the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

recent reads

Two terrific recent reads for me are John Lithgow's autobiography, and the Esther Freud novel Lucky Break.

In Drama: An Actor's Education, Lithgow covers his childhood and early years as an actor through his first films and Broadway success.  A fascinating small detail: the future Coretta Scott King was one of his childhood babysitters!  His stories of growth and learning, whether through playing Lenny in Mice and Men through many student matinees or from watching the actors work at the Shakespeare festivals run by his father, are moving and honest and also well told.  While I read it in just a few long sittings, some friends have said this is a great backstage book to read in the 10 minutes you can grab here and there.

I learned about Lucky Break after reading an interview with Esther Freud.  Esther is not only one of Sigmund's great granddaughters, but turned to writing while she was a struggling actor as something to do between gigs. She wrote Hideous Kinky, which became a film with Kate Winslet, and from that point became more of a writer than an actor.  Lucky Break is a novel about the lives of a group of actors who attend the same drama school in London, then move through the various highs and lows of their careers.  It reminded me of the old Theatre Shoes (and other Shoes books) by Noel Streatfield, only with more of the daily life (family, relationships, paying rent) included.  Freud is very candid about how difficult the business is for women, and a lot of the book is tedious and heartbreaking, but very very realistic.  Required reading, especially for the starry-eyed younger actors who want to know where they might be when they're 30.

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