Learning resources for actors in training

books websites learning actors Books are a valuable source of material for training actors. Photo: Shutterstock
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There are plenty of learning resources for theatrical professions – books, apps, websites, videos and study aids – but the choice can be overwhelming. Each week, Susan Elkin skims the cream of these invaluable tools. This week: websites and books to help actors in training.


Website – Shakespeare in Love Education Programme

shakespeare-in-love-educationWhen the film Shakespeare in Love was first released I wrote a piece for The Times suggesting (more fool me) it might be educationally confusing. I couldn’t have been more wrong because as well as giving oodles of pleasure – the stage production at the Noel Coward Theatre is now booking until January – it has provided a great deal of learning about the period, show making, acting, Shakespeare’s words and much more. Now there’s an education resource pack to enrich the experience of secondary school parties attending the stage show. It is linked to the curriculum, includes lesson plans and would work for anyone studying drama or theatre studies at any level from age 11 to 18.


Book – Advice from the Players

Advice-from-the-PlayersThis neat little book is a collection of comments, nuggets, thoughts and advice written by actors of all ages and backgrounds, collected by arts journalist Laura Barnett and published by Nick Hern Books. Thus we have Simon Callow assuring us he knows plenty of wonderful actors who came out of amateur theatre, Antony Sher advising actors to “take notes not just graciously but gratefully” and Zawe Ashton recommending building relationships with “people who actually like what you do”. There is a great deal of very readable, down to earth, entertaining, actorly wisdom spread over more than 200 pages, ranging from applying to drama school to surviving the tough times to staying inspired.


Website – ActingIs.com

actiing-isThis actor’s online resource is devoted to helping actors to develop technique and provide practical advice. It includes weekly five minute podcasts and accompanying written material on the website. These are provided by Eric Barr who teaches acting and directing at the University of California, Riverside. I enjoyed, for example, being led through the delivery of Shakespeare’s sonnet 29 and there’s a lot of guidance on topics such as Stanislavski and Artaud along with strong emphasis on character development.


Book – Theatre: A Very Short Introduction

theatre-very-short-introductionA new title in Oxford University Press’s extensive Very Short Introduction series, Marvin Carlson’s pocket-sized book takes the reader through the history of theatre from the ancient Greeks to the present day and examines the different jobs done by theatre makers as well as the wider role theatre plays in society – quite an achievement in a small space. The section on puppets is especially good and the information about early Jewish and Islamic theatre is surprising and informative. This helpful book should be on the reading list of every secondary school drama or theatre studies student.

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