A Field Guide to Actor Training
Well at long bloody last someone has finally written an overview of stage acting techniques that is actually worth both the purchase price and the time spent reading. I suppose it’s true enough that all books on acting have some good in them, as their authors almost always quote someone who actually knows what in hell the job’s all about.
The highest praise I can give to Laura Wyath’s A Field Guide to Actor Training is this: I wish I’d had this book years ago, when I was running my own repertory theatre company and training novice or lightly experienced actors. I was a good director and teacher, as I’m sure any of my former casts or students will attest, but Wyath’s book has made me realize how much better I could have been.
Wyath has compiled an overview of all the major acting, movement, and vocal training methods, as well as a very handy and realistic assessment of the best of the BFA, MFA, and private acting schools in the U.S. She has studied and taught acting at prestigious institutions in both America and Europe, and she speaks well of her personal experience in her first-hand study of the majority of the methods she describes. What I especially love about A Field Guide to Actor Training is that Wyath recognizes that what is cream for one actor, raises lactose intolerance in another. We are all wired slightly differently, and god knows anyone who intends to enter a profession where success is measured by how well you convince a room of observers that you are anyone other than who you actually are … well, we’re delving into some truly complicated wiring there. And that is the value of Wyath’s book.
Thanks to Laura Wyath, I can strongly advise all actors, directors and teachers of actors and directors to keep studying. For whatever reason, I had not encountered the system of the Stanislavsky-taught Michael Chekhov before. I had heard of his name but never studied his practices. I rather wish I had, and now I will. In reading the chapter on Chekhov in A Field Guide to Actor Training, I immediately thought of three actors who had appeared in past productions under my direction. Each would have grasped the technique of the Psychological Gesture almost immediately and so found a more direct path to the eventual characterization of their parts. So I thank you kindly, Professor Wyath. You have managed to teach new tricks to an old dog.
An absolutely essential book.
Applause Theatre & Cinema