book REVIEW

Ronald Rand—an actor, playwright, and founder of the newspaper The Soul of the American Actor—spotlights 50 prominent acting teachers in this useful reference text, with photos by Luigi Scorcia. Each two- to four-page profile is accompanied by a somewhat shorter response from one of the teacher's students. The book is divided into three sections: The first (and longest) consists of individuals known primarily as teachers. The second looks at actors who teach (Olympia Dukakis, Anne Jackson), and the third looks at directors who also teach acting (Lloyd Richardson, Zelda Fichandler).

The participants seem to have been given a standard set of questions, offering the reader an opportunity to compare their various attitudes and approaches. For instance, when asked how large a role imagination plays in the actor's work, Anne Bogart says 20 percent, Robin Lynn Smith says 1,000 percent, and Ivana Chubbuck responds, "One hundred percent—and nothing." The only real problem with the format is that these are not really give-and-take interviews. Why, exactly, does Bogart rate imagination so low? Rand isn't on hand with a follow-up question.

Some of the standard queries have predictable answers. Did Rand really believe that asking, "Do you stress the importance of voice/speech and body work of the actor's instrument?" would prompt any negative responses? Also, the actors' comments on their teachers understandably tend to be uniformly glowing. Some are frank about an instructor's toughness, but that too is complimentary.

Still, it's fascinating to compare and contrast—to see, for instance, which teachers claim to have changed their methodologies greatly and which have stuck to the same basic program for decades. There are also some striking commonalities: An unlikely number of teachers, for example, count Martha Graham as a major influence.

Maybe the most revelatory moments come when Rand asks, "How valuable is your unique presence to the work that is actually occurring in the classroom?" Many take refuge in modesty, but André De Shields responds with refreshing candor that his presence is "indispensable," adding, "Without my presence, the work doesn't get done."

> Reviewed by Mark Dundas Wood