The Actor Training Reader, edited by Mark Evans (Routledge)
A companion to the 2010 book Actor Training, this book offers 50 essays by, or extracts from the writings of, the greatest ever practitioners. It includes Stanislavsky, Joan Littlewood, Augusto Boal, Michael Chekhov and dozens more, presented in thematic sections such as technique, presence and character and composition. There’s plenty here for any serious student needing to get to grips with the theory and would make an excellent accessible starting point for anyone hungry for information but as yet not quite ready for any single practitioner’s complete oeuvre.
The Thriving Artist, David Maurice Sharp (Focal Press)
This is a book about money. All actors need some, elusive as it often is in an overcrowded profession, so a book about how to get it and manage could be very useful. Subtitled ‘Saving and Investing for Performers, Artists and the Stage and Flim Industries’ and in effect an elementary economics textbook explaining – to arty types who may have their minds on other things – what things such as capital, bonds and funds actually are, the advice about money management is down to earth and practical (in short: stash it wisely when you’ve got it). Although Sharp is an American with a foot in both performing arts and finance camps, almost everything he says is equally valid in Britain. The principles are universal. Just be aware that some of the terminology and law may be different.
The Domino Effect and Other Plays for Teenagers, Finn Kennedy (Nick Hern Books)
Anyone running youth theatre or teaching drama in schools knows that it isn’t always easy to find plays – as opposed to musicals – which will work for a largish teenage cast. Finn Kennedy, who has worked extensively with school age students, knows exactly how to devise and develop suitable plays. The Domino Effect is about young people in the rich melting pot of East London discovering that they can change their own identities and the language is lovely. “Like a fox these streets never sleep/ Even at this hour they are quietly humming/ Padded paws pass…” No wonder one critic compared it to Under Milk Wood when it premiered at Edinburgh last year. There are two other meaty plays in this volume.
Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, David and Ben Crystal (Oxford)
If I had to nominate a book of the month, this shiny, attractive, fabulously informative and beautifully illustrated (by Kate Bellamy) volume would be it. I’ve been seeing and studying Shakespeare all my life but learned a lot from it so don’t be put off by the suggestion that it’s for eight to 13-year-olds. The Crystals – one an eminent professor of linguistics and the other an actor – take us alphabetically through words in Shakespeare’s most popular plays which might need an explanation from ‘abate’ to ‘zwaggered’ with particular notes on words such as ‘con’ and ‘organ’ which are still in common use but which have changed their meanings. There are delightful theme pages on armour, music and other topics and lots of notes about staging. It’s a delightful, nugget-packed book. Buy it and enjoy it. You might even share it with an eight to 13-year-old.