An invaluable guide to the traditions and best practices of the professional stage actor, from first rehearsal to final curtain.
Professional stage actors are expected to have ready knowledge of a multitude of unwritten yet well-established protocols. Traditionally, this knowledge was passed along from one generation of stage actors to the next via word of mouth, or were learned by having one’s missteps corrected—until now.
In The Stage Actor’s Handbook, these protocols have finally been assembled into one volume, allowing theatre artists to know in advance what is expected of them. A definitive guide for professionals and aspiring professionals alike, this book details best practices on everything from rehearsal demeanor to backstage etiquette. It also shares the theatre’s unique vernacular and revered superstitions, as well as field-tested guidelines on touring, interactions with the public, and more.
Written by established theatre pros Michael Kostroff (The Producers, Les Misérables) and Julie Garnyé (Cats, Come From Away), The Stage Actor’s Handbook features bits of wisdom contributed by legendary stage actors, including Bebe Neuwirth, John Lithgow, Chita Rivera, Alfred Molina, Billy Porter, Betty Buckley, Harvey Fierstein, Sam Waterston, Jason Alexander, Cynthia Nixon, and Sir Patrick Stewart.
Michael Kostroff is an established stage and television actor best known for his five seasons on HBO’s The Wire. He is also an instructor, director, and writer. He is the author of Letters from Backstage and Audition Psych 101, and the co-author of Answers from “The Working Actor.” Kostroff served as an advice columnist for the weekly publication Backstage and is a frequent guest speaker at theatre schools, theatre companies, and universities. He is the creator of the popular Audition Psych 101 workshop, which he’s presented all over the country. On stage, Kostroff has played a host of iconic character roles, including Max Bialystock, which he covered on the first national tour of The Producers, and the comic villain Thénardier, a role he played on two national tours of Les Misérables.
Julie Garnyé is a singer, actress, director, voice teacher, producer, and writer. She appeared in the roles of Jennyanydots and Grizabella in the national tour of Cats and originated the role of Martha Dumptruck in the developmental readings of Heathers: The Musical. Other appearances include Les Misérables, Chicago, and Mamma Mia, all at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. She was an original cast member of the first national tour of the Broadway hit musical Come From Away. Garnyé regularly teaches two masterclasses—The Vocal Intensive Workshop and Know the Business of Show—which she has presented at Harvard University, Studio School, Santa Clara University, and many other theatre schools and theatre companies in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Chapter 1. Etiquette for the Professional Stage Actor
Chapter 2. The Rules of Rehearsal
Chapter 3. Interacting with Creatives, Management, Colleagues, and Crew
Chapter 4. Technical Rehearsals and Previews
Chapter 5. Backstage Protocol
Chapter 6. During the Run
Chapter 7. On Superstition
Chapter 8. The Stage Actor in Public
Chapter 9. The Stage Actor Away from Home
Chapter 10. The Stage Actor as Theatre Patron
Chapter 11. The Stage Actor’s Legacy
About the Authors
Michael Kostroff (The Producers, Les Misérables) and Julie Garnyé (Cats, Come From Away) compiled every unwritten rule of the craft into one volume for aspiring and established actors to reference.
Actors, directors, and writers Kostroff and Garnýe draw on their own experience as well as those of 26 contributors, including Jason Alexander, Raúl Esparza, Harvey Fierstein, Bebe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera, and Sam Waterston, to present a thorough compilation that codifies the unwritten rules of the theater as handed down through generations of players. They break it all down in 11 chapters packed with insights about a rich variety of topics, from table reads to technical rehearsals, cues to curtain calls, and dressing room, performance, and stage-door etiquette. Kostroff and Garnýe even cover theater superstitions. Throughout this invaluable handbook, the words of the contributors are set off in text boxes like so many pearls of stage wisdom. All are presented with aplomb in an approachable and informative style that serves as what the authors call "written mentorship." There are also a glossary of theater terms and a short list of recommended reading. This compact guide should be required reading for theater students and professionals alike. Theater fans may also enjoy this glimpse into the workings of the actor’s craft.
The Stage Actor’s Handbook is essential in the toolkit of the professional theatre actor. What a gift to young artists and educators to have a source that shares the unique legacy of decades of traditions, protocols, superstitions, and etiquette within the theatre community. It is especially delicious to read about the origins of many of our rituals that have been passed down from generation to generation. I started working professionally at the age of 14 and come from a long line of theatre practitioners. Now as an educator I can’t wait to share this joyful, valuable journey with my students that will take them deep into the lore and history of our culture and the magic of our sacred community.
I think The Stage Actor’s Handbook will live long past all who wrote it, participated in it, and inspired it. Full of wisdom, wit, and love, that is exactly as it should be. Bravo!
While theatre has incredibly specific codes of conduct, this is the only book I know of dedicated to helping actors find their footing. Kostroff and Garnyé have pulled together scads of useful information, shedding light on our often practical, sometimes charming, and occasionally bizarre theatrical traditions.
A much-needed deep dive into an aspect of theatre education that is crucial but often glossed-over: professionalism. The Stage Actor’s Handbook should be required reading for every serious theatre student.
11/2/22, Playbill: This book was featured in a roundup of “12 Books to Curl Up With This Fall.”