A Practical Handbook for the Actor is a book by Melissa Bruder and her team, where the ideas on how to strengthen actor’s skills, necessary acting techniques, and main concepts of acting craft are perfectly presented and improved by means of powerful examples.
The peculiar feature of this book is that it is full of interesting and, what is more important, truthful ideas about what is expected from an actor. “An actor knows he must develop a body that will do whatever is asked of it” (Bruder et al. 4), this is why if a person makes a decision to become an actor, he/she mush be ready to different challenges, auditions, and disappointments.
The authors of this book call all actors both professionals and beginners upon to define clearly their purposes and their duties. It is very important to comprehend what has to be done and what never has to be done. Only in case when a person is able to control words, actions, and even thoughts, the success of the career of an actor is possible.
It is known that “the actor can do nothing without the target” (Donnellan 13), this is why one of the significant points of the book under discussion is Bruder’s desire to help an actor define his/her target and succeed in his/her job. The authors of this book explain properly that the purpose of this book is to teach the reader about acting craft and to provide several ideas on how to improve personal acting skills and not to be afraid of challenges and disappointments.
First lesson: time cannot influence acting craft. A Practical Handbook for the Actor is a book of 1986, so, all those hints, helpful ideas, and experiences came from the past century. At first, it is possible to believe that these ideas cannot be used for our times, because our modern life requires considerable changes, and living conditions differ considerably from those of the previous century.
However, from the first lines, it becomes clear that the suggestions of these sophisticated writers have to be taken into consideration anytime. “Acting requires common sense, bravery, and a lot of will” (Bruder et al. 6). In this book, each of the above-mentioned concepts and their possible usage are clearly explained. For example, the reader learns that the idea of common sense is helpful for those, who want “to translate whatever you are given into simple actable terms” (Bruder et al. 6).
Bravery is also important “to throw yourself into the action of the play despite fear of failure, self-consciousness, and a thousand other obstacles” (Bruder et al. 6). Finally, any actor should keep in mind his/her own will in order to respect personal ideals. This lesson is one of the most important ones that may be learnt from the book.
Second lesson: understanding of techniques is important for the craft. To succeed in acting, a person needs to comprehend the most significant techniques. The authors of the books focus reader’s attention on two major points: action and moment. An action is an actor’s object: you go on the stage in order to perform some action and complete your task.
An actor has the right to become someone from a make-up team or operating team (Diggles 143) in order to improve the situation and use everything to present successful results. The actions of actors need to be well-coordinated with the rest of the team, and this lesson has to be remembered as well. Moment is another concept that is worth attention, because it depicts everything that is depicted in the scene. This is why it is obligatory to appreciate every moment and be able to change something if it is necessary.
Third lesson: truth of theatres. “When truth and virtue are so rare in almost every area of our society the world needs theatre and the theatre needs actors who will bring the truth of the human soul to the stage” (Bruder 7). People are always eager to find the truth and use it in their every day lives, however, it becomes harder and harder to find it out.
This is why some people still believe that some kind of truth may be found in theatres. Actors need to take this fact into consideration and realize that their functions become more significant day by day.
With the help of theatres, people get a chance to believe in something, to open their eyes and accept the reality as it is. Theatre is not cinema, where many things, actions, and words remain to be behind the scene, it is not a book, where each word is edited for many time. Theatre is the life, the life of actors, the reality. Actors are responsible for clear representation of this truth, and to become brilliant actors, they have to remember about this truth.
Being an actor of a theatre is a gift that has to be used by any person if he/she has this chance. Not everyone is able to grasp all the necessary techniques of being an actor. A Practical Handbook for the Actor is of one of the sources, where the reader may learn interesting material and use it further.
It is not necessary to know something about theatre and acting; it is obligatory to feel the necessity of being an actor, and the authors of this book present the necessary information, educative material, and powerful grounds for those, who want to become an actor.
Bruder, Melissa, Cohn, Lee, M., Olnek, Madeleine, Pollack, Nathaniel, Previto, Robert, and Zigler, Scott. A Practical Handbook for the Actor. New York: Random House, Inc. 1986.
Diggles, Dan. Improv for Actors. New York: Allworth Communications, Inc., 2004.
Donnellan, Declan. The Actor and the Target. London: Nick Hern Books, 2005.