HANDBOOK OF ACTING TECHNIQUES: Edited by Arthur Bartow.
Paperback Publication by Nick Hern Books. ISBN: 978 1 85459 542 3
Review: Rod Dungate, 5 September 2008.
A link to the book on Amazon appears below.
A must for the shelf of anyone seriously interested in acting.
This is a remarkable and significant book. There can’t be a person in the country who, seriously interested in acting, isn’t fascinated by US actor training and the thrilling skills of the best US actors. This HANDBOOK was originally published in the States but is now available in paperback in the UK.
American actors have a different attitude to training from English actors. And frequently see it as something that continues throughout their working life. Most of us are aware of the work of Strasberg and The Method but how many realise Strasberg’s relationship with Stanislavsky’s work? It’s a revelation to see how, once the door on US actor training was opened by Strasberg and other members of the Group Theatre and the Studio, a whole host of significant teachers emerged developing method’s on from Strasberg or in opposition to it.
The thing that makes the HANDBOOK OF ACTING TECHNIQUES so special is that editor Arthur Bartow brings together chapters on all the major practitioners written by other highly respected teachers and practitioners. The work of Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sandford Meisner, Michael Chekhov, Uta Hagen, Jerzy Grotowski is all covered; so are the ideas of other, less iconic but no less valuable, acting teachers.
For this book the whole is significantly greater than the sum of its parts. It’s most informative to see the relationship between, for instance, Adler’s work and Strasberg’s after Adler’s return from Paris where she met with Stanislavsky. Tom Oppenheim’s exploration of Adler’s dictum ‘In your choice is your talent’ is most revealing; an actor’s preparation, after all, is all about choices.
Per Brahe’s contribution BEYOND MICHAEL CHEKHOV TECHNIQUE is an intriguing insight into the way Brahe applied Chekov’s principles to mask acting (within the Moscow Arts school to start with, in which, traditionally, mask acting was banned.) His chapter is revealing both about Chekhov’s ideas and his own. Stephen Waugh’s careful setting out of Uta Hagen’s principles is a valuable contribution too.
This whole book is for the serious reader; it’s easily accessible but the ideas the writers explore are complex; each of the writers is a passionate advocate for the ideas they write about. Despite the complexity each writer exhibits extraordinary clarity; I found myself constantly marking sections that seemed particularly apposite. For anyone who wants more than a cursory introduction to theories on the allusive acting business, an intelligent and informed research book for regular use, and masses of pointers to further study this book must be on their shelf.
Here’s the link to the book on Amazon.