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A Practical Handbook for the Actor Paperback – Unabridged, April 12, 1986

4.6 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

6 working actors describe their methods and philosophies of the theater. All have worked with playwright David Mamet at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 94 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (April 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394744128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394744124
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was recently enrolled in a second year acting class at a midwestern university with a decent theater department. The teacher was a no-nonsense Meisnerian with many years of acting and teaching experience, but I just couldn't get the method. I read many books, including those by Moni Yakim and Michael Chekhov. None of them helped. I was angry, frustrated, and despairing.
On the night before I was to act in the first presentation of my final scene, I picked up my old copy of A Practical Handbook for the Actor. Suddenly everything I had been taught in class made sense. The book brought into relief all the effective aspects of the Meisner approach while trimming the nonsense. I stayed up till 2 a.m. analyzing my scene according to the guidelines in the book.
The next day, December 7, 2000, I performed my first real piece of acting. I was powerful, alive, and in some small degree even knew what I was doing. I scared myself I was so good. Following the book's directions, I dispensed with "emotional preparation" and just silently told myself before the scene started what I would do. Emotional prep never worked for me, but by telling myself what I would do I was nearly quaking with rage. During the scene I was free to perform without worrying about whether I was getting it right. I didn't try to be emotional, yet the feelings poured out, just as the book said it would. Hallelujah!
A Practical Manual is one of very few books on acting that is worth reading. (Acting One by Cohen is another.) It packs more wisdom and common sense than books many times its length. I've read it twice and will probably read it again. (I find myself extrapolating its ideas into playwriting as well.
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Format: Paperback
Ok. When you're studying an art, like acting, it is sometimes frustrating to hear people talk about "craft" and "technique" without getting really specific about what you must actually DO to achieve such things and develop as an artist. People often talk about art as if it is some vague, nebulous, magical thing. And, I guess, it benefits them to talk about it that way. Because then, everyone respects them immensely for being able to do such a thing, and (like a magician) they don't reveal any of their secrets.

This book pulls the veil away. While I don't necessarily advocate relying ONLY on this resource (instinct, other techniques, etc., should all be in an actor's bag of tricks), this book provides clear, actionable directions on how to achieve more specificity in your choices as an actor, how to make your characters more focused, and how to deliver more compelling performances. Based on Stanislavsky's method, the book advises embodying each line with action (and tells you how), LISTENING to your stage-mates, and thinking about the physicality of a role (and tells you how).

What I like best about this book is that it breaks something complicated, like rendering a complex character, down into manageable things you can do to get yourself there as a performer. Bravo!
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Format: Paperback
I've been an acting student in several settings (high school, university, amateur) and a theater teacher/director in a private high school.
I had the privilege of studying under one of the contributors of this book, Scott Zigler - and have used this book long after my university days were over.
This short, concise, easy-to-implement acting guide transformed acting from an awkward, synthetic emotional experience into a tangibly real, physical action. I HIGHLY recommend this text for anyone involved in theater performance, direction, or production. Bravo, Melissa Bruder and others!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a firm believer that there is no one "right" way to be an actor. However, I *do* think that actors should expose themselves to many different schools of thought and find what works for them. So whether you are a Meisnerian, a Stanislavski-ite, or a Hagenist, you owe it to yourself to read this. It is what I would call "de-constructionist" acting technique -- breaking things down to their essential elements of action and intent. I was never able to get my mind around some of the more esoteric elements of other acting methods, but this one made sense to me. You may also want to read "True and False" by David Mamet, as it provides some of the philosophical underpinnings for this approach to acting.
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Format: Paperback
No matter what you think of David Mamet's aesthetic or opinions, he knows the basics of acting. 'A Practical Handbook for the Actor' is just that. Whether you're just starting out or are feeling stuck while you rehearse for that new Broadway phenomenon, this is the book for you. The common sense in this book is refreshing from all those "just feel it" methods, no pun intended.
The best thing about this book is that it is a handbook, not a rule book. No matter what your training is, you will find this book helpful in the begining stages of working on a text from the actor's viewpoint.
I use this book for myself and whenever I teach at the Seattle Children's Theatre and have yet to know of anyone's discontent.
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