I’ve been working with kids and teens for almost 30 years as an acting coach and manager. During that time, I've identified so many informative books written by industry experts that can help teen actors solidify concepts learned in their classes and coaching sessions. Below is my reading list for teen actors. These six books will help teenagers grow—both as students and young performers.
“Tips: Ideas for Actors,” by Jon Jory
Jory, a veteran acting teacher and producer of over 1300 plays, has brought his expertise in the form of tips for actors. Clear, concise, and direct, his advice to actors nails the aspects of performance on the head. Divided into different categories such as textual study, character development, technique, and strategy, Jory covers a wide range of necessary skills that young actors sometimes forget and need to master. I highly recommend this book for young performers, as they can learn valuable lessons without getting lost in an author’s words.
“The 7 Simple Truths of Acting for the Teen Actor” by Larry Silverberg
Silverberg is one of the most renowned authorities on the Sanford Meisner technique. His internationally acclaimed series, “The Sanford Meisner Approach,” provides actors with indispensable instruction and deep understanding of the Meisner technique. In this book, Silverberg speaks directly to young performers by stripping away the fluff surrounding acting and focusing on the acting at the most human level. In seven chapters, Silverberg takes readers on a journey of self-discovery. He encourages readers to act from a personal place; he creates confidence in performers and enables them to embark on a path of true acting.
“Meisner for Teens: A Life of True Acting” by Larry Silverberg
Silverberg brings another indispensable resource to young actors with his workbook instruction guide on the Meisner technique. Silverberg speaks directly to teenagers and challenges them to think critically about their purpose in becoming a character and living truthfully on stage. What I love about this book is its interactive nature. Acting is doing, and here Silverberg engages teens in his writing so they don’t get lost in his instruction. In “Meisner for Teens,” performers define their desires, outline their technique, and refine their skills of listening and observation. For young performers eager for all-encompassing training, “Meisner for Teens” is a must-have.
“Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus” by Marina Calderone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams
Acting means to do. Thousands of action words are alphabetized and categorized to help you find what you are doing in every beat. This book will help you play specific actions and get away from making general choices. “Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus” is a no-nonsense book that every actor must also have in rehearsals. So many acting technique books get lost in the wordiness of describing acting; I love that this book is direct. When you’re in need of a quick word in order to make sense of a scene, this book is a lifesaver.
“The Actor’s Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique” by William Esper and Damon DiMarco
I discuss this book in my article about must-have books for adult actors, and I believe it should be read by performers of all ages. Esper trained with the legendary Meisner as an actor and teacher for many years. What makes this book superb is co-writer DiMarco’s addition to Esper’s work. A former student of Esper’s, DiMarco spent over a year observing his mentor teaching first-year acting students. In this book, he recreates that experience for us, allowing readers to experience the progression of performance exercises in practices. This is perfect for teen actors who need to have a strong foundation of the basics in order to progress into deeper, more mature study.
“Audition” by Michael Shurtleff
No list is complete without a book on audition technique, since that’s what actors do most of the time. A legendary casting director, Shurtleff’s book provides readers with a comprehensive guide to getting started in the auditioning world and getting the part. There are skills unique to auditioning Shurtleff nails it. His infamous 12 guideposts have influenced my own work in developing my simple technique to help actors learn how to direct themselves. From developing relationships to finding the humor in a scene, Shurtleff’s book will help you ace any audition.
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