5 More Nonfiction Reading Recommendations for Theatre People

Following up my previous list, here are even more reading suggestions for actors and fans of theatre. Once again, this list is organized roughly from “easier, conversational works” to “textbook-style information”.

1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

The source material for the Broadway musical of the same name, this graphic memoir has all the charm and intrigue of the show. This sophisticated read deals with family, sexuality, and coming-of-age passages, all told with Bechdel’s sarcastic humor and biting wit. A must-read for fans of the musical and everyone else.

2. Drama High by Michael Sokolove

The (highly adapted) inspiration for the NBC show Rise, about the high school theatre program that piloted high school editions of both Rent and Spring Awakening. If you are interested in teaching theatre, this is absolute required reading! This book is at once a meditation on lower-middle-class Suburban life, education, theatre, and the effect all three of these things have on each other. If you are a Rent or Spring Awakening fan, you will find a lot to enjoy in this book, as you will if you were ever a high school theatre kid.

3. The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel

A very conversational dig into the bare bones of musicals. Moving “chronologically” through the structure of a musical, this book explores the traditional roles of various archetypical songs in theatre, such as the “I Want” song and the “11 O’clock Number”. Examples from classic and contemporary popular musicals make the information as entertaining as it is accessible. Audience members and actors alike will be able to take plenty from this read!

4. Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway by Michael Riedel

This is the first book strictly on theatre history I have recommended on this blog! This deep dive into the history of the Great White Way has as much energy as the street itself and doesn’t shy away from the seedy daily dealings and dark underbellies of the biggest titans of broadway business. As informative as it is entertaining– a love letter to show biz gone by. If you want your history to be as gritty and unflinching as the Broadway bigwigs themselves, look no further. Highly recommended.

5. Acting the Song by Tracey Moore with Allison Bergman

Incredibly dense and incredibly useful for any musical theatre actor or singer. This book is essentially your step-by-step guide to interpreting songs and as well as performing them. As the title suggests, Acting the Song is about finding actable interpretive choices and playing them at their most effective. The book includes plenty of examples and exercises to steer any performer in the right direction. Take your time with this read– the information is valuable and worth your full attention!

 

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