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Drama: An Actor's Education

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,777 ratings  ·  322 reviews
Through the vivid stories in "Drama", John Lithgow shares a backstage history of his struggle, crisis, and discovery, and the scenes of his early life and career that took place before he became a nationally-known star. Above all, "Drama" is a tribute to the most important influence in John Lithgow's life: his father, Arthur Lithgow. An actor, director, producer, and great ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Harper
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,777 ratings  ·  322 reviews

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Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
John Lithgow is one of the best human beings I have ever met. Turns out he is also a superb writer. This autobiography covers his career primarily up to about 1980, which leaves me in hopes that there will be a follow-up volume. He writes passionately about his love of theater and his upbringing in it. There is much for the novice actor to learn in these pages and I recommend it highly. Lithgow does not spare himself when describing his failings and he admits justifiable pride in his successes. ...more
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jim by: Joy H.
If I knew anything about acting or plays, I might give this 5 stars. Maybe I should anyway since I have no interest in either & yet really enjoyed this autobiography that is full of both.

How did he do that?!!!

Part of it was his voice. It's great for an audio book, but mostly Lithgow was amazingly honest - not brutally, though. There wasn't anything shocking or particularly horrible, just a pretty typical man who didn't always measure up to his own standards, but still managed to make a goo
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
John Lithgow had no intention of becoming an actor. What he wanted most was to be an artist. He pursued that path with rigor, while participating in theater productions just for the fun of it. One night after a particularly fine performance, he was seduced by the roar of the crowd. That adulation from the audience was more than he could resist, and it changed his life plans. Art became an avocation, and acting became a full-time pursuit.

Lithgow writes well and generally keeps things moving quic
Joseph McBee
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't typically read celebrity autobiographies. Frankly, I don't care to know that much about their private lives. I was drawn to this one though for two reasons:

First, I admire John Lithgow as an actor, not a celebrity (although he is one of those) but as an ACTOR. Secondly, this book claimed to be about how his life prepared him for his life in the performing arts. That idea fascinated me, and made me want to know more.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The context is the author's relationship
Book Him Danno
Every time I see John Lithgow in a real situation, like an interview or game show, I never fail to come away impressed about how genuinely nice he seems. That is why I was very excited to get this autobiography as soon as possible. So I went into this a little biased too really like this and I can say it met all my expectations.

This book should be handed out to every aspiring teenager who sees all the glittering lights and want s to be an actor. It will completely dispel the myth of overnight su
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have always been intrigued by John Lithgow, but I truly was amazed at his versatility when I heard some of his performances of children's songs that he wrote. I grew up in a small town with one big celebrity - Pete Seeger, who is a master musical storyteller. John Lithgow can match him stride for stride with the songs he has performed/written for children. Anyway, I was curious when I saw this at the library, and I had been sort of casting about for something on CD to play in the car and I saw ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Lithgow's telling of his life as he grew to be the actor we recognize was, at times poignant, very funny, and a surprise, but entertaining and interesting throughout. I'm not a big movie buff and have only seen a few of his movies, as well as the very funny TV series, but what I have seen was enough to know what a good actor he is—enough that seeing the audiobook at the library piqued my interest. He has led a long and venerable career that began on stage long before most of the world had t ...more
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a partial autobiography of John Lithgow. The first thing I remember him in was 'Twilight Zone: the Movie." And I've been a fan ever since. He is funny and kind. His humor is clean. What's not to like?

I liked the latter half of this more than the first half. He talked a lot about Shakespeare's plays, his childhood and his father. I found it interesting how he just kind of fell into acting as a career, even with growing up in the arts. The best part of this was that John Lithgow narrated h
Upon picking up Lithgow’s memoir, I was surprised to find him, not only charming, but kind-hearted and caring. In the forward, Lithgow describes the difficulties of moving in with his parents after his father undergoes a difficult surgery, yet refuses to move to a retirement community. Finding the task of caring for his parents far more difficult than anticipated and with his father in a deep depression, Lithgow brings out the stories that his father had read to him as a child. And thus opens th ...more
Joy H.
_Drama: An Actor's Education_ (2011)by John Lithgow
Added 9/30/11
I first heard about this book from the New York Times Books Update, 9/30/11.
The NY Times review is at:
It says: "_Drama_ is a buoyant, heartwarming account of coming into one’s own."
It also says: "Lithgow ... is relentlessly likable."
I agree. I'm looking forward to reading this book.

Edit 1/22/13 :
I am currently listening to an audio version of this book, read by the author himself! WONDERFUL!
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Audio version is the way to experience this book. His wonderful voice and clever writing expresses more than I ever understood about acting, family, storytelling and the fragile experience of being human. I never was a fan of John Lithgow, in fact I hated Third Rock from the Sun enough that I still can't shake that annoyance. But after having read his experiences with theater and acting I admire him greatly. Anyone who appreciates Shakespeare will love John for his father's legacy and who he emb ...more
N.N. Light
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been a fan of John Lithgow for quite awhile and I thought I knew him. But in this memoir, he reveals how his father influenced all facets of his life, including acting. Witty, honest and addictive to read, Drama: An Actor's Education is a must read!

My Rating: 5 stars
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I suppose one might compare this memoir to a fine cigar. You fire it up and you're not sure immediately where it's going flavor-wise. Eventually it settles down and hopefully gets mellow, not bitter.

I enjoyed this (Lithgow's Drama: An Actor's Education) though I might have enjoyed it more if I were a psychiatrist and could have real insight into Lithgow's pathologies. Being of his generation (we might have even passed each other by on the Princeton campus, where I use to go to party with my bett
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had the good luck of seeing John Lithgow give a reading from his memoir, Drama: An Actor's Education, at Book Expo 2011. Lithgow is a likable, popular performer, and the event was packed. He gave a great reading that I really enjoyed. I didn't stick around afterward to get a signed copy of the book (and regretted it later). When it showed up on my Amazon Vine list (Amazon's invitation-only review program) I grabbed it right away. I'm glad I did.

Lithgow's writing is clean, revealing, honest, an
JG (The Introverted Reader)
In this memoir, Lithgow writes of how his early years shaped him as an actor, from his childhood, to his time at Harvard, to his studies in the UK as a Fulbright scholar, and on to his breakthrough on Broadway and film.

I truly enjoyed listening to Lithgow narrate his own personal history. I don't know how much of his work I've actually seen, but I do like his voice. He took my thoughts and feelings exactly where he wanted them to go. I was quiet and pensive as he spoke about the power of story i
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly enjoyed this audio book. John Lithgow is a wonderful orator, and a poetic writer. His stories and recollections of his family are particularly poignant and visual. I really looked forward to my long commute to work so that I could be lulled by this evocative storyteller. I knew nothing about him beyond enjoying his roles in 3rd Rock from the Sun and various movies, so it was fascinating to learn of his theatrical background and his family history of the same. It was also curiously intere ...more
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Since I have been a long-time fan, I was excited to find this title while--of course!--looking for something else.

I'm so glad I was on a search that day, because I found treasure!

At the heart of his biographical journey to stardom is Lithgow's deep and abiding love for the father he idolized but didn't entirely understand. Like many of us, he found the mystery of his parents' lives uninteresting and not worthy of exploration until he reached adulthood. Like many of us, the questions that occurre
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
The John Lithgow we meet in DRAMA is pretty much the person I expected to meet. He comes across as experienced, proud of what he's accomplished, but not an egotist. He is honest about his own faults (especially as a husband during the first height of his career as a stage actor, and about how he didn't really understand the film industry at that point). He's open about his struggles as a child and teen (constantly being the new kid in town thanks to his father's various producing and directing a ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
I have not read many memoirs by actors. Now that I've read "Drama: An Actor's Education" by John Lithgow, I'm wondering why not? I love theater and admire people who do it well; and now, I can also say I admire people who write well about their theatrical lives.

The Harvard-educated Lithgow is a smart person, but he uses a straightforward writing style so that flowery sentences don't get in the way of good stories. And he has lots of those. Can you imagine being a young student actor in England
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I would give this a *3.5* this is a memoir by John Lithgow. He talks a lot about his childhood growing up with a dad in the theater business. his father Arthur Lithgow arranged and put Plays on In Ohio and on the East Coast. Mostly Shakespeare. Mr. Lithgow moved a lot during his childhood because of his dad's line of work. It could be very difficult for him starting school in new towns. He also grew up watching his dad act and taking roles in his father's plays. He goes to Harvard, and even earn ...more
Ana Sanchez
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
As an actor, I deeply appreciated his honesty and vulnerability about his life story and the craft of acting.
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Having read the memoirs of several respected actors whose books usually rate a 3.5 on a scale of 5, I was not expecting a lot from this memoir. However, I read a few reviews that made me give this one a try. It did not disappoint! I have cried( in the prologue, no less) and laughed, and hung on his stories with tension and dread and supreme interest. I listened to Lithgow read it to me, and I highly recommend this way of reading this particular book.
I was not particularly a fan of his, but I am
Lynn Meinders
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Clearly I am a fan of actor/comedian autobiography self-narrated audiobooks. I always go to this type of book after I have finished something that was challenging to me in some way. I chose this book because I had recently seen John Lithgow as Winston Churchill in "The Crown," so he was on my radar. I always have an interest in the personal back story of someone who has become successful in their field. This book gives a great description of an unsettled childhood with many family moves and a lo ...more
Marie Segares
Drama: An Actor's Education is John Lithgow's memoir of the first (third?) of his life, as well as a kind of celebration of his father. Lithgow shares memories from his childhood up until his success playing Roberta Muldoon in the World According to Garp. Although he shares many stories about his work and other actors, this isn't a "tell all" type of book. Instead, it is a thoughtful look at the power of storytelling, the role of acting and drama in our lives, and the mark left on him by his fat ...more
Leah K
Jun 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Drama: An Actor's Education by John Lithgow

★ ★ ★

In many memoirs I read, one of my gripes is how little detail there is. Many seem to just skim through their lives. The opposite can be said about John Lithgow. Within the first 300 pages of his 316 pages book, he discusses the first 30 years of his 66 year life. He almost goes into too much detail. Last last 16 pages of sort of a skim of his more “recent years” - those being from 1980-now. So while interesting, I became bored with every tiny step
W. Whalin
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Lithgow planned to be an artist and not an actor with his life during his early years. At eleven his family was temporarily living in Stockbridge, Mass and Lithgow discovered his childhood idol, Norman Rockwell was painting nearby. With courage, he marched over and knocked on the artist’s door and got his signature on a prized copy of Norman Rockwell, Illustrated. Yet his father Arthur directed plays and eventually Lithgow was pulled from art to the theater.

DRAMA provides readers the detai
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, acting
John Lithgow is just so damn likable. That would be reason for listening to this audiobook alone-- his bombastic reading style is delightful and by the end of the autobiography it's difficult not to feel that he's your best friend. But beyond that, he has such poignant and well-spoken insights on the acting profession and the arts. Any actor will feel understood, inspired, and left with a fond and bittersweet look at the glorious and zany life of playing parts. I think non-actors will enjoy this ...more
Diana Long
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rarely is a person so forthcoming with personal information when it comes to writing an autobiography but in this work the author has done just that. Even being born into a family with a theatrical background, John had his share of casting calls and years of feast or famine, disappoints and great success. I found this book must have been a cathartic bit of writing as some of the topics he discussed had to have been painful admissions. Choosing this profession for a career is not for everyone, th ...more
Jun 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Somewhat pretentious but Lithgow LOVED his dad who must have been quite a character. Charmingly written. I would have liked a little more gossip. This would be a good read for any potential stage performers/directors/writers, etc. I didn't know much about Lithgow the man prior to reading this. I give him much credit that he takes full blame for his mistakes and seems to be rather modest. (I feel no actor is truly entirely modest.) Drags in some parts and goes on too long about some of his plays ...more
Chad Kosch
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mr. Lithgow was a big part of my youth in regards to the comedy television side. He always was a joy to watch and when he'd pop up in another show I'd be delighted. Like a lot of actors/actresses I liked I often wondered what their lives outside of the T.V was like and Mr. Lithgow really delves into that!

What I really got out of this book is that Mr. Lithgow LIVED! I mean, from theater, to television, to film, he was all over the board and seemed to never stop moving! If you like John Lithgow an
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detail so the first section is introduction 1 1 Jun 29, 2015 07:47PM  
  • The Elephant to Hollywood
  • Shattered Love: A Memoir
  • Confessions of an Actor
  • The Dangerous Animals Club
  • Balancing Acts: Behind the Scenes at London's National Theatre
  • Bring on the Empty Horses
  • Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets
  • And Furthermore
  • Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House
  • I Didn't Ask to Be Born (But I'm Glad I Was)
  • Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr, With a New Preface by the Author
  • Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering
  • Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter
  • Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends
  • Doris Day: Her Own Story
  • Jeannie Out of the Bottle
  • Swanson on Swanson
  • Spencer Tracy
Photo taken by David Shankbone
“If you hear enough applause and laughter at a young enough age, you are doomed to become an actor.” 1 likes
“My snobbery made me do it.” 0 likes
More quotes…