Great Acting Books for Singers

"Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself- and to do so takes AN INSATIABLE CURIOSITY ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION."  Uta Hagen

"Theoretically, the actor ought to be more sound in mind and body than other people, since he learns to understand the psychological problems of human beings when putting his own passions, his loves, fears, and rages to work in the service of the characters he plays. He will learn to face himself, to hide nothing from himself- and to do so takes AN INSATIABLE CURIOSITY ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION."

Uta Hagen

As I prepare to teach a course in acting for singers at Baylor University, I'm rereading some of the texts that have influenced and inspired me in the past. My "ah ha" moment was the fantastic book The Actor's Art and Craft by Bill Esper, a fun introduction to Meisner training for actors (an approach based in Method acting). I have loved many books since then, but my current favorite has to be A Challenge for the Actor, by the unforgettable actress (and cooking maven!) Uta Hagen. Skimming through it, you won't find much mention of Stanislavski or some his theories of affective memory, or indeed many of the other buzz words that tend to scare singers away from this vital part of the craft. Instead, she outlines some of the best ways to hone the actor's craft, and her book includes exercises on everything from playing drunk to activating the body even when seated. You'll also learn that her first love was opera, something she has in common with Meryl Streep. So there's my pitch, if you are a singer reading this. Get this book today and keep it right up there with your Nico and your Cassell dictionaries. It is a gem.

If you are trying to develop a process for approaching arias, consider one more book: A Practical Handbook for the Actor, by Melissa Bruder et al. Developed at the Atlantic Theatre Company, home to the playwright David Mamet, the book introduces the technique of Practical Aesthetics, which is designed to give the reader a step-by-step how-to approach to method acting. The book takes a lot of parsing out, but I have seen singing actors revolutionize their interpretations of the arias in their packages using the techniques found in this slim little manual.