It may be April Fool’s but this book is no joke!


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:

  1. Contact
  2. Circumstance
  3. Meaning
  4. Emotional Life
  5. Objective
  6. Action
  7. 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!

Be sure to grab your copy.

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…

“Starting Your Career As A Dancer” review and CONTEST!!

Firstly, a MASSIVE thank you to Allworth Press for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. I really appreciate the opportunity.  I am really excited because I have been in 4 Barnes and Noble and have yet to see this book on their shelves!  Released in May of 2012, do not let the title fool you.  Any performer can find the words of wisdom in this paperback useful!.

Secondly, THANK YOU to Mande Dagenais for writing this book!

Starting Your Career as a Dancer is written by award winning author Mande Dagenais, who has worked as a dancer and choreographer all over the world.  Along with several interviews with many people in the industry, Mande draws from her experiences to deliver an informative, well written and important guide to everyone who wants to pursue a lifetime of performing.

I love this book.  With 18 chapters ranging from goal-setting to attitude adjustments to injury recognition and prevention to career transitions, this book is filled with so much great information.  I started reading and couldn’t put it down.  It wasn’t only the informative sections that were great.  What made me want to keep reading, even through the parts you often see in other career guide books, is her personal experiences.  I love to hear other performers’ stories and the writing is so casual and it reads as though we are having a conversation. It just draws you in.

As a performer, one must never stop learning.  Learning from corrections, learning from other people’s mistakes or corrections, and learning from other people’s experiences.  This book is a whole lot of learning.  Right from the get go, you can tell that Ms. Dagenais truly does have a love and passion for her chosen career.  Her desire to share her knowledge and experience  permeates throughout the book.

Now there are some books that talk about most facets of the business, but Mande breaks it down.  Not just breaks it down, but she breaks it down!!

She brings up some really great points that I’ve never even considered, like a choreographer has copyright protection on their works unless the rights are given to someone else.  She specifies a number of things that could or should be on your contract. She talks about the mental, physical, and nutritional needs and how they all tie into each other.  And I think most importantly, she offers several examples of not only her but other performers who have shifted gears in their careers for a variety of reasons.  It’s important to plan ahead and think what will you do when the time comes when you can’t get on that stage anymore.  I know I personally don’t like to think about that, but this book has seriously opened my eyes to the many things I could and should be doing to better run my “business.”

So taking all this into account, I have already begun to take steps based on the suggestions she offers.  Already I feel like I am making progress.  I am so happy that I’ve gotten to read this book.

If you would like to buy this book you can find it HERE through the Allworth Press site or through   BUT here’s a twist.

AND because of the great people at Allworth Press, you can get your hands on it too!!

Dancing is universal.  You don’t have to be a professional, you don’t even have to take classes. For the rest of September, let me know about your dancing experience in the comments below.  Just let me know why you love to dance and your most vivid memory of dancing. Winner will be selected at random on October 1.