Actors at Work

Rosemarie Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan; Foreword by Mike Nichols

Faber & Faber



Trade Paperback

392 Pages



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It’s extremely difficult to be an actor, for many reasons: It’s mostly unrewarding financially. It takes a lot of hard work before an actor even gets a part. A career is apt to be short-lived. The field is incredibly competitive. Cream does not always rise to the top. And yet people young and old line up by the thousands wanting to be on stage, film or TV. What fuels this desire? What is it that drives actors to withstand the frustration of not getting parts, of getting bad parts in bad plays, of being mistreated by directors, misundertood by audiences, misinterpreted by critics?

With a nod to the Paris Review’s Writers at Work model, Actors at Work looks at the way some of our most respected stage and film actors today approach their calling. In a collection of interviews with a dozen artists, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Patti LuPone, and Billy Crudup, the book explores not only the impetus to perform but also key topics about the process and profession, including the way actors approach a role, what techniques they use to deal with directors and other cast members, the ways in which they use their own personal lives in their work, and their influences, idols, and insecurities. The result is a book that actors will find indispensable and fans will find irresistible.


Praise for Actors at Work

"Because of their provocative, empathetic, and insightful interview techniques, co-authors Rosemarie Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan manage to reveal both the working methods as well as the deeply personal perspectives of fourteen of America’s most gifted actors. In the book's depth of purpose as well as in its sheer entertainment value as a great reading experience, Actors at Work sets a standard that subsequent actor-interview books will be hard-pressed to match."—Ron Van Lieu, Lloyd Richards Chair of Acting, Yale School of Drama

"Fourteen leading American Actors come alive as human beings and as artists in an exchange of intimacies about their individual way of working, their lives in the theatre and how they happened to be drawn into it. Conversations sensitively led by the authors circle this thing called 'acting,' a mysterious process of being Me/Not-Me while others are watching and also a craft that can be taught and learned. If you have ever felt serious about this process and the talented committed people who risk it, read this one-of-a-kind book. I couldn't put it down."—Zelda Fichander, Chair of the Graduate Acting Program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts

"Actors at Work not only offers a fascinating insight into the personalities of these extraordinary actors, but also provides a glorious read for anyone interested in an artist's ineffable creative process."—Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer/director James Lapine

"What an absolutely marvelous book! Our greatest actors speaking in intimate, specific, and detailed terms about their art and craft. Tichler and Kaplan have done a superb job--this book belongs on the shelf of everyone who cares about acting."—Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Public Theater

"It’s so wonderful to finally read a collection of anecdotes where the practices and experiences of actors are described so uniquely, yet depict how each individual ultimately performs the same job. From a casting director’s point of view, it was delightful to find actors such as John Lithgow, Marian Seldes, and Patti LuPone so eloquently and clearly describing their performances in a manner in which I could relate and truly understand. It was almost as if I was getting an individual lesson in 'succeeding in show business' by each of the interviewees. By providing a myriad of different actors’ perspectives, processes, triumphs, and failures, what clearly emerges is the need for a strong sense of true individualism--something that I believe is crucial for newcomers, as well as veterans. Rosemary Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan’s compilation of dialogue is something that will certainly be of infinite value for so many in the performance industry and should be a necessity for all those breaking into the business. For any actor who strives for success in theatre, film, or television this book is an educational and intellectual goldmine."—Bernie Telsey, Casting Director

"Actors at Work is an amazing resource and inspiration for anyone who loves theatre or film, and certainly for anyone interested in actors and acting. The interviews, conducted with great sensitivity and knowledge by Rosemarie Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan, give the reader a rare glimpse and a deeper understanding of the process and struggles of an actor. This book is an invaluable read."—Ellen Lewis, casting director

"Tichler, casting director and artistic producer at New York's Public Theater, has encountered the top tier of America's actors. Writing with playwright Kaplan, she interviews 14 of them on the craft of acting. While she doesn't shy from asking personal questions, the real meat is revelations about careers and the unique approach each artist takes to a script. While many are formally trained, Estelle Parsons sums up a shared attitude toward schooling: Study! How can you study acting? Lessons in voice, script and body movement are helpful tools, but experience is the best teacher. As Meryl Streep notes, no one technique can help a performer tackle diverse roles. The book is best at chronicling different working methods, while revealing the life of an actor. Dianne Wiest and Patti Lupone reveal a refreshing honesty, willing to expose their failures and weaknesses. Frances Conroy and John Lithgow carry the valuable lessons of live theater into the disjointed process of film acting. Kevin Spacey, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kevin Kline describe the intensely delicate work involved in creating a character. For actors, directors and anyone who appreciates the art form, these interviews are priceless."—Publishers Weekly

"At least partially remedying the predominant frivolity of media interest in actors, Tichler and Kaplan explore the minds and opinions of 14 actors with one foot on Broadway, the other in movies or TV—the Estelle Parsons, Kevin Klines, and John Lithgows of American theater. Avoiding all of the obvious E! Entertainment celebutante questions, they focus instead on sterner, broader topics: how to choose acting as a vocation, how to train, how to create a character and keep him or her going for the run of a show or the duration of a film shoot. The responses make for a fascinating, intelligent book, in which true masters of their craft, such as Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, share real information about acting and startling insights into literature of the kind that can't be communicated in a 15-second sound bite."—Booklist

Table of Contents

Foreword by Mike Nichols

Marian Seldes
Billy Crudup
Estelle Parsons
Kevin Kline
Mandy Patinkin
Frances Conroy
Patti Lupone
John Lithgow
S. Epatha Merkerson
Dianne Wiest
Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Meryl Streep
Kevin Spacey
Philip Seymour Hoffman
About the Interviewees

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Rosemarie Tichler spent a decade working closely with the city’s most gifted actors as artistic producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre. Barry Jay Kaplan is a playwright and novelist
Read the full excerpt


  • Rosemarie Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan; Foreword by Mike Nichols

  • Rosemarie Tichler spent a decade working closely with the city’s most gifted actors as artistic producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre.
    Barry Jay Kaplan is a playwright and novelist