The 10 Best Acting Textbooks

video play icon 10 Best Acting Textbooks

This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in July of 2018. Many people think of acting as a precarious profession, but others are so passionate about performing they can't stay away from the spotlight. If you fall into the latter category, this list contains a range of books that provide aspiring thespians with a solid foundation of theory and practical advice, whether you dream of gracing the silver screen, the stage or the set of a TV show. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Acting is Believing

2. "Audition" by Michael Shurtleff

3. The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera

Editor's Notes

June 02, 2020:

Just like learning how to draw or practicing an instrument, actors need to hone their skills to become proficient in their craft. Much of this includes hands-on practice with teachers and fellow thespians, which can be grounded and reinforced with the right literature. The textbooks on this list are aimed at both seasoned professionals and newbies, with Acting for Young Actors included for middle and high schoolers.

We wanted to cover various celebrated methods, but you'll find Stanislavski most represented with three volumes: Acting: Onstage and Off, Acting is Believing, and of course, An Actor Prepares, which was written by the man himself. We also have Hagen's technique spelled out in Respect for Acting, and Adler's methods, which draw on Stanislavski, in The Art of Acting.

You'll find the Meisner method here with Sanford Meisner on Acting, a text added to replace Art and Craft. That volume extends Meisner's teachings and was written by his longtime student, but we felt that to get at the foundations of the techniques espoused, it's vital to read the original title by the creator himself. Only then can Art and Craft truly be appreciated.

We removed Musical Theatre: A Comprehensive Course, which is still worth picking up for aspiring Broadway stars, with The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera. We felt this was a better-rounded choice that offers useful advice to actors of all stripes, plus screenwriters and other people looking to get into the industry. It's written in a clear, concise way with straightforward instruction, with a user-friendly format and no-nonsense techniques that can help build confidence even in an extra or budding actor.

Special Honors Although the site seems spartan, is a helpful resource for actors looking to expand their skill set and practice improvisation. It offers detailed explanations of 321 improv comedy structures as well as training and performance tips. Peruse warm-ups, games, long-forms, and exercises, or else generate random shows and workshops.

American Theatre Home of the American Theatre magazine, the nation’s only general-circulation magazine devoted to theatre, contains every article published in the physical publication. Updated daily, it delivers news, in-depth features, stunning visuals, exclusive podcasts and videos, and artists’ commentary and opinions across technological platforms.

4. The Art of Acting

5. Sanford Meisner on Acting

6. Upright Citizens Brigade Manual

7. Acting: Onstage and Off

8. Respect for Acting

9. An Actor Prepares

10. Acting for Young Actors

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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