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A Practical Handbook for the Actor

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  889 ratings  ·  52 reviews
6 working actors describe their methods and philosophies of the theater. All have worked with playwright David Mamet at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published April 12th 1986 by Vintage
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May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One quote from this book reveals what is the meaning of acting to me "If you intend to manipulate, to show, to impress, you may experience mild suffering and pleasant triumphs. If you intend to follow the truth you feel in yourself - to follow your common sense, and force your will to serve you in quest for discipline and simplicity - you will subject yourself to profound despair, loneliness, and constant self-doubt. And if you persevere, the Theatre, which you are learning to serve, will grace ...more
Zanna Frith
Aug 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Ok, so don't believe everything you read but this is certainly a great start to understanding the technique of Practical Aesthetics.
Tola Lawal
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best acting books I've read in a while. C
Sam Figura
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a helpful book! This is my third time rereading it, and I can't express how much it's helped my acting. Highly recommend it to any aspiring actor!
Jeff Short
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a good example of the benefits of reading outside your concerns. I'm often delighted to find tips and solutions in places where I wasn't looking for them. I certainly found some useful bits for writing from the descriptions of action and the techniques of analyzing a scene. I also found useful tips for developing concentration, how to treat other people, get along with them, and work together toward a larger goal. If we read thoughtfully, we can find applications beyond the ...more
I don't remember when I heard about this book or why exactly I got it -- I think I had some notion about needing to have a better handle on acting as I was gearing up to direct an improv show; and, of course, as someone who isn't an actor, I approached this material with a very particular stance.

That is, this is a book for actors and so has warning about memorizing your lines with line-readings that might not be applicable in the moment; and a reminder that your character in a scene can only
Megan Lane
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: craft-books
Just, yes. So good. A graciously simple technique and approach to acting. Despite its simplicity, it is not easy. Hopefully I'll be able to work on this technique over the coming months and years and put it to my use.
Favorite quotes were on page 75:
"The reason great actors are so compelling is that they have the courage to bring their personalities to bear on everything they do. Don't ever play a part as someone else would play it. Remember that it is you onstage, not some mythical being called
Jennifer Chen
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not an actor, but I'm working on a book where the main character is an actress. A beta reader suggested this book to me as a way to learn about the craft of acting. I found it super helpful, clear, and concise. I learned a lot and it had a lot of practical advice. It's a great guide, easy to read, and probably very useful for anyone who wants to learn how to act. (Or write about characters who are actors.)
Nate Jenson
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved the book, partly because it's short and simple. The techniques are explained clearly.

As for content, it makes sense, but I was listening to an audio book on acting over the same few days that I was reading this book. They have contradictory suggestions. That's fine, because everyone has their method and their own experience.

In the end, I felt this gave me some great tools to be able to put into practice.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this as a corollary to Shawn Coyne's The Story Grid, and his application of this process to Austen's Pride & Prejudice (Story Grid Edition.

I appreciated that this work is brief and to the point. I can see how these acting tools can be inverted/applied in writing. Not the answer to everything, but useful.

Hannah Wales
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A really interesting look at acting. I had to read it this past fall for a class and it was a valuable read. It was short and concise, saying only what it needed to and then moving on. I feel like this is a good handbook for any aspiring actors because it gives them advice they can actually understand and use versus vague advice from other people.
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Less then 100 pages, but great concise advice are contained within. This little book goes over a method on how to analyze a character's actions within a script to bring an enhance the performance of an actor. Reading this will help me in the future develop believable and engaging performances in theatre. A good one to go back and refer to from time to time.
Never Stop Reading or Dreaming
I think this is a good start and has a lot of good information in it... BUT look at the publication date. There are somethings in here that just don't apply that much anymore. But for the bare bones it's a great place to start
Sean G Calvert
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a really great reference for acting. I'm new to this discipline and have had some assumptions that were inaccurate, such as the weight that talent has vs. simply working hard and mastering skills. I'd recommend this to anyone looking to grow as an actor.
Philip Clapper
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Had to read this for a beginning acting class. It's really good, but awfully short. I don't intend to become an actor, but I wish there were more information here. However, what is here is very well said and very useful.
Hassan Zakeri
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great read to enter the world of actors that guides one on leading them. This book is actually like class notes of David Mamet classes and productions in NY. What I like about it is its brevity and dense content.
Harriet Butler
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Had to read for school interesting techniques, a little hard for me to wrap my head around, not that well written imo ...more
Devyn Price
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent book, not only for the actor, but for the writer who is looking to analyze a scene and portray the truth.
Jack Davidson
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*** Drake Theater BA ***

Read this for my Acting I Class with Jason Bohon Fall 2014
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a good go-to for acting skills. Very doesn't to Earth and logical.
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book that explains how to act very clearly! The examples are great and I really feel like this method is something that isnt super hard to learn and will really work. ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5/5 stars
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Simple, clear in to acting.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
In the final analysis I don't know how practical this book really is for the actor. The whole notion of constantly trying to break a scene down into actions (good) and then come up with analogies in one's own life to relate to those singular actions is tedious, and begins to resemble the very same methody hokum that the book purports to get away from. Definitely worth a read but the Mamet school of acting desperately tries to avoid the problem of emotion in a way that perhaps overcomplicates an ...more
J.V. Seem
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theatre-acting
My boyfriend, when ordering a useful book, orders a stack, so that, if it comes up in conversation that someone needs to read up, or needs a little help on something (be it cognitive therapy or the art of the theatre), he's good and ready to supply works of literature.

A few weeks back, right after we'd started rehearsing for Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, I ordered a bunch of books on Stanislavsky technique in a panic, also because this is a golden opportunity to learn to use it, but because the
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: acting
This is one of the best books on the craft of acting. Also one of the shortest. It's concise and practical. Unlike a lot of traditional "method" training techniques, this one doesn't get bogged down in the frustrating, inconsistent, and arguably impossible task of trying to make yourself feel a certain way. Instead it teaches you to focus on the things that are within your control: what you want and what you do. In my experience, this is the best path to reliably truthful, spontaneous, ...more
May 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I would have to say that this is the Strunk and White of Acting. If you don't know what that is, it is a book to help you write more clearly.

This book is geared towards analyzing and properly determining how to get the most out of a scene in an organic way.

It also helps with what to do after you are asked to change or correct up by the director or because of other stimuli.

I will need to do further homework on breaking down scripts in order to better gain skill in using this handbook. Have
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a quick read and very helpful explanation of an approach to acting very much not of the Method school. Like all good approaches, the goal is emotional honesty, but it tries to achieve such honesty without emotionalism.

I chose to read this book under the impression it would serve well as a guide to writers as well as actors, and I can confirm it does. The authors assert that any scene can be analyzed as described. I doubt if that is strictly true. I suspect any scene in a competently
Please Don't Gawk
May 28, 2016 rated it liked it
It's a small light read, with some great information, though if you take the course- there have been slight updates.

I will say I learned more about the Mammet method now, and I believe I am more of a practical aesthetics actor than a method.

I can't really compare this since I am a novice at this type of method. Updates to follow... but so far very fulfilling and exciting:)!
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
David Mamet is a top-notch playwright.

And that's it.

Reading Mamet being 'insightful' on acting methods/techniques is like watching a quantum physicist waxing lyrical about bird species. Neither are even remotely qualified to write about such topics and shouldn't even be allowed near a publisher when it comes to such topics.
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Technique theatre 1 4 Jun 12, 2014 05:19AM  

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“When truth and virtue are so rare in almost every area of our society the world needs theatre and the theatre needs actors who will bring the truth of the human soul to the stage. The theatre may now be the only place in society where people can go to hear the truth.” 3 likes
“Anyone can act if he has the will to do so, and anyone who says he wants to but doesn't have the knack for it suffers from a lack of will, not a lack of talent.” 2 likes
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