Christmas gift guide: presents for actors and other theatremakers
Forget partridges and pear trees, if your true love works in theatre – or is training – you’ll want to find an appropriate seasonal gift. Thomas Hescott suggests 12 Christmas gift ideas that would be perfect for the theatrical person in your life…
The Stage Subscription
We may be blowing our own trumpet, but The Stage is the world’s oldest and best theatre publication. Countless actors owe their first job to an advert in our pages, and the regular opinion and news articles will give students a detailed understanding of the whole sector, from the fringe to the West End. With an annual subscription they’ll also receive discounts on theatre tickets and many other great subscriber benefits. Click here to subscribe.
Actors Centre membership
The Actors Centre offers year-round classes to keep performers match-fit. This might not be right for those in training, as membership is only open to professional actors. Membership for the year costs £75 and there are different levels depending on the experience of the actor.
The Artist’s Way
This book was first published two decades ago. While some people love it to the point of becoming a little ‘culty’ about it, others totally reject it. I must confess to being in the former category. When you meet very successful actors, director or writers, they will often tell you that things got going for them when they started working through this book. It is a practical guide to unlocking creativity, as set out by Julia Cameron – a writer who uses her own life experiences as a template. There’s a spiritual element to her writing (one of the reasons cynics reject her) but her practices work. This is a fantastic gift for someone who wants to renew their creative techniques in the New Year.
Children in Theatre: From the audition to working in professional theatre
If you know a child desperate to start working professionally in theatre, or – more importantly – the parent of one, this book is a perfect gift. Author Jo Hawes is one of the top casting directors for children in the West End. There isn’t much she doesn’t know about: she brings her knowledge and experience as a former stage manager, a chaperone, a mum and as a casting director to advise parents on how the industry works, and the dos and don’ts of getting work. She concentrates on stage and live performance, as opposed to film and TV
(of which she does very little). The book takes you from initial castings (and getting the audition) through to performances. It includes chapters on child protection, bad behaviour and even theatre ghosts.
Anyone starting at drama school or dance college will need quite a bit of specialist dance wear, from jazz shoes to dance belts. This can be costly, and a little daunting for a young actor not used to shopping for dance kit. There are dance shops all over the country, but the best online destination is dancedirect.com
Digital Theatre gift certificates
Digital Theatre is one of the most useful resources out there. This online facility allows anyone anywhere to access great theatre, recorded live and streamed to your PC or laptop. Also available are some great documentaries and interviews, which help unlock the process of staging great work – perfect for a theatre studies student. You can buy gift certificates up to the value of £100.
Drama Games for…
Nick Hern Books’ series on drama games is excellent. Each title is specifically targeted at a different environment: Drama Games for Rehearsals, Drama Games for Young Children, Drama Games for Those Who Like to Say No, and so on. For anyone considering leading drama workshops – whether as a part-time job while acting or as a full-time career – or for those considering directing, these books will be invaluable. The beauty of them is that the games have explicit meaning beyond being ‘fun’ drama games. Their purpose and role within a rehearsal room or workshop is clearly set out, stopping the games from becoming distractions and putting them at the heart of the work.
Dramatic Adventures in Rhetoric
You could argue that the art of rhetoric is disappearing, since it is no longer taught as part of a formal education. Actor Giles Taylor and director Philip Wilson use their practical experiences in the rehearsal room to unlock the rhetoric devices at the heart of much drama. The book was inspired by a rehearsal process at the Birmingham Rep for a double bill of Wilde and Stoppard plays. Both used many rhetorical devices, of which, unsurprisingly, the actors were not fully aware. Compiling a list of these devices it occurred to them that this could be of use to other actors. Accessible and wonderfully insightful, this book would also be of great use to aspiring writers and directors.
Pineapple Dance Studios
Just as actors may wish to join the Actors Centre to keep themselves in trim, dancers and musical theatre performers will be looking for dance classes. The go-to place is the world-famous Pineapple Dance Studios. A year’s membership costs £200 (£125 for concessions).
Filmed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, this is a must-see for acting students and those interested in Shakespeare and classical performance. Featuring such actors as Judi Dench, Peggy Ashcroft and Ian McKellen, it examines the challenges of playing Shakespeare.
When I was at drama school in London, this is what I asked for every Christmas. Society of London Theatre Tokens made the (often very expensive) world of theatre open to me and allowed me to see a whole range of work. This is a great gift for any student of theatre. Tokens can be used in theatres across the country, and a list of venues that accept them can be found on the SOLT website.
The Working Shakespeare Set
At almost £300, this five-part DVD and accompanying book from the Royal Shakespeare Company doesn’t come cheap. But it’s essential viewing for acting students. Created by the legendary voice director Cicely Berry and the RSC’s head of voice, Andrew Wade, the DVD series follows a three-day masterclass bringing together Hollywood actors with their British counterparts. The actors include Samuel L Jackson, Toby Stevens and Clare Danes. It gives a student access to actors and voice coaches that would be near impossible to gain in real life.
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