musicals. But what, exactly, is a musical?
- What Playwrights Talk about When They Talk About Writing by Jeffrey Sweet
Jeffrey Sweet, himself an award-winning dramatist, hosts a virtual roundtable of perspectives on how to tell stories onstage featuring extensive interviews with a gallery of gifted contemporary dramatists. In their own words, Arthur Kopit, Marsha Norman, Christopher Durang, David Hare, and many others offer insights into all aspects of the creative writing process as well as their personal views on the business, politics, and fraternity of professional theater. This essential work will give playwrights and playgoers alike a deeper and more profound appreciation of the art form they love.
- The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
Amid the hundreds of “how-to” books that have appeared in recent years, there have been very few which attempted to analyze the mysteries of play-construction. This book does that – and its principles are so valid that they apply equally well to the short story, novel, and screenplay. Lajos Egri examines a play from the inside out, starting with the heart of any drama: its characters. He shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise – a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behavior – and to develop his dramatic conflict on the basis of that behavior. Premise, character, conflict: this is Egri’s ABC. His book is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving truth in literary creation.
- Writing in Collaborative Theatre-Making by Sarah Sigal
This engaging text explores the role of the writer and the text in collaborative practice through the work of contemporary writers and companies working in Britain, offering students and aspiring writers and directors effective practical strategies for collaborative work.
- Writing the Award-Winning Play by Jan Henson Dow and Shannon Michal Dow
As winners and judges in playwriting contests, this team knows what sets award-winning plays apart from those that end up in the rejection pile. Let two national award-winning playwrights direct you through the playwriting process with this fun, yet vital guide that details the essentials judges, producers, and other theatre professionals are looking for in a play. For beginning playwrights and intermediate playwrights who wish to improve their work, this is a witty, easy to follow book filled with practical information designed to give your plays an edge. Developed through personal experience as playwrights and play contest judges, and through their playwriting workshops, Writing the Award-Winning Play covers writing and developing your play; what to do with your play once it’s written, utilizing readings, playwriting groups, and workshops; entering contests; getting produced; writing the synopsis and query letter; promoting your work; legal matters; and more.
The popularity of musicals has reached an all-time high leading to the development of numerous original shows. In this comprehensive new guide, Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations, written by veteran storyteller and successful creator of musicals Steve Cuden, readers learn how the plots and stories behind musicals are developed and honed. With a breezy, lighthearted approach, creators at all levels are provided key advice for building winning musical stories.
- How to Write Everything by David Quantick
How To Write Everything is the ultimate writer’s handbook. It tells you about every aspect of writing, from having an idea to getting the idea out into the world and getting paid for it, too. It covers everything from journalism to screenwriting, from speeches to sketches, from sitcoms to novels. With thirty years’ experience as an award-winning script-writer, journalist, author, and broadcaster David Quantick is ideally suited, as a writer, to write this definitive writer’s guide to writing… everything.
- You Can Write a Play! by Milton E. Polsky
Do you have an idea for a play? A situation or experience from your home or work life? Fantasy? With helpful, clear examples, taken from his own experiences in teaching, directing, and playwriting, Milton Polsky shows how to find and shape a dramatic idea and bring it to fruition. In addition to providing many practical exercises, suggestions, and tips, he discusses and illustrates with examples from established playwrights “the importance of giving shape to your idea so that what is in your head and heart can be expressed to the fullest.” This invaluable and basic guide to writing plays is ideal for teachers, students, camp counselors, community theatre leaders and for anyone who knows there’s a play inside, trying to get out!
- Directing: A Miscellany by Simon Usher
Directing: A Miscellany is about survival: how to remain creative in good times and bad; how to remain alive as a director in any circumstance. Commenting extensively on the process of acting, Shakespeare and the classics, working with writers and designers, directing techniques, the trials and tribulations of working with others, the book is an aid to reflection for readers.
The approach presented in this book, honed after years of on-set experience and from teaching at UCLA, NYU, and Columbia, and endorsed by many in the industry, including director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and producer/actor Edward Asner, aims to provide a helpful reference and resource for directors and actors alike. It combines the underlying theory with dozens of exercises designed to reveal the actor’s craft. There is material on constructing the throughline, analyzing the script, character needs; the casting and rehearsal processes, film vs. theater procedures as well as the actor and the camera.
Internationally-renowned directing coach Weston demonstrates what constitutes a good performance, what actors want from a director, what directors do wrong, script analysis and preparation, how actors work, and shares insights into the director/actor relationship.
- A Sense of Direction: Some Observations of the Art of Directing by William Ball
A Sense of Direction represents a life’s work at the art and craft of directing. Founder and long-time general director of the acclaimed American Conservatory Theatre, Bill Ball engages his audience in a wide-ranging discussion of the director s process from first reading through the opening night. Speaking as a director’s director, Ball offers a candid, personal account of his method of working including the choice of a play’s essential elements, preproduction homework, casting, and rehearsal techniques. Throughout, his discovering and insights guide the director in building the world of the play and bringing it to life.
- On Directing by Harold Clurman
In this classic guide to directing, we are taken logically from the choice of the play right through every aspect of its production to performances and beyond. Harold Clurman, director of such memorable productions as A Member of the Wedding and Uncle Vanya, describes the pleasures and perils of working with such celebrated playwrights and actors as Marlon Brando, Arthur Miller, Julie Harris, and Lillian Hellman. He also presents his own directing notes for ten of his best-known productions.
- Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals by Arthur Laurents
In this moving, exhilarating, and provocative account, he presents readers with a front-row look at the making of two of the greatest musicals of the American stage, West Side Story and Gypsy. Laurents offers behind-the-scenes details about the musicals he directed. Throughout, the book is enriched by Laurents’s two loves his love for the theater and his love for his partner of fifty-two years, Tom Hatcher, who shared and inspired every aspect of his life and his work. Mainly on Directing presents an unforgettable portrait of an artist working with other artists, a uniquely close-up look at today’s American musical theater by a man who’s been at its red-hot center for more than five decades.
- Fundamentals of Directing by Ric Knowles
Concise and practical, this guide for aspiring directors is a distillation of Ric Knowles’s twenty-five years of experience as a director, teacher of directing, and dramaturge across Canada. Organized to reproduce the chronology of a play’s rehearsal, the book moves through the various stages of the directorial process, from selecting a project all the way through to closing night.
An introduction to theatrical directing using the concepts and terminology of semiotic theory.
- Directing Shakespeare in America: Current Practices by Charles Ney
In this first substantive study of directing Shakespeare in the USA, Charles Ney compares and contrasts directors working at major companies across the country. Because of the complexities of directing Shakespeare for audiences today, a director’s methods, values, and biases are more readily perceptible in their work on Shakespeare than in more contemporary work. Directors disclose their interpretation of the text, their management of the various stages of production, how they go about supervising rehearsals and share tactics. This book will be useful to students wanting to develop skills, practitioners who want to learn from what other directors are doing, and scholars and students studying production practice and performance.
- Directing Shakespeare: Scholar Onstage by Sidney Homan
An Impossible Question From A Chinese Actor – Why is Shakespeare eternal? – drove Sidney Homan after fifty years in the theater to ponder just what makes Shakespeare… well, Shakespeare. The result, Directing Shakespeare, reflects the two worlds in which Homan operates – as a scholar and teacher on campus, and as a director and actor in professional and university theaters. His concern is the entire process, beginning in the lonely period when the director develops a concept and moving into increasingly larger realms: interaction with stage designer; rehearsal; and public performances in which the audience’s response further shapes the play.
- Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun
After a lifetime of writing and editing prose, Jacques Barzun has set down his view of the best ways to improve one’s style. His discussions of diction, syntax, tone, meaning, composition, and revision guide the reader through the technique of making the written word clear and agreeable to read. Exercises, model passages both literary and casual, and hundreds of amusing examples of usage gone wrong show how to choose the right path to self-expression in forceful and distinctive words.
- Directing in Musical Theatre: An Essential Guide by Joe Deer
This comprehensive guide, from the author of Acting in Musical Theatre, will equip aspiring directors with all of the skills that they will need in order to guide a production from beginning to end. From the very first conception and collaborations with crew and cast, through rehearsals and technical production all the way to the final performance, Joe Deer covers the full range.
The theatre director is one of the most critical roles in a successful drama company, yet there are no formal qualifications required for entry into this profession. This practical guide for emerging theatre directors answers all the key questions from the very beginning of your career to key stages as you establish your credentials and get professionally recognized. It analyzes the director’s role through relationships with the actors, author, designer, production manager, and creative teams and provides vital advice for “on-the-job” situations where professional experience is invaluable. The book also provides an overview of the many approaches to acting methodology without focusing on any, in particular, to allow the director to develop their own unique methods of working with any actor’s style.
- The Art and Practice of Directing for Theatre by Paul B. Crook
The formation and communication of vision are one of the primary responsibilities of a director, before ever getting to the nuts and bolts of the process. The Art and Practice of Directing for Theatre help the young director learn how to discover, harness, and meld the two. Providing both a practical and theoretical foundation for directors, this book explores how to craft an artistic vision for a production and sparks inspiration in directors to put their learning into practice.
- Directing Plays by Don Taylor
Directing Plays explores both the theory and practice of directing plays, with particular emphasis on textual interpretation. Don Taylor guides the student through the complex process of choosing a play, the working partnership of director, playwright, and designer, the delicate matter of casting a play, the rehearsal process and everything which needs to happen before the production is up and running.
- Directing Plays, Directing People: A Collaborative Art by Mary B. Robinson
Directing Plays, Directing People is a vivid, engaging, personal journey through the process of making theater, written from a director’s perspective. Mary B. Robinson, an award-winning director whose career in both professional and university theater spans many decades, shares her own experience and adds perspective from a number of actors, playwrights, designers, and state managers with whom she has collaborated over the years. This is a book for ALL theater lovers-for the curious theatergoer and seasoned professional as well as the aspiring theater artist.
- Directing Professionally: A Practical Guide to Developing a Successful Career in Today’s Theatre (Introductions to Theatre) by Kent Thompson
Featuring case studies and brief interviews with professional theatre directors, artistic directors, producers, critics, managing/executive directors, and theatre leaders currently working in the field in the UK and the US, this volume will equip you to develop your career as a professional director in today’s theatre.
- How to Direct a Musical by David Young
How to Direct a Musical is a lively and practical guide to the seemingly overwhelming task of directing a musical. David Young brings to this handbook his extensive experience as a director of over 100 productions and more than 250 workshops in the US, China, Senegal, and Brazil. Young takes a pragmatic, do-it-yourself approach, guiding the reader from planning to casting, rehearsal to opening night. Topics covered include script analysis, collaboration with designers, musical directors, choreographers, and crew, eliminating lengthy pauses between scenes, dress rehearsals, and curtain calls.
- Stage Directing: A Director’s Itinerary by Michael Wainstein
With Stage Directing: A Director’s Itinerary, the student of theatrical directing now has a step-by-step guide to directing a production, from choosing a play to opening night. Unlike other directing textbooks, this practical guidebook provides instruction on how to organize the work of the director through the practical challenges of the directorial process (e.g., organizing a budget spreadsheet, writing casting notices, setting up an audition space, etc.). In Stage Directing, the process of directing a production takes the form of twenty-one chapters, which contain helpful examples and tried-and-true exercises, as well as information on how to organize the director’s documents into a director’s production notebook.
- The Commercial Theater Institute’s Guide to Producing Plays and Musicals by Fredric B. Vogel and Ben Hodges
The Commercial Theater Institute Guide to Producing Plays and Musicals collects the cream of the crop, from noted theatre professionals who participate in the program. Interviews, contributions, and a resource directory are included from 30 theatre professionals who have won a total of 45 Tony Awards. Agents, directors, production designers, general managers, fundraisers, marketing directors, producers, and theatrical attorneys all offer invaluable advice in a book that will be the definitive resource in its field.
Part memoir, part handbook, I Wanna Be a Producer is a roadmap to the hows and wherefores, the dos and don’ts of producing a Broadway play, written by a Broadway veteran with more than 40 years of experience. This comprehensive and highly informative book features practical analysis and concepts for the producer and is filled with entertaining anecdotes from Breglio’s illustrious career as a leading theatrical lawyer and producer.
- The Business of Broadway: An Insider’s Guide to Working, Producing, and Investing in the World’s Greatest Theatre Community by Mitch Weiss and Perri Gaffney
The Business of Broadway offers an in-depth analysis of the infrastructure at the core of successful theatre. Manager/producer Mitch Weiss and actor/writer Perri Gaffney take readers behind the scenes to reveal what the audience ― and even the players and many producers ― don’t know about how Broadway works, describing more than two hundred jobs that become available for every show. A variety of performers, producers, managers, and others involved with the Broadway network share valuable personal experience in interviews discussing what made a show a hit or a miss, and how some of the rules, regulations, and practices that are in place today were pioneered.
- Theatre Management: Producing and Managing in the Performing Arts by David M. Conte and Stephen Langley
A comprehensive text and an indispensable reference for all arts managers. David M. Conte’s vast expansion of the Langley classic delivers a broad, comprehensive view of theatre and performing arts management based on the premise that all the performing arts share the same core issues. Mr. Conte addresses the needs and concerns confronting 21st Century managers.
- So You Want to Be A Theatre Producer by James Seabright
A comprehensive guide to every aspect of producing a show, from raising the money to creating a hit. This unique guide offers comprehensive, clear advice to anyone producing or selling a show, whatever the venue or scale. Packed full of insights and tricks of the trade, it will give you the inspiration and confidence you need – whether you are taking your first steps in the profession or simply want to know what it takes to get a show on the stage.
- The Palgrave Handbook of Musical Theatre Producers by Laura MacDonald and William A. Everett
This handbook is the first to provide a systematic investigation of the various roles of producers in commercial and not-for-profit musical theatre. Featuring fifty-one essays written by international specialists in the field, it offers new insights into the world of musical theatre, its creation, and its promotion.
- Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway by Michael Riedel
The story of the rise, fall, and redemption of Broadway — its stars, its biggest shows, its producers, and all the drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened behind the scenes.
- The Stage Producer’s Business and Legal Guide by Charles Grippo
The entire range of individuals involved in entertainment — performers, writers, and directors to box office managers, theater board members, and theater owners — will find comprehensive answers to questions on every aspect of theater business and law. Written by an attorney, producer, and playwright, this book reveals hundreds of insider strategies for minimizing legal costs, negotiating contracts, and licensing and producing plays. It also features expert, practical advice on such topics as tax risks and liabilities, safety regulations, organizing the theater company, financing, box office management, not-for-profit management, and much more. Plus everything is explained clearly, written without a lot of legal jargon.
- Self-Disciplined Producer: Develop a Powerful Work Ethic, Improve Your Focus, and Produce Better Results by Martin Meadows
Short. To the Point. To Help High Performers Become Even More Productive. Results are what matter the most to you. You want to be a reliable producer of value in your chosen domain: whether it’s your career, business, sports, studies, non-profit endeavors, or any other undertaking requiring intense focus. You’d like to learn how to become more productive, but your time is precious, and you don’t have time for a five-hundred-page book only to discover that you can summarize it with two sentences.
- Producers on Producing by Irv Broughton
Imre Horvath, the producer of 60 Minutes, was asked how to get to talk to inaccessible people: “People that are busy…are scheduled tight…it’s at 5:00 and 6:00 that they’re back in their office to unwind…there’s a kind of resonance or sympathy that springs up. “Oh, you’re still in your office too?” Twenty-two interviews feature the producers or creators of Mister Rogers, Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, The Cisco Kid, The Tonight Show, Rockford Files, Falcon Crest, Gunsmoke, Family Feud, and Roots, among others. These people offer opinions on the producer’s role, the creation, and packaging of different program genres, getting the best from the production team, tips for success, and of course personalities and personal moments. Honest and intelligent, these interviews give the reader a fascinating view of the industry.
- From Option to Opening: A Guide to Producing Plays Off-Broadway by Donald C. Farber
The book contains detailed information on how to: option a property, raise money, obtain a theater, deal with the cast and other personnel, the art of negotiation, partnerships and co-production agreements, and much more. Especially useful are the updated and expanded appendixes, which include all new budgets and actual examples of today’s commonly used legal forms and contracts.
- Stage Money by Tim Donahue and Jim Patterson
Stage Money is a groundbreaking guide to understanding professional theater finances today through the use of the tools and metaphors of the business world at large. This approach results in a comprehensive picture of the economic realities of a theater production that is radically different from the assessments typically espoused elsewhere. Tim Donahue and Jim Patterson combine their experiences in the financial and creative aspects of theater production to present in straightforward prose their keen insights into the micro- and macro-economic aspects of the commercial stage. Tangible data, charts, and graphs are counterbalanced with illuminating “intermissions” between chapters and interspersed sidebars throughout to provide specific examples of key concepts, collectively presenting an expansive overview of the contemporary theater business. Stage Money is an unparalleled tool for theater professionals and enthusiasts interested in garnering a better understanding of the business’s inner workings at present and its challenges for the future.
This concise and powerful book lifts the lid on the creative process and eloquently details the steps needed to create exciting new ideas.
- An Actor Prepares by Konstantin Stanislavski
Stanislavski’s simple exercises fire the imagination and help readers not only discover their own conception of reality but how to reproduce it as well.
- Respect For Acting by Uta Hagen
Respect for Acting is Hagen’s blueprint for the actor, her design for “enlightened stage acting.” This classic book has helped generations of actors hone their craft and its advice is as useful now as it was when it was first published. Hagen draws on her own struggle with the techniques of acting as well as her decades of teaching experience to break down the areas in which actors can work and search for realities in themselves that serve the character and the play.
- Sanford Meisner On Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell
Sanford Meisner was one of the best known and beloved teachers of acting in the country. This book follows one of his acting classes for fifteen months, beginning with the most rudimentary exercises and ending with affecting and polished scenes from contemporary American plays. Written in collaboration with Dennis Longwell, it is essential reading for beginning and professional actors alike. Throughout these pages Meisner is a delight — always empathizing with his students and urging them onward, provoking emotion, laughter, and growing technical mastery from his charges.
- The Art of Acting by Stella Adler
Stella Adler was one of the 20th Century’s greatest figures. She is arguably the most important teacher of acting in American history. Over her long career, both in New York and Hollywood, she offered her vast acting knowledge to generations of actors, including Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro. The great voice finally ended in the early Nineties, but her decades of experience and teaching have been brilliantly caught and encapsulated by Howard Kissel in the twenty-two lessons in this book.
- On the Technique of Acting by Michael Chekov
In the four decades since its first publication, Michael Chekhov’s To the Actor has become a standard text for students of the theater. But To the Actor is a shortened, heavily modified version of the great director/actor/teacher’s original manuscript, and On the Technique of Acting is the first and only book ever to incorporate the complete text of that brilliant manuscript. Scholars and teachers of Chekhov’s technique have hailed On the Technique of Acting as the clearest, most accurate presentation of the principles he taught Yul Brynner, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Quinn, Beatrice Straight, and Mala Powers, among others.
- Building a Character by Konstantin Stanislavski
Building a Character discusses the external techniques of acting: the use of the body, movement, diction, singing, expression, and control.
- Creating a Role by Konstantin Stanislavski
Creating a Role describes the preparation that precedes actual performance, with extensive discussions of Gogol’s The Inspector General and Shakespeare’s Othello. Sir Paul Scofield called Creating a Role “immeasurably important” for the actor.
- A Challenge for the Actor by Uta Hagen
In her new book, A Challenge for the Actor, she greatly expands her thinking about acting in a work that brings the full flowering of her artistry, both as an actor and as a teacher. She raises the issue of the actor’s goals and examines the specifics of the actor’s techniques. She goes on to consider the actor’s relationship to the physical and psychological senses. There is a brilliantly conceived section on the animation of the body and mind, of listening and talking, and the concept of expectation.
- The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler
A disciple of Konstantin Stanislavski and a member of the Group Theatre in the 1930s, the noted actress and teacher offers advice on acting preparations, the demands of characterization, and dramatic exercises, as well as personal memories.
- A Dream of Passion: The Development of the Method by Lee Strasberg
This revolutionary theory of acting — developed by Stanislavski and continued by Strasberg — has been a major influence on the art of acting in our time. During his last decade, Strasberg devoted himself to a work that would explain once and for all what The Method was and how it worked, as well as telling the story of its development and of the people involved with it. The result is a masterpiece of wisdom and guidance for anyone involved with the theater in any way.
- True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor by David Mamet
One of our most brilliantly iconoclastic playwrights takes on the art of the profession of acting with these words: invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school. Acting schools, “interpretation,” “sense memory,” “The Method” — David Mamet takes a jackhammer to the idols of contemporary acting while revealing the true heroism and nobility of the craft. He shows actors how to undertake auditions and rehearsals, deal with agents and directors, engage audiences, and stay faithful to the script while rejecting the temptations that seduce so many of their colleagues. Bracing in its clarity, exhilarating in its common sense, True and False is as shocking as it is practical, as witty as it is instructive, and as irreverent as it is inspiring.
- The Power of the Actor: The Chubbuck Technique by Ivana Chubbuck
The Power of the Actor guides you to dynamic and effective results. For many of today’s major talents, the Chubbuck Technique is the leading edge of acting for the twenty-first century. Ivana Chubbuck has developed a curriculum that takes the theories of the acting masters, such as Stanislavski, Meisner, and Hagen, to the next step by utilizing inner pain and emotions, not as an end in itself, but rather as a way to drive and win a goal. In addition to the powerful twelve-step process, the book takes well-known scripts, both classic and contemporary, and demonstrates how to precisely apply Chubbuck’s script-analysis process. success in such a difficult and competitive field.
- Acting: The First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslawski
In his beloved classic, Acting: The First Six Lessons, master acting teacher Richard Boleslavsky presents his acting theory and technique in a lively and accessible narrative form. Widely considered a must-have for beginning as well as established actors, Boleslavsky’s work has long helped actors better understand the craft of acting and what it takes to grow as an artist. This enhanced edition includes additional exercises from Samuel Seldon’s First Steps in Acting, which provide further opportunity to practice the techniques discussed in Acting: The First Six Lessons.
- A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder
A Practical Handbook for the Actor is written for any actor who has ever experienced the frustrations of acting classes that lacked clarity and objectivity and that failed to provide a dependable set of tools. An actor’s job, the authors state, is to “find a way to live truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of the play.” The ways in which an actor can attain that truth forms the substance of this eloquent book.
- And Then, You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World by Anne Bogart
From well-known auteur of the American theatre scene, Anne Bogart, And Then, You Act is a fascinating and accessible book about directing theatre, acting and the collaborative creative process. Writing clearly and passionately, Bogart speaks to a wide audience, from undergraduates to practitioners, and makes an invaluable contribution to the field tackling themes such as intentionality, inspiration, and why theatre matters.
- Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff
When Streisand, Redford, Vereen, Tomlin, Midler, and Hoffman got their first breaks Michael Shurtleff was there. Michael Shurtleff has been casting director for Broadway shows like Chicago and Becket and for films like The Graduate and Jesus Christ Superstar. His legendary course on auditioning has launched hundreds of successful careers. Now in this book he tells the all-important how for all aspiring actors, from the beginning student of acting to the proven talent trying out for that chance-in-a-million role!
- How to Be a Working Actor, 5th Edition: The Insider’s Guide to Finding Jobs in Theater, Film & Television by Mari Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers
The celebrated survival guide for the working actor – now completely updated and expanded with a foreword by Tony award-winning actor Joe Mantegna! Renowned for more than two decades as the most comprehensive resource for actors, How to Be a Working Actor is a must-read for achieving success in The Business. Now this “Bible of the Biz” has been completely revised and greatly expanded to address new markets, ever-changing opportunities, and the many new ways today’s actors find work. Talent manager, teacher, and career coach Mari Lyn Henry and actress, author, and spokeswoman Lynne Rogers combine their extensive skills and years of experience to cover all the essentials of how to market yourself, land roles, and manage a successful career. They also include expert advice from scores of other industry experts – well-known actors, agents, managers, casting directors, and teachers.
- Acting Class: Take a Seat by Milton Katselas
Previously only available to Katselas’ students at the prestigious Beverly Hills Playhouse, Acting Class presents the concepts and methods that have helped lead a generation of actors to success on stage, in cinema, and on television. Now for the first time, this all-encompassing book is available to the general public, taking readers and sitting them in the legendary acting class of Milton Katselas, where he not only covers techniques and methods but also includes valuable discussions on the attitude any artist needs to fulfill his or her dream.
- Life and Acting: Techniques for the Actor by Jack Garfein
Life and Acting is the product of more than sixty years in the world of theater and film, offering the kind of insight only gained by experience as both a teacher and practitioner. Garfein distills his experience into a holistic technique for learning and teaching. “The Beginning” functions as a kind of memoir, focusing on Garfein’s own education in the theater. “The Art” describes how Garfein’s exposure to nontheater artists, particularly painters and writers, has contributed to his understanding of acting. “Basic Training” offers thirty-seven detailed lessons for teaching acting. In “Training for Film,” Garfein applies his principles to acting in front of a camera.
- The Acting Bible: The Complete Resource for Aspiring Actors by Michael Powell
Professional acting is both an art and a business, and this book advises beginning actors on how to cope successfully on both fronts. Opening chapters describe the difficulties every budding actor encounters and explain basic acting techniques, which include memory exercises and methods for developing stage presence.
- Playing Shakespeare by John Barton
Playing Shakespeare is the premier guide to understanding and appreciating the mastery of the world’s greatest playwright.
- How to Get the Part: Without Falling Apart by Margie Haber
How to Get the Part…Without Falling Apart! is the answer to every actor’s audition prayers. Acting coach Margie Haber has created a revolutionary phrase technique to get actors through readings without stumbling over the script. The book helps actors break through the psychological roadblocks to auditioning with a specific, 10-step method for breaking down the scene. Actors learn to prepare thoroughly, whether they have twenty minutes or two weeks.
- Acting: Cut the Crap, Cue the Truth – Living the Life and Doing the Job: Living the Life and Doing the Job by Natalie Burt
Acting: Cut the Crap, Cue the Truth fills a gap in the drama school curriculum, tackling many areas which are unaddressed during training and discussing issues that are more often than not hushed up afterward. Starting from the vital final stages of training, and on to life as a professional, Natalie Burt – a young, jobbing actress – moves systematically through the challenges that every actor faces; from making strategic career decisions, to the logistics of TV and film sets and voice-over work, to more personal matters such as renting and flat-sharing, finance and well-being when out of work. Rejecting gimmicks and quick fixes, she encourages motivational thinking and entrepreneurialism using an informal, unapologetic, and humorous tone whilst sharing information that is current, relevant, and from the frontline.
- Acting for Young Actors: For Money or for Fun by Mary Lou Belli and Dinah Lenny
Do you know a teen that’s been bitten by the acting bug? Here’s just the book they need! Acting for Young Actors, aimed at teens and tweens, lets kids hone their skills and develop their craft. It begins with the five W’s: WHO am I? WHAT do I want? WHY do I want it? WHERE am I? WHEN does this event take place? Sounds basic – but many young child actors are told simply to “get up there and act.” This book explores each of these questions, using helpful exercises to allow young actors to work through problems of character identity and motivation. With comprehensive chapters on auditioning, rehearsal, and improvisation, plus a primer on how young actors can break into film, theater, and television, Acting for Young Actors is every kid’s ticket to the big time.
Seven Pillars Acting is changing the way actors approach the craft. Each pillar focuses in on a different aspect of acting; added together, they give the actor the complete skills necessary to book a callback, land the part, and deliver a performance that is both effortless and true. Young actors and seasoned performers alike not only gain a clear concept of acting, but also begin or reenergize their professional acting careers in film, television, and theater.
The book explores the seven major obligations related to the material — time and place, relationship, emotional, character, thematic, historical, and subtextual –and from there goes on to define choices and explain how to use them to fulfill those obligations. The third element of the craft, the choice approach, is the practical work the actor must do to create the choices. Out of the current thirty-one choice approaches, only twenty-two are explored in this book. The remaining nine are investigated in subsequent books.
- Acting with Passion: A Performer’s Guide to Emotions on Cue by Niki Flacks
Based on the latest research from the fields of neuroscience and mind-body psychology, Acting With Passion offers a revolutionary new approach to the age-old problems of the actor: dealing with nerves, engaging the body, quieting the inner critic, auditioning, creating a character, and even playing comedy. With this step-by-step guide, actors who have struggled with ‘visualization’ and ’emotional recall’ can learn an alternative method of accessing feelings through the release of chronic, subtle muscular tensions that connect into the brain at lightning-fast speed and can actually produce emotions on cue.
- Acting is a Job: Real Life Lessons about the Acting Business by Jason Pugatch
How to cope with the realities of life as an actor — if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry • In-depth interviews with actors, agents, casting directors. In this hip, warts-and-all look at acting, author Jason Pugatch shares his insights as a working “day player” to give an unvarnished look at theater, film, and television: how to be “discovered,” what to expect from training programs, the grunt work of starting a career, how to keep going despite constant rejection, and much more. Packed with myth-shattering anecdotes and told in an intriguing personal tone, Acting Is a Job is a backstage guide that every aspiring actor must read
A Life in Acting is a practical guide for aspiring and established theater actors looking to make a consistent living doing meaningful, creative work on the stage. Author Lisa Mulcahy communicates her advice through a series of interviews and “war stories” that will have you taking notes and laughing until your sides hurt. The sage advice of veteran performers and an entertaining writing style make this a terrific tool to build career longevity.
- Acting Means Doing!! by Jim Cavanaugh
Acting Means Doing is all about acquiring and using the Techniques that will get you onto the stage, and help you give a wonderful performance out there in front of an attentive audience – and has been written for you, whether you follow the challenging theatre philosophies of Stanislavski, Boleslavsky, or Meyerhold – or of Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Bobby Lewis, Lee Strasberg, Charles McGaw, or Sanford Meisner, or any other of the fine teachers whose theories are centered on the Inner Life of the character.
For Fun & More!
- Broadway General Manager: Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business by Peter Boygo
For the first time ever, gain backstage access to the fast-paced and glamorous world of Broadway. Broadway General Manager is an invaluable resource that examines actual production and operating budgets for a Broadway show and shares contracts for award-winning actors, directors, and designers, all of which are analyzed extensively.
- The General Managers by John P. Kotter
In this unprecedented study of America’s leading executives, John Kotter shatters the popular management notion of the effective “generalist” manager who can step into any business or division and run it. Based on his first-hand observations of fifteen top GMs from nine major companies, Kotter persuasively shows that the best manager is actually a specialist who has spent most of his or her career in one industry, learning its intricacies and establishing cooperative working relationships. Acquiring the painstaking knowledge and large, informal networks vital to being a successful manager takes years; outsiders, no matter how talented or well-trained seldom can do as well, this in-depth profile reveals. Much more than a fascinating collective portrait of the day-to-day activities of today’s top executives, The General Managers provides stimulating new insights into the nature of modern management and the tactics of its most accomplished practitioners
- General Management: Beginners Guide by Gerard Blodyk
There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed best-selling author Gerard Blokdyk. Blokdyk ensures all General management essentials are covered, from every angle: the General management self-assessment shows succinctly and clearly that what needs to be clarified to organize the business/project activities and processes so that General management outcomes are achieved.
- Untold Stories of Broadway (Volume I) by Jennifer Ashley Tepper
Do you wish you were in the audience during Barbra Streisand’s final performance of Funny Girl on Broadway? Do you wonder how far Jonathan Groff was willing to go to score tickets to Thoroughly Modern Millie? And are you dying to know which beloved TV star and Tony Award winner was caught with his pants down in front of a movie legend? From opening nights to closing nights. From secret passageways to ghostly encounters. From Broadway debuts to landmark productions. Score a front-row seat to hear hundreds of stories about the most important stages in the world, seen through the eyes of the producers, actors, stagehands, writers, musicians, company managers, dressers, designers, directors, ushers, and doormen who bring The Great White Way to life each night. You’ll never look at Broadway the same way again. This is the first book in a multi-volume series that will tell the stories of all of the Broadway houses. Volume 1 includes the Winter Garden, the Richard Rodgers, the Marriott Marquis, the Al Hirschfeld, the Neil Simon, the August Wilson, the Mark Hellinger, and the Lyceum: eight Broadway theaters that light up New York City.
- Confessions of a General Manager: Diary of a GM by Lynn Buckingham
A fictional account of stories endearing to fellow general managers and inspirational to students and graduates of the various hospitality programs throughout the nation. Lynn Buckingham is the mother to Andy, James, and Alex and has played the important role of general manager to hundreds of associates throughout her 30-year career in the hotel industry. She has been recognized extensively throughout her career for her passion to lead, grow and successfully strengthen communities that surround the hotels she has managed. Commendations include national recognition for community service efforts, sales excellence, financial excellence and GM of the year. She currently serves in a leadership capacity in several local and statewide lodging organizations. In addition, she maintains the position of general manager. A YWCA Women of Achievement Award recipient and diversity council chairperson has enabled the author to value the distinction individuals can bring to a team environment. Lynn is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a business administration degree and resides in Ohio.
- Aristotle’s Poetics by Aristotle (Translation by Malcolm Heath)
In the Poetics, his near-contemporary account of classical Greek tragedy, Aristotle examine the dramatic elements of plot, character, language, and spectacle that combine to produce pity and fear in the audience, and asks why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. Aristotle explains how the most effective tragedies rely on complication and resolution, recognition and reversals while centering on characters of heroic stature, idealized yet true to life. One of the most perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history, the Poetics has informed serious thinking about drama ever since.
- Stage Management: The Essential Handbook by Gail Pallin
This is the highly successful “Bible for any stage manager” in a revised and updated edition. Aimed at students, graduates, and all those who aspire to stage management, whether amateur or professional. Complete with illustrations, diagrams, and checklists, it takes the reader through a typical production, week by week.
- The Backstage Guide to Stage Management, 3rd Edition: Traditional and New Methods for Running a Show from First Rehearsal to Last Performance by Thomas A. Kelly
This new edition reflects all the latest developments and innovations in the industry and adds a totally new chapter on opera stage management, complete with an in-depth breakdown of the challenges this style of production presents. The text is supported by sample documents, diagrams, and charts that straddle time-honored approaches with what can be generated by today’s computer software. All the latest stage machinery is discussed, along with tips on finding employment. This guide remains the first choice for anyone who works in any branch of the profession, whether amateur, educational, or professional.
- Stage Management Basics: A Primer for Performing Arts Stage Managers by Emily Roth, Jonathan Allender-Zivic, and Katy McGlaughlin
Without assuming any intrinsic prior knowledge of the theatrical field and its associated, specialized terminology, Stage Management Basics cover every aspect of the stage management, from reading a script, meeting with a director and theatre staff, and auditioning, to constructing green digital scripts, communication best practices, and opening night protocol. Additionally, this book features multiple appendices containing stage management form templates, blank versions of which are available on its companion website. This book touches on basic principles for stage management for theatre, dance, and opera productions.
- Stage Manager: The Professional Experience by Larry Fazio
Using interviews with other professional stage managers, the author provides a practical, experience-based guide for students and aspiring professionals alike. The stage manager’s role in each phase of the production is covered in detail. Working relationships, organizational tools, plans, charts, lists, and forms, running auditions, cueing, touring, and the stages of rehearsal are just some of the many topics covered. An overview of the stage manager’s working week provides a clear view of the many details involved in the smooth running of a production. A comprehensive working vocabulary offers an excellent reference for anyone working or hoping to work in this field.
- Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim presents his complete collected lyrics from the acclaimed Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat. This box set includes lyrics from Sondheim’s most popular shows like West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods, richly annotated with anecdotes, pointed observations, and invaluable advice from one of the greatest songwriters of our time. This handsomely designed package is essential reading for any fan of the theater or this living legend’s work.
- Essentials of Stage Management by Peter Maccoy
In this essential guide, Peter Maccoy examines the qualities and skills necessary for effective management, stressing the importance of understanding both the creative and technical processes involved in theatre.
- Last Stage Manager Standing by Daniel B. Morgan
Television is one of the most significant and notable inventions of the Twentieth century. Over the years, people have seen an overabundance of glitz and glamour on television. Homo sapiens used to turn on televisions in their living rooms to enjoy their TV dinners while watching the early movie, now we are pulverized by news and fluff. But what is really going on behind the camera? Stage manager Daniel Morgan gives you his insight into how the production crew works together to run and direct a show. From the shadows of the set, he shares newsroom shenanigans, attempts to explain the producer’s indecisions, and offers up tasty vignettes of the talent’s foibles. Finally, Morgan reveals the true nature of broadcast television and how it works (sometimes). Last Stage Manager Standing exposes the trade secrets and the politics behind the television industry. Working with some of my colleagues that ran the show was like a typical day in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
With this book, Tony Award-winning Peter Lawrence has turned his decades of experience on Broadway into a thoroughly modern approach to the art and business of production stage managing and successfully pursuing a stage manager s career.
- Stage Management; A Gentle Art by Daniel Bond
This popular book describes in detail a stage manager’s job. It provides those just starting out in the profession with a solid grounding in theatre stage management practices and procedures. The disciplines of lighting, set design and sound are discussed but the main focus is the management of these elements and the processes and schedules that go together to provide effective results.
- A Stage Manager’s Survival Guide: From Callbacks to Closing by Michelle Marko
Offering tips and tricks to new stage managers as they navigate the chaotic world of theatre, Michelle Marko deploys decades of experience in a tightly packed manual. Every stage manager develops their own style, and after 20 years of ups and downs, Michelle has seen it all. These survival tips can help novices and veterans alike to experience more of the exhilaration of live theatre while learning to laugh when things don’t quite go according to plan.
- Stage Management and Theatre Etiquette: A Basic Guide by Linda Apperson
Here is a practical, accessible introduction to one of the most complex jobs in theatre. Linda Apperson clearly and concisely leads the reader through the procedures and responsibilities of stage management, from auditions to closing night. What is “blocking”? How do you “call” a show? Who is the technical director, and why do you want him or her as your best friend? How can you tame (or endure) a prima donna? When is the best time to offer advice to the actors? Ms. Apperson answers these and countless other questions in a resource book that will become a constant companion for both the novice and the experienced theatre person. Especially useful is her attention to personal relationships among actors and crew. She insists that working to create an atmosphere of respect backstage will improve the show onstage, and she shows precisely how this is done, based upon her years of experience in managing the stage. Stage Managing and Theatre Etiquette includes samples of prompt scripts and other essential stage manager’s tools.
- Sense of Occasion by Harold Prince
In this fast-moving, candid, conversational, and entertaining memoir, Harold Prince, the most honored director/producer in the history of the American theater looks back over his seventy-year (and counting!) career. In 1974, Prince released his first book, Contradictions: Notes on Twenty-Six Years in the Theatre. Although Contradictions has since attained cult status among producers, directors, and actors alike, Prince, in hindsight, believes he wasn’t ready to publish such a tome at that point in his career (in fact, doing so was an act of “insane arrogance”). Although he doesn’t regret that effort, he is, at last, prepared to conclude it, to “see where I was right in my assessments and where I was wrong.” In Sense of Occasion, Prince returns to this seminal text, invigorating it with fresh insights cultivated through four decades of additional practice. Sense of Occasion gives an insider’s recollection of the making of such landmark musicals as West Side Story , Fiddler on the Roof , Cabaret , Company , Follies , Sweeney Todd , Evita , and Phantom of the Opera , with Prince’s perceptive comments about his mentor George Abbott and his many celebrated collaborators, including Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, John Kander, Boris Aronson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Angela Lansbury, Zero Mostel, Carol Burnett, and Joel Grey.
- Stage Management in Theater (Exploring Theater) by Jeri Freedman
The director may be the head coach of the team of people who stage a play, but the stage manager is their quarterback. While the play is going on, the stage manager is running the show. This book explains the many responsibilities of this vital position, and how an effective stage manager organizes the crew so that everything runs smoothly.
- The Stage Management Handbook by Daniel Ionazzi
This book addresses all of these considerations in detail and offers the reader–professional or amateur, veteran or beginner–helpful guidance and practical advice, supported by many forms and examples to illustrate the points covered in the text. The three phrases of mounting and performing a show are covered. Part I takes the reader through the pre-production phase–research, the script, planning and organization, and auditions. Part II covers the rehearsal process–rehearsal rules, blocking, cues, prompting, information distribution, technical and dress rehearsals. Part III discusses the performance phase–calling the show, maintaining the director’s work, working with understudies and replacements, and more.
BONUS BOOKS … written by yours truly : )
What most people don’t realize is that placing your bet on Broadway is a lot like investing in a restaurant, a piece of art, or frankly, in any entrepreneurial start-up. And if you treat Broadway like a business, do the proper due diligence, and avoid the common mistakes that many first-timers and seasoned investors make (which can result in quick and disappointing losses), Broadway investing can be a very rewarding experience in many ways.
The next Hamilton is out there. And we’re going to help you find it.
Do you have a show you want to get off the ground, but you don’t have a clue as to how you’re going to get the money? Or maybe you’re working on a show right now, and you still don’t have the cash you need? (I’ve been there – makes you sweat, doesn’t it?) And does the mere thought of asking people for money make you nervous? I’ve been writing my blog about producing for over six years now and I get tons of emails with all sorts of questions about how to produce theater. But by a landslide, the most common question I get is, “How do I raise money for my show?” So I thought it was about time I answered it. But raising money isn’t a simple subject that can be dealt with in a blog post. It has taken me over ten years of experience raising millions of dollars for my Broadway and Off-Broadway shows to come up with a strategy that works. Hard to sum that up in a few hundred words! So I sat down and wrote a 100+ page comprehensive how-to guide on the subject of raising money for the theater – the only one of its kind!
If you’ve imagined being a Producer or a Writer. . . an Actor or a Director. . . or a real estate investor, hedge fund dude, or even a world champion poker player. . . you can do it, as long as you have the right directions. And I’d like to share those directions with you. . . the directions that took me years to gather, but the directions that are without a doubt responsible for getting me where I am today. . . and more importantly, will be 101% responsible for where I want to be tomorrow. And I know that they can do the same for you.
All of the greatest creators, from Beethoven to Edison, had something in common. They didn’t just create stuff. They created a ton of stuff. That’s why I’m a big believer that producers should produce more, directors should direct more, and, of course, writers should write more. The funny thing is, too many writers I know just can’t finish a script. Maybe they have ideas, and maybe they write a few scenes, but they don’t get to the end. Or maybe they’ve never written anything and are too afraid to start! That’s why I wrote this book, which guarantees you’ll have a finished script, whether or not you’ve ever written anything before! That’s right. In only one month, you can go from a blank page to a completed script, ready to be staged. Just imagine . . . you’ll have a full script in your hands (or a Producer’s hands) by the end of this month if you start today! So what are you waiting for?
P.S. If you’re ready to speed things up but know you need some help, get on a call with my team. They’ll give you an honest assessment of where you are and if you’re ready to go to the next stage. Click here.
This blog post is updated annually to ensure that all theatermakers are reading the best resources for all kinds of theater making!
If you’ve walked by a Starbucks in the past few…
Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.