6 Theatre Books You Need to Read

August 30, 2018

It's summertime, and rather than bringing a not-so-good "new best-seller", or a lonely beach read to the sunny shore and sand, pick up a theatre book instead. Below are some of my favorite theatre books that have been pretty life changing. 


Book Title: Culture is The Body

Author: Tadashi Suzuki, Translated by Kameron H. Steele


Why I Think It's A Must Read: It breaks into the mind of Tadashi Suzuki and his journey. I have underlined so many thoughts in this book, the entire point of underlining has become pointless. 


Favorite Quote: "The actor's job is not to return to an everyday reality in acting, but rather to use his contemporary life as a springboard for discovering an alternate reality or fiction. Thus, the only emotion truly connected with acting is the exhilaration and amazement derived from the compete concentration required to live in this fiction. This is 'stage awareness'." 


Where you Can Buy It: Barnes & Noble or Amazon


Description: "From his artistic home in the small village of Toga Mura in the Japanese Alps, Tadashi Suzuki's influence has spread around the world, transcending cultural and political boundaries. His bold vision of what the theatre can be and what the theatre can do is both uncompromising and exceedingly generous. The SCOT company's groundbreaking productions and methods of training have inspired and continue to inspire generations of theatre artists and audiences. The day I first met Suzuki, the trajectory of my life was altered irrevocably. The very existence of SITI Company is due to Suzuki’s foresight, bigheartedness and determination." -Anne Bogart



Book Title: The Theater and Its Double

Author: Antonin Artaud, Translated by Mary Cameron Richards


Why I Think It's A Must Read:  It delves into the concepts of Antonin Artaud and his perception of "Theatre of Cruelty". You have to read it to understand, but you must read it.


Favorite Quote: “Theater of Cruelty means a theater difficult and cruel for myself first of all. And, on the level of performance, it is not the cruelty we can exercise upon each other by hacking at each other’s bodies, carving up our personal anatomies, or, like Assyrian emperors, sending parcels of human ears, noses, or neatly detached nostrils through the mail, but the much more terrible and necessary cruelty which things can exercise against us. We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all.”


Where you Can Buy It: Amazon


Description: A collection of manifestos originally published in 1938, The Theater and Its Double is the fullest statement of the ideas of Antonin Artaud. “We cannot go on prostituting the idea of the theater, the only value of which is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger,” he wrote. He fought vigorously against an encroaching conventionalism he found anathema to the very concept of theater. He sought to use theater to transcend writing, “to break through the language in order to touch life.”



Book Title: The Viewpoints Book: A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition

Authors: Anne Bogart and Tina Landau


Why I Think It's A Must Read:  It is a jumping ground for exploration and improvisation. It includes various exercises to bring into the rehearsal room to train an ensemble. Viewpoints is a groundbreaking technique that is life changing for actors, directors, theatre-makers, and people who just exist in the world. 


Favorite Quote: "Imagine that the soles of your feet have red paint on them, and you are now painting on the floor."


Where you Can Buy It: Amazon or Barnes & Noble


Description: "The Viewpoints is a technique of improvisation that grew out of the postmodern dance world. It was first articulated by choreographer Mary Overlie, who broke down the two dominant issues performers deal with—space and time—into six categories. Since that time, directors Anne Bogart and Tina Landau have expanded her notions and adapted them for actors to function together spontaneously and intuitively and to generate bold, theatrical work."




Book Title: An Acrobat of The Heart: A Physical Approach to Acting Inspired by the Work of Jerzy Grotowski

Author: Stephen Wangh


Why I Think It's A Must Read:  It is a remarkable book that encourages exploration and rigorous actor training. It places the actor's focus in the body and not in the mind. I love it because it includes detailed exercises with diagrams for positioning of the body in warm-ups and ensemble work. 


Favorite Quote: "Why are you reading this book? What do you hope to find here? At this point in your life, how do you approach acting?" 


Where you Can Buy It: Amazon or Barnes & Noble


Description: "The actor will do, in public, what is considered impossible." When the renowned Polish director Jerzy Grotowski began his 1967 American workshop with these words, his students were stunned. But within four weeks they themselves had experienced the "impossible."


Book Title: A Theater Without Theater

Authors: Bernard Blistène, Manuel Borja-Villel, & Pedro G. Romero


Why I Think It's A Must Read:  It is a beautiful book with a myriad of essays and pictures of theatre happenings, the avant garde, and artistic movements from the early 1900s to the 1970s. It highlights experimental theatre, absurdism, and site specific work from all over the world. It proves that one does not need a stage to "perform".  It is a book for "arists, anti artists, non-artists, dancers, non-dancers, doers, and un-doers". It is truly captivating. It makes you want to stop reading the book and start making theatre.


Favorite Quote: "I want the unrestricted pooling of all artistic energies for the production of the total work of art. I want equality in principle between all materials, human beings, idiots, whistling, wire netting and thought pumps... Let there be gigantic surfaces, let them be dressed in colors, let them be dangerously displaced and their virginal modesty destroyed... Even people can be used. Even people can be attached to the sets. Even people can come on stage, even in their habitual position, on their two legs, even uttering meaningful sentences. Then we will marry the materials together."


Where you Can Buy a Used Copy: Amazon or Barnes and Noble  for an extremely high price ranging from the whopping prices from $78 to $752. This book is out of print so try scoring a copy at your local library. 


Description: "Featuring works by artists and theoreticians including: Carl Andre, Antonin Artaud. Hugo Ball. Samuel Beckett, George Brecht, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Tadeusz Cantor, James Coleman, oyvind Fahlstrom, Robert Filliou, Michael Fried, Ramon Gomez de la Serna, Dan Graham, Donald Judd, Mike Kelley, Marinetti, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Antoni Miralda, Robert Morris. Juan Munoz. Bruce Naumann. Tony Oursler. Michelangelo Pistoletto, Oskar Schlemmer. Isidoro Valcarcel Medina, Ben Vautier."



Book Title: Games for Actors and Non-Actors

Authors: Augusto Boal, Translated by Adrian Jackson


Why I Think It's A Must Read:  It is a magnificent guide that includes Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed training techniques. It is ideal for the creation of characters, ensemble, and group training sessions. Akin to the book's title...you don't need to be an actor to play.


Favorite Quote: "It is the same... and it is different—the same is different and the different is the same!"


Where you Can Buy It: Amazon 


Description: "Games for Actors and Non-Actors is the classic and best selling book by the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal. It sets out the principles and practice of Boal's revolutionary Method, showing how theatre can be used to transform and liberate everyone – actors and non-actors alike!"



Happy reading...


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