We spent 26 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Many people think of acting as a precarious profession, but others are so passionate about performing that they can’t stay away from the spotlight. If you fall into the latter category, this list contains a range of books that provide aspiring thespians with a solid foundation of theory and practical advice, whether you dream of gracing Hollywood’s silver screens or Broadway’s classic stages. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.

10. The Ultimate Teen Guide

Youngsters just getting their feet wet in the theater world will appreciate The Ultimate Teen Guide. The manual encourages them to think deeply and critically about the characters they’re playing onstage, a practice that will strengthen both performances and growing minds.

  • Has exercises for finding motivation
  • Covers audition techniques
  • Too basic for some readers

Brand Backstage Books
Model pending
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. Uta Hagen

This volume expounds the methods of Uta Hagen, founder of the esteemed HB Studio in New York City. Her signature “object exercises” prompt students to reenact scenes from their own lives in order to spur performances that are more natural and tailored to each individual.

  • Emphasizes specificity of choices
  • Theories influenced famous thespians
  • Some of the advice is old fashioned

Brand John Wiley Sons
Model pending
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

8. An Actor Prepares

Though originally published back in the 1930s, An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski remains one of the most important works on the dramatic arts. Structured like the fictional diary of a student in rehearsals, it explores the process of getting into character.

  • Author’s system is a famous method
  • Focuses on emotional memory
  • Experimental form is odd for some

Brand Theatre Arts Books
Model pending
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Musical Theatre: A Comprehensive Course

For those with Broadway aspirations, Musical Theatre: A Comprehensive Course is a good guide to have on the shelf. Intended for use in a classroom, it contains lessons, exercises, and practical pointers, so beginners will be belting out show tunes onstage in no time.

  • Includes color photos of productions
  • Useful advice for professionals too
  • Clear and concise chapters

Brand Routledge
Model pending
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Onstage and Off

In its seventh edition, Onstage and Off introduces theater students to the famous Stanislavski method of using personal experience to inform character performance. This is a good primer on basic training terminology, and it includes relaxation and breathing exercises.

  • Infused with a sense of humor
  • Written by a seasoned professor
  • Contains theory and practical advice

Brand imusti
Model pending
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Upright Citizens Brigade Manual

Not just for comedians, the Upright Citizens Brigade Manual introduces long-form improvisation techniques to anyone who wants to get better at thinking on their feet. You’ll learn to say, “Yes, and,” find the “game” of each scene, and collaborate with an onstage ensemble.

  • Clear and concise explanations
  • Covers different scene structures
  • Written by the method’s inventors

Brand Unknown
Model pending
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Stella Adler

Drawn from recordings of the renowned teacher at work, this volume outlines the Stella Adler technique in 22 lessons. Emphasizing the importance of making clear choices, she believed that performers should research the circumstances and values of each character they play.

  • Contains monologues and exercises
  • Examines modern plays
  • Influenced greats like marlon brando

Brand Hal Leonard Corp
Model pending
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

3. Audition by Michael Shurtleff

Written by the casting director of many well-known films and musical theater productions, Audition by Michael Shurtleff instructs aspiring thespians on how to impress gatekeepers just like him. You will learn how to define yourself, stand out, and leave them wanting more.

  • Simple and direct writing style
  • Well-regarded in the industry
  • Advice also applies to everyday life

Brand Walker Books
Model pending
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

2. Art and Craft

Written by a former student of Sanford Meisner, Art and Craft outlines the famous teacher’s technique. He believed that performers must instinctively respond to their surroundings moment to moment, and train by completing a series of increasingly difficult exercises.

  • Covers both theater and film
  • Author is an experienced educator
  • Excellent foundation for beginners

Brand Esper, William
Model pending
Weight 7.8 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Acting is Believing

Updated with fresh exercises and audition tips for the digital age, the 12th edition of Acting is Believing focuses on the Stanislavski system, of which the core lesson is that performers must truly feel emotions themselves if they want their audience to experience them.

  • Information is well organized
  • Chapters build upon each other
  • Lots of colorful photos

Brand Acting is Believing
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0