We teamed up with Tara Tag and Owen Pelesh of BYOSong for this week’s blog post! We asked, “What’s in your actor library?”. Here’s a list of our favorite resources.
1. Act One by Moss Hart. If you’re looking for a book to inspire you to keep going, a read about theatre in the first half of the 20th century, and a fascinating tale of perseverance, get a copy of this immediately.
2. Patti Lupone's Autobiography (especially the audiobook because she narrates it). Patti is my Broadway Jesus. I loved hearing her tales from the road. Her book is a testament to her strength, both on and off stage.
3. Linchpin by Seth Godin. In the musical theatre industry, it's easy to get confused and think that being a linchpin is having a set of so many skills that you're near impossible to replace. Before reading this book, I assumed being a linchpin meant to simultaneously be a bass-baritone and a coloratura soprano, play five instruments, perform front and back handsprings while wearing stilettos, AND be a triple threat. Seth says, "Linchpins are generous humans who facilitate human connection." This book helped me see that my contributions toward building community can be seen as an indispensable part of the industry.
4. The Producer’s Perspective with Ken Davenport. One of my new favorite podcasts! Ken is an incredibly successful producer who isn’t afraid to think outside the box. He brings on some fabulous guests to the show. I particularly love his interviews with composers. I’ve found it inspiring to listen to the creatives we admire unpack how they got to where they are and how they keep going even in the face of adversity.
5. This Patagonia backpack. You can fit so many things in there without hurting your back!
When by Daniel Pink -- Helped me understand and lean into my natural circadian rhythms. Some of us are larks and some night owls. I enjoy an evening work session more than a morning one and this book supported these inclinations -- and also gives practical pointers for making the most of your day without driving yourself into the ground.
Failing Up by Leslie Odom Jr. -- love how he humanizes the whole experience of being an artist in this book. It's packed with inspiring tidbits and stories.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek -- this book centered me in a way that few have...helped keep me in the middle of the road and specific in my day to day activity. Rather than WHAT you do or HOW you do it, the book deals with WHY do you do it.
Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend -- I freaking love this podcast, especially when he dives into honest banter with his guests. These long form interviews get into the nitty gritty -- you really see successful actors stripped down to see their own struggles and challenges. The one with Jeff Goldblum is hilarious and the one with Bill Hader is eye-opening.
Star Talk podcast with Neil deGrasse Tyson cause....I'm a nerd and hearing about the vast expanse of the universe makes my curiosity record spin real fast.
I'm going to be a bit unconventional in my answer, sharing what I feel is the essential rotating library for all actors, especially those who mainly consider themselves interpretive artists like myself, making others work and text come to life. Here's what my bookish soul loves to have on standby:
1-A Chosen Creative Bible
This is what time and time again restores your faith in following an artistic path and you know it so well, you can recite some passages by heart. Mine is BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you never heard of it, you are welcome, because I most likely just changed your life ;-)
2-A Work of Fiction You Can See Yourself In
I just completed another Liz Gilbert book, CITY OF GIRLS, which unravels the escapades of a young 1940s seamstress fashioning showgirls in a NY of yesteryear that I simply couldn't put down. And always ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. She's my Harry Potter. I use to imagine myself as Anne or her bosom bestie Diana, but now its definitely Anne's liberal minded school teacher, Ms. Stacy. Cast me in the musical.
3- Actor Biography/Memoir For Biz Stamina and Stories
When I did my first ever one woman show I CAN'T READ MUSIC!, I strung together the songs and stories of women in the biz who all claimed they couldn't read a note. The dramaturg rabbit hole was probably my most favorite part because it was a constant inspiration well. I read all of Carol Burnett's memoirs, Shirley Temple's autobiography, and another about Louis Prima, my girl Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Vegas, but my favorite by far was Betty Hutton's BACKSTAGE YOU CAN HAVE. I just love the old school dames. Next on my shelf is Kaye Thompson's biography: From Funny Face to Eloise. SHE WAS FREAKIN' JUDY GARLAND'S VOCAL COACH. Can't wait for the T.
4-A Score or Script to Stage in Your Imagination First
Just bought Nia Vardalos' stage adaptation of TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, one of my favorite books by Cheryl Strayed. Playwrights I never get sick of reading: Neil LaBute and Tracey Letts. Find your people.
5- A Children's Picture Book or Graphic Novel for Visual Stimulation
Fuel for that inner child. GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR REBEL GIRLS is on my bed stand table right now. Find the people who voice your people.
6- Your Journal
To be a collector of your unedited thoughts, rambles, shambles, and all things sacred. Your voice deserves a space to stretch (especially the whispers) and to discover what he/she/they wants to say. Pencil and paper may just be two of the most magical tools.
FINISHING THE HAT and…
LOOK, I MADE A HAT by Stephen Sondheim. His way of describing the craft of lyric-writing is very smart, and a good reminder for an actor.
ACTIONS: THE ACTORS THESAURUS. This one is from college. My acting teachers were big into objectives and tactics, and this book is there to open up ideas about tactics. It’s a literal thesaurus.
PUBLIC SQUARE. I just discovered this. It’s the Public Theatre’s podcast. I find they usually put a lot of thoughts and resources into whatever they do, so I’m excited to listen, including in prep for seeing Shakespeare In The Park.