Dear Gentle Reader,
I was super excited when Rare Bird Books gave me the green light to review one of their recent release books, so big Thank you’s to them for this opportunity! 👏
Seven Pillars Acting is not your typical acting book. Yes, it is incredibly informative, and relatable but what sets it apart from the others is the focus is on today’s actor. Tweaking the classics just a little so that it makes acting even less intimidating.
Sonya Cooke has taken all the major acting concepts from great teachers and directors (Meisner, Stanislavski, Donnellan and Brestoff to name a few) and distilled them down to seven concise key steps that take actors from first day of rehearsal to performance. High praise for taking this task and creating something so clear from so many different places.
The seven pillars listed in the book are as follows:
- Emotional Life
- Physical Life
Released in January 2018, this little book of 305 pages is one of the best brush up books to keep on your shelf. When I say “brush up book,” I mean absolutely no disrespect. This is worthy of curriculum status, and may well be, but I don’t know if it is too new for that at this time.
Dear Reader, it is a well known truth that actors are constantly returning to classes just like dancers. If, like me, it is a bit too hard to juggle in a class with current life situations, this book is something I can easily turn to. Each pillar has numerous exercises and some can be done without a partner. For the other activities, grab a fellow actor one day and have a fun informal session on a random agreed upon scene just to keep “in-shape.”
There are times when I can’t recall which of my theatre textbooks had a bit of advice that I wanted to refer to so I would dig them all out and skim through several books to find what I was thinking of. Now, I feel that I could simply pick this gem off the shelf and refer to it rather than hunting through a full shelf of books. (What? You didn’t keep the textbooks of your favorite classes?)😄 (Is that weird?) 😳
Quick note: I honestly feel that acting is such an individual process because we are all different and don’t learn the same way. It is helpful to take what you can from all the different styles and form your own “way.” That being said, in my personal process, I have found that I can delve even further into my character building from this book. Typically, while I work on the circumstances I try to find every variation of how it could be interpreted. I write down the likely ones and work on those but keep the others in the back of my mind. What I don’t do is to find all the variations on how the various circumstances would make me feel. I figure that would be too much writing and there isn’t enough space on some of these pages to fill in all that info. Although to be fair, she writes to focus on one. I do like this idea though and will begin including it because it offers the chance to present an even clearer picture to the audience. Basically, I figure it should take me from regular image to High-Def.
There are some quotes and passages that I loved and here are a few of my faves:
“Once a circumstance is known to be imaginary, its potency is gone – much like being spooked by a shadow in a dark corner. Once it is revealed to not be a real threat, the fear subsides. Therefore, because of the degree of belief, the circumstances of our lives seem more real than the circumstances of our characters.”
“…acting is all about seeing.”
“Not only does your family push your buttons, but they were the ones who installed them in the first place.” – Jo Spiller
“Neutral is not inactive.”
“The nature of emotion is state-less; it is in flow e-motion, and must not be rigidly fixed.”
“E-motion is ungraspable like water.”
Dear Reader, I am absolutely certain that the more times I go through this book, the more info I will glean from it. I don’t know if I mentioned this at any point, but when I am in productions, I read my script everyday. I look for new insights and sometimes I see something I didn’t catch before, sometimes I don’t, but I feel like I will have new ideas the next time I pick up this book. This is a fresh streamlined process that feels accessible to anyone from the beginning actor to the experienced. Hat’s off to the author!
Have you ever had an instructional book that you found refreshing or insightful? What was it? I’d love to learn what others are checking out in the world. 🌏🌎
Until next time Gentle Reader…