Reviewed by Julian Howland
“It’s not show business. It’s human business.” — Michael Laskin
If you are a builder, you need a saw. If you are a plumber, you need a wrench. Actors require their own set of tools. The Authentic Actor: The Art and Business of Being Yourself, by Michael Laskin, helps actors find the tools they need for success. In the book, Mr. Laskin teaches working actors essential tips to success in their field, including: crying on cue, preparing for an audition, building self-confidence, dealing with rejection, and having faith in yourself.
No, I’m not an actor, and I don’t play one on TV. But The Authentic Actor, by Michael Laskin, is more than simply a guide for actors. This book is a guide for life. From the opening pages, The Authentic Actor is captivating. Mr. Laskin states: “There are many ways to live a creative life.” And then he proceeds to offer informative, engaging methods for becoming the best actor (and person) that you can be.
I know very little about acting, but I am an avid ballroom dancer, and I am always looking for ways to be more confident. A large portion of the book is devoted to finding out who you are on the inside. Mr. Laskin explains, “To show yourself, you have to know yourself.” And while this is true with actors, the concept also applies to any type of performance art. If you are going to stand up in front of a large group of people, you need to be confident with yourself. Mr. Laskin provides interesting ways to boost confidence levels.
The book also lists useful information for making first impressions. Mr. Laskin explains, “When we meet someone new for the first time, we usually have a few instant impressions…We read these unconsciously from body language, dress, facial expressions, tone of voice, and many other signs.” If you come into a reading confident and well-presented, people will be much more impressed than if you come in with your shoulders slumped and biting your nails. This concept can be applied to other performance arts. In dance, it is important to appear confident at all times. Even when you accidentally step on your partner’s feet, you can’t hang your head in embarrassment. Dancers must stand erect and smile. The advice can also assist people in more traditional situations. The other day, I went into a store to apply for a job. I thought about what Mr. Laskin had written, so I dressed professionally and entered the room smiling. I did my best to project a calm, dependable appearance.
“How great is your appetite for fear, for uncertainty? Becoming fearless is part of taking life on in general, and it is an integral part of a career as an actor and artist.” Learning to face one’s fears is an intense life lesson. This passage, from the section on risks and rewards, is obviously important for actors. However, Mr. Laskin’s advice can help anyone strive toward their goals, whatever they might be.
After an audition, Mr. Laskin says the best thing to do is, “Let it go. You did your best, and either you get the job or you don’t. It often has nothing to do with you, or how you might have auditioned. We can’t know all of the forces at play.” This is an important concept to embrace. You can spend your time after an audition or job interview replaying the event, but that won’t help you land the role or win the job. Moving forward—whatever the outcome—is the goal.
Broken into short, one- to two-page segments, The Authentic Actor is in the perfect format to read in small bites. If you find yourself with a free moment between classes (acting or otherwise) or on the bus to work, this is the book to pick up. You’ll find yourself wanting to share the information you’re reading with those around you. (Maybe you’ll even be able to put some of Mr. Laskin’s lessons into play!)
Whether you’re an actor, a performer, a stand-up comedian, or a human (and you probably fit into at least one of those categories), The Authentic Actor will earn its place on your shelf and in your life!
The Authentic Actor (Michael Wiese Productions, 2015, 200 pages)
The book is available at Amazon here.