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The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, director and teacher has written a blunt, unsparingly honest guide to acting. In True and False David Mamet overturns conventional opinion and tells aspiring actors what they really need to know. He leaves no aspect of acting untouched: how to judge the role, approach the part, work with the playwright; the right way to undertake audi The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, director and teacher has written a blunt, unsparingly honest guide to acting. In True and False David Mamet overturns conventional opinion and tells aspiring actors what they really need to know. He leaves no aspect of acting untouched: how to judge the role, approach the part, work with the playwright; the right way to undertake auditions and the proper approach to agents and the business in general. True and False slaughters a wide range of sacred cows and yet offers an invaluable guide to the acting profession


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The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, director and teacher has written a blunt, unsparingly honest guide to acting. In True and False David Mamet overturns conventional opinion and tells aspiring actors what they really need to know. He leaves no aspect of acting untouched: how to judge the role, approach the part, work with the playwright; the right way to undertake audi The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, director and teacher has written a blunt, unsparingly honest guide to acting. In True and False David Mamet overturns conventional opinion and tells aspiring actors what they really need to know. He leaves no aspect of acting untouched: how to judge the role, approach the part, work with the playwright; the right way to undertake auditions and the proper approach to agents and the business in general. True and False slaughters a wide range of sacred cows and yet offers an invaluable guide to the acting profession

30 review for True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    This is the best book ever written about anything. Every sentence makes my brain have sex with itself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Taylewd

    Imagine an Enlightenment thinker, sitting on his drawing room chair sometime in the 18th century, wets his pants so hard at the idea of the mind-body dichotomy he enters a time loop directly into post-Stanislavski America, somehow becoming a playwright in the process. He would be David Mamet, and this would be his book on acting. I think this is a good book to read for actors as a cautionary tale on the poorer attempts at Method Acting. Specifically the part about "Playing for Time" is so useful. Imagine an Enlightenment thinker, sitting on his drawing room chair sometime in the 18th century, wets his pants so hard at the idea of the mind-body dichotomy he enters a time loop directly into post-Stanislavski America, somehow becoming a playwright in the process. He would be David Mamet, and this would be his book on acting. I think this is a good book to read for actors as a cautionary tale on the poorer attempts at Method Acting. Specifically the part about "Playing for Time" is so useful. In "Playing for Time" Mamet skewers the process of "I receive the other actor's line, and rather than responding to it I check in with my internal emotional life because dammit it's all about me, and then I deliver my line, having showed the audience the kind of human interaction that only ever occurs in shitty theatre productions" (paraphrased). Mamet also points out that the actress (now that I think of it this was sexist, why can't men do this too) who summons tears onstage for the sake of summoning tears is removing herself from the narrative of the play and from the almighty Text for which Mamet seems to think actors are mere vessels, going to his own extreme in the process. Playing for Time and emoting for the sake of emoting are the issues in this book I really responded to. The problem is Mamet doesn't *replace* his "don't do's" with anything. Yes there is a level of trust in the moment that needs to happen so actors don't spend so much time being internal, but the trust in the Text that Mamet is espousing is Absolute, and leaves no room for the actor to, well, act, and that's why the acting in Mamet's productions is so wooden. William H. Macy can pull it off because he is always riding a wave of in-the-moment thought that is so real and unselfish, but whenever I've watched a film of Mamet's I can't help but think the thought process of his actors is "Ok I can't do this, I can't feel this, just delivering the line, trusting the line, Ok here's my line" which is, in effect, exactly the overinternalizing claptrap Mamet warns against. A hyper-literal interpretation of Stanislavski is just as hard to watch as a hyper-literal interpretation of Mamet. Dear actors, have you ever had a director who you know is judging you and looking for incontrovertible evidence that you're being too cerebral so he or she can point it out to you with a grin that bespeaks Triumph? Did this director say you were being too Internal without qualifying how so and giving you another option, thus only making you more internal? Does this director still infuriate you when you think about him or her? I have a solution: Imagine said director as a third year student, reading this book unsupervised. Feel better? Ultimately I like the bubbles about acting Mamet bursts, but I think the way he bursts them are more a reflection of his own cynicism than they are something revolutionary and freeing for actors. Do read it, but exercise caution. It's a book with very good thoughts about acting by a person who does not understand actors.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Isabella Tugman - Audiobook Narrator

    MUST READ FOR ACTORS! Holy cow, what an incredible book. After studying acting my entire life, this is the first time I've read Mamet's philosophy on the subject. Cutting through all the bs of acting training and methods, he eloquently states the purpose of the actor. I collect quotes, and in almost every paragraph of this book, I found myself wanting to write down his words. Finally I gave up on writing, and just decided that this will just have to be a book that I read over and over again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    here, mamet offers his view and interpretation of what really good acting is, and it can be most effectively distilled as a quotation: "Invent nothing. Deny nothing." meaning that, if it's there in the text, don't hide it in any way, and don't go looking for any greater explanation or supposed-character-based topography than what is presented in the words you are given. on first reading the book, i dismissed it with the thought: "well, of course he'd say that about acting: he's a playwright!" it t here, mamet offers his view and interpretation of what really good acting is, and it can be most effectively distilled as a quotation: "Invent nothing. Deny nothing." meaning that, if it's there in the text, don't hide it in any way, and don't go looking for any greater explanation or supposed-character-based topography than what is presented in the words you are given. on first reading the book, i dismissed it with the thought: "well, of course he'd say that about acting: he's a playwright!" it took me a decade of continuous work in theatre to realize just how right mamet is about everything in here. if you need proof, simply look at the names we know from theatre history: Shakespeare, Sophocles, Moliere, Lope de Vega, etc. they were all PLAYWRIGHTS. though they were all actors and directors and whatnot in some respect, they were, and still are, playwrights first and foremost, and what we remember and what we have of them are their words. and what will live on, long after we, as actors, are dead and buried face down at a crossroads with stakes through our hearts, are their words. and if we do not, as actors, put those words first and above all other considerations of character and emotion and whatever-insane-bullshit the liberal-arts-institution-tenured-faculty acting instructors have invented to justify their next publish-or-perish tome, we are fools and deserve to be denied sanctified interment. because (lest we forget) the root cause of the whole actor-as-heretic treatment is the idea that actors take on other souls like possessed people. well, if you stand between your audience and the text they came to hear and decide that you are behooven to conjure some new shit up from some combination of aether and your own paltry imagination (seriously, anyone who thinks of themselves as more creative than Shakespeare, raise your hand... [didn't think so.]) then you deserve to be burned at the stake. theatre is / should be a holy endeavor. imagine if a rabbi, imam, or priest decided to load up god's word with a bunch of made-up-on-the-spot backstory crap about how Abraham (last figure on whom all three can agree) stayed his hand from laying waste to Isaac, not because of any familial bond or intrinsic sense of right and wrong, but because he had never learned the proper means of ceremonial slaughter because, as a child, he... blah blah blah... or he was not fit to perform the sacrifice, because at that moment he smelled feces because that morning, he... yadda yadda yadda... that ain't what the congregation came to hear. and if you don't think of your audience, in some way, as a congregation, you don't deserve them. this goes to a large part of mamet's message in this book, that often gets buried in academic theatre: you, as an actor, are out there for them. not vice versa.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This has some really good thoughts on acting and being an artist. If only Mamet weren't so narrow-minded! He believes that his ideas are right--and that everyone else is wrong. And while I do believe that, for the most part, less is more for acting, especially on film, at the same time, there have so many wonderful, completely believable performances with actors acting "big." If you look at Mamet's films, you also have to be very skeptical of his advice considering most of the acting in his own This has some really good thoughts on acting and being an artist. If only Mamet weren't so narrow-minded! He believes that his ideas are right--and that everyone else is wrong. And while I do believe that, for the most part, less is more for acting, especially on film, at the same time, there have so many wonderful, completely believable performances with actors acting "big." If you look at Mamet's films, you also have to be very skeptical of his advice considering most of the acting in his own films is very dull. I'm actually really surprised he never mentions Robert Bresson considering there is a filmmaker who invented and perfected the no-affectation acting technique, about 30-40 years before this book was published. Perhaps Bresson wasn't macho enough for Mr. Tough Guy Mamet. His idea, however, that good acting is a courageous battle with the unknown is, I think, sound. Any actor who is too comfortable acting is most likely not really engaging with the material and the circumstances at all. I remember thinking it was fascinating that Gene Hackman hated playing the part of Henry Caul in Coppola's "The Conversation", that the role made him feel terrible. Rather than expressing his feelings, Caul keeps them all bottled up inside, which is a familiar habit of many, many human beings yet not of many actors. The fact that he was uncomfortable in the role indicates that he really was living moment to moment in a very horrible situation. It's really not fun to play that kind of character if you're playing it right--but more often than not, that's the kind of character we want to watch. Mamet's articulation of acting as something which is oftentimes distinctly unpleasurable--an occupation of repeatedly diving into situations in which one has little to no control--is a good one and often forgotten by those who go into the profession for attention and love.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Bethea

    This is so far the worst book on acting I've read. It reads like the 'Old man yells at cloud' of acting theory. This book seems to exist just so Mamet can tell people that everything he did was right, and everything everyone else does is wrong. He is largely known as a playwright, and tells actors not to think about character or anything complicated, that the playwright is to do that. He also says that all acting teachers are frauds and not to trust them, that acting talent is ingrown and cannot This is so far the worst book on acting I've read. It reads like the 'Old man yells at cloud' of acting theory. This book seems to exist just so Mamet can tell people that everything he did was right, and everything everyone else does is wrong. He is largely known as a playwright, and tells actors not to think about character or anything complicated, that the playwright is to do that. He also says that all acting teachers are frauds and not to trust them, that acting talent is ingrown and cannot be taught. He seems to have caught on to the fact that acting is hard, but rather than dig deeper and try for an understanding of the process, has decided that throwing his hands up in the air and admitting defeat is somehow a conclusion to be told to others. He does however, give some general principles about acting - which sound very similar to the acting theory that I learned in one of my acting textbooks, from one of those fraudulent teachers. Large parts of the book sound contradictory to other parts, other parts sound like he has a vendetta against specific unnamed people and their ideas, but doesn't go into enough detail for the reader to understand. Add to that he tries to use a brusque, terse style that is not well suited to an instructional book, and it's hard to take away anything useful from this other than that he is a grumpy old man who is unable to write clearly. His complex jumbled style works well in plays because they hint at complex characters underneath while being evocative and memorable - but it is not suited to this kind of nonfiction where clarity is king. I don't really recommend anyone read this book, I think just about all of ideas inside worth reading can be found in other books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Bermea

    I pride myself on having friends who think differently than I do. Now, I exaggerate that. Most of my friends think differently than me up to a point but we basically agree on the fundamentals. However, generally I have friends who aren't afraid to disagree with me and who often even enjoy getting into a little donnybrook over art and ideas. Enter David Mamet. He is definitely that friend. He's a little more bothersome because he's very accomplished and respected so he tends to come at everything I pride myself on having friends who think differently than I do. Now, I exaggerate that. Most of my friends think differently than me up to a point but we basically agree on the fundamentals. However, generally I have friends who aren't afraid to disagree with me and who often even enjoy getting into a little donnybrook over art and ideas. Enter David Mamet. He is definitely that friend. He's a little more bothersome because he's very accomplished and respected so he tends to come at everything from a position of "I must be right because I'm more accomplished and respected" and that can be tiresome without a doubt. But he's smart, he's not a liar and he's passionate about his subject matter. He obviously cares. Because he is smart and accomplished and by this point, he's probably made a lot of money so there's no need for him to write this book except that he gives a damn. And it is that facet of his writing that is most prominent in True and False. His commitment to the state of the craft is palpable. None of that means you have to agree with him. I don't through at least half of the book. Maybe more. But when I don't I have to think very carefully about why I don't, and make sure that what I think instead is, in fact, a better idea or a better way of doing things. And then the inherent challenge is that I have to go out there and do it. That challenge alone is what makes this book not just excellent but necessary.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily Fortuna

    Mamet points out some perspectives that absolutely make sense for acting: things I agree with and some parts of the theatre world could probably benefit from being reminded of. HOWEVER, I also feel like he has willfully misinterpreted a lot of other approaches to acting (Stanislavsky, Meisner, etc), and he ridicules them for things that I don't think those acting philosophies were actually teaching. As I see it, when you get right down to it, Mamet and Meisner are after the same thing, and it fe Mamet points out some perspectives that absolutely make sense for acting: things I agree with and some parts of the theatre world could probably benefit from being reminded of. HOWEVER, I also feel like he has willfully misinterpreted a lot of other approaches to acting (Stanislavsky, Meisner, etc), and he ridicules them for things that I don't think those acting philosophies were actually teaching. As I see it, when you get right down to it, Mamet and Meisner are after the same thing, and it felt like Mamet was artificially distinguishing himself from other "methods". All in all, there are interesting nuggets, but it was so interspersed with other things that I felt were very misleading, and therefore not really worth the time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leta

    Spencer Tracy used to say that the actor's job was to "know your lines and don't bump into the furniture" which David Mamet has managed to turn into a (slim) book-length rant against Method acting and drama schools. On the up side, Mamet rants very well (consider what he does for a living) but on the down side his belief that the playwright did all the work (this is repeated several times) and his "my way and only my way" absolutism are somewhat off-putting. I am enjoying it though.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alyse

    Quite possibliy the best actor book I have ever read. Maybe I didn't pay enough attention in my BFA program, but I feel like I learned more reading this book that I did in my four years at school. I don't think the differences between what Mamet describes and Stanislovski's method are as big as Mamet would like them to be. They are both trying to get to the same end - honest performance - they are just going about it in different ways. But what really matters is - none of it matters. It is not ab Quite possibliy the best actor book I have ever read. Maybe I didn't pay enough attention in my BFA program, but I feel like I learned more reading this book that I did in my four years at school. I don't think the differences between what Mamet describes and Stanislovski's method are as big as Mamet would like them to be. They are both trying to get to the same end - honest performance - they are just going about it in different ways. But what really matters is - none of it matters. It is not about what the actor is going through. It is about what the audience gets out of it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    as an actor, i'm bothered - as a theatre historian - i'm amused

  12. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Soehnlein

    Mamet is nothing if not a provocateur, and you'll probably read this having an ongoing argument in your head with him. He attacks just about every sacred tenet of the way plays are produced -- the Method, actors who research their characters, actors who attempt to interpret their lines, most acting schools, auditions, rehearsals, etc. There are times when you read this and think, He's absolutely right! And other times when you'll wonder, Does he even like the theater? He does. He just doesn't li Mamet is nothing if not a provocateur, and you'll probably read this having an ongoing argument in your head with him. He attacks just about every sacred tenet of the way plays are produced -- the Method, actors who research their characters, actors who attempt to interpret their lines, most acting schools, auditions, rehearsals, etc. There are times when you read this and think, He's absolutely right! And other times when you'll wonder, Does he even like the theater? He does. He just doesn't like the way most of it is done. Mamet gave up on acting to become a playwright, and so you can see the roots of statements like these: "The purpose of the performance is to communicate the play to the audience." He sees actors as the vessels, subservient to the playwright, there to "perform actions" and little more. He wants actors "to say the words as simply as possible." If you've ever been frustrated by films Mamet has directed of his own scripts, like "House of Games" or "The Spanish Prisoner," where the acting style is so affectless that it seems distant, you may find yourself wondering if Mamet is doing himself as much harm as good with his strident proclamations. But you definitely won't be bored with this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Okay. Mamet. Now as a student of two acting schools, this book wasn't too far off from what I've learned. There were some new elements introduced to me, and a lot of what Mamet had to say I either understood his side or agreed. But. There's a LOT he says based on the fact that he's a great playwright and loves his own scripts. Mamet wants the actor to leave it totally up to the script. Well, I don't really agree with this. I agree that things should be simple. Pick an action, know your objective, an Okay. Mamet. Now as a student of two acting schools, this book wasn't too far off from what I've learned. There were some new elements introduced to me, and a lot of what Mamet had to say I either understood his side or agreed. But. There's a LOT he says based on the fact that he's a great playwright and loves his own scripts. Mamet wants the actor to leave it totally up to the script. Well, I don't really agree with this. I agree that things should be simple. Pick an action, know your objective, and go. But come on… I'm a big believer (oh, a word Mamet would cringe knowing I used) in script analysis. Honestly I don't think all of the work should be left to the writer and director. I think it's the actor's job as well to develop a character (Mamet cringed again). And c'mon, the fact he says there's no arc to a play or character? We as humans are affected by situations, and we change or develop who we are. This should be present in a play. I don't hate what Mamet has to say. I, like with every other "method" or "theory" behind acting, take what I think works out for me from his theories and leave the rest.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Damon

    A must-read for actors. Brilliant in too many ways to list. Picture Mamet walking alone through the Garden of Acting Wisdom. Now picture all the statues of False Gods which occupy the Garden. They stand perched on plyths, cast in ridiculous postures designed to inspire cheap awe rather than to reveal any truth about form. Finally? Picture Mamet swinging a massive fire axe. He knocks all the idols down. Cleaves them in half. Shatters them. Destroys them. If you end up disagreeing with everything A must-read for actors. Brilliant in too many ways to list. Picture Mamet walking alone through the Garden of Acting Wisdom. Now picture all the statues of False Gods which occupy the Garden. They stand perched on plyths, cast in ridiculous postures designed to inspire cheap awe rather than to reveal any truth about form. Finally? Picture Mamet swinging a massive fire axe. He knocks all the idols down. Cleaves them in half. Shatters them. Destroys them. If you end up disagreeing with everything in True or False, it's still worth your time to read it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Monteith

    An incredibly important and truly controversial book. I wholeheartedly agreed with a lot of the things he says (not always with how he got there) and sometimes emphatically disagreed. The book smacks of arrogance yet there is a feeling of desire just for good theatre running through everything. It took me 2 readings. The first time I picked it up a few years ago I threw it down in disgust. Today I'm applauding ( for the most part). An easy read that's definitely worth an actors time

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Calzaretta

    Shia Lebouf recommended this book in an interview, referring to it as the Bible for actors, so I figured I'd check it out. Though I am no actor, I was in a play once and found that many of the lessons learned in acting apply to most all pursuits of life, character development, and the arts. It sounds phony and calculated, but I do find social habits and character traits to be construct-able and mutable. If you are a boring, apathetic person, and aspire to be more energetic, interesting, and conf Shia Lebouf recommended this book in an interview, referring to it as the Bible for actors, so I figured I'd check it out. Though I am no actor, I was in a play once and found that many of the lessons learned in acting apply to most all pursuits of life, character development, and the arts. It sounds phony and calculated, but I do find social habits and character traits to be construct-able and mutable. If you are a boring, apathetic person, and aspire to be more energetic, interesting, and confident (maybe like Shia), these are traits that you can build and this book of acting advice can serve as a motivating and constructive force. Personally, I tried to boost my pronunciation and body language skills after the lessons I learned in my acting class. Mamet condemns traditional approaches and philosophies of acting, and instead promotes a more natural performance that relies on instinct and imagination instead of summoning energies and over-dramatifying the character (thinking of a dead puppy when your character is supposed to be sad). Some of the major themes include embracing discomfort, relying on instinct, only communicating/expressing that which minimally needs to be shared, and using imagination to generate interest and curiosity in the present moment. It is difficult to pick out a clear-cut methodology from Mamet, but I can understand how a more natural approach can drag the actor into the moment and enable a more organic and spontaneous performance. As I walk out of the room and sit on the couch with my roommates, I'm going to think "I wonder where this conversation will go?" instead of "I doubt this conversation is going to go anywhere new". This, I feel, takes my ego out of it and allows me to take interest and watch from a 3rd-person view how I'm going to behave in this interaction and how my energy is going to respond to that of those around me. It's going to be different every time, and if you think that is cool, then your interactions are going to be better and lead to new places. From an acting perspective, Mamet says you shouldn't hop on the stage with a checklist of lines, artificial emotions, and actions and then call it a job well done; but instead you should have a general idea and a maximal interest in what may naturally come out of you in each unique performance.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nick K

    I'll be honest, I've never understood how to do sense memory while still being present in the moment. It always seemed so unnecessary. I also have trouble with a lot of the acting exercises that I've had to do (like closing your eyes and holding your favorite childhood item in your hand). I didn't understand how the applied to the story being told. It all seemed a little vain. And it's refreshing to see someone else put down in words how I feel. I didn't agree with everything he wrote. I like ch I'll be honest, I've never understood how to do sense memory while still being present in the moment. It always seemed so unnecessary. I also have trouble with a lot of the acting exercises that I've had to do (like closing your eyes and holding your favorite childhood item in your hand). I didn't understand how the applied to the story being told. It all seemed a little vain. And it's refreshing to see someone else put down in words how I feel. I didn't agree with everything he wrote. I like character development. I think if it's done appropriately while helping move the action along, it's not a problem. I feel like Mamet was basically saying to get out of your heads, stop thinking too much and speak and see what comes of it. Which resonates with me deeply. I tend to be more visceral than cerebral. I "feel" my way through scenes instead of thinking through them. Something I strongly disagree with is the Funny Voice he talked about where he says the actor should just speak clearly and not with emotion. I believe words are extremely powerful. One can paint a picture in the mind with words and how they deliver them: inflection, density, velocity, electric, cadence, pitch and tone. However, I do agree that an actor must not bog down the play with too much introspection and unwarranted emotion. It's selfish and boring. Let the audience interpret the play. All you have to do is deliver it honestly and clearly. I also had a problem with his writing style. It seemed a bit unnecessary and his vocabulary a bit masturbatory. But it's Mamet.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brian Blickenstaff

    I'm not an actor. I came to this book after Shia LaBeouf shouted it out on an episode of Hot Ones and bought it because Mamet wrote Glengarry Glen Ross (amazing) and I was curious. Anyway, I'm happy to report that you don't have to be an actor to get a whole lot from this little book. It's basically a series of love letters to artists with a couple rants about critics and silver spoon-types thrown in. Mamet's mantra is that good art is about performing for the audience and showing the audience r I'm not an actor. I came to this book after Shia LaBeouf shouted it out on an episode of Hot Ones and bought it because Mamet wrote Glengarry Glen Ross (amazing) and I was curious. Anyway, I'm happy to report that you don't have to be an actor to get a whole lot from this little book. It's basically a series of love letters to artists with a couple rants about critics and silver spoon-types thrown in. Mamet's mantra is that good art is about performing for the audience and showing the audience respect. It's NOT about your own ego. And it contains a lot of wisdom for how to get beyond your ego, self doubt, desire for acceptance, etc. and basically just keep your head straight. Here he is, eg., on why you shouldn't worry about talent: "Pursuit of [the disciplines that better your own craft] will make you strong and give you self-respect—you will have worked for them and no one can take that from you. Pleasure in your 'talent' can (and will) be taken from you by the merest inattention of the person on whom you have deigned to exercise it."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    An incredible read, absolute must for any performer. Or human, really.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    Again, Mamet discounts the value of any and all academic approaches to theater and theater making. Again it's refreshing to hear an irreverent and informed voice proclaim, without reservation or apology, that the best way to learn how to act is by doing, without books, classes, teachers; in short, by finding a way to be on stage, and working to truthfully communicate plays to audiences. Though I disagree with some of the writing, and I remain undecided about much of it, I continue to be inspired Again, Mamet discounts the value of any and all academic approaches to theater and theater making. Again it's refreshing to hear an irreverent and informed voice proclaim, without reservation or apology, that the best way to learn how to act is by doing, without books, classes, teachers; in short, by finding a way to be on stage, and working to truthfully communicate plays to audiences. Though I disagree with some of the writing, and I remain undecided about much of it, I continue to be inspired by his perspective.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Raul

    “It is not childish to live with uncertainty, to devote oneself to a craft rather than a career, to an idea rather than an institution. It’s courageous and requires a courage of the order that the institutionally co-opted are ill equipped to perceive. They are so unequipped to perceive it that they can only call it childish, and so excuse their exploitation of you.” “The audience will teach you how to act and the audience will teach you how to write and to direct. The classroom will teach you ho “It is not childish to live with uncertainty, to devote oneself to a craft rather than a career, to an idea rather than an institution. It’s courageous and requires a courage of the order that the institutionally co-opted are ill equipped to perceive. They are so unequipped to perceive it that they can only call it childish, and so excuse their exploitation of you.” “The audience will teach you how to act and the audience will teach you how to write and to direct. The classroom will teach you how to obey, and obedience in the theatre will get you nowhere. It’s a soothing falsity. Like the belief of the eternally ill in medicine, the belief of the legitimately frightened in the educational process is a comforting lie.” "Like sports, the study of acting consists in the main of getting out of one's way, and in learning to deal with uncertainty and being comfortable being uncomfortable." "The truth of the moment is another name for what is actually happening between two people onstage. That interchange is always unplanned, is always taking place, is always fascinating, and it is to the end of concealing that interchange that most acting training is directed." "Art is an expression of joy and awe. It is not an attempt to share one's virtues and accomplishments with an audience, but an act of selfless spirit. Our effect is not for us to know. It is not in our control. Only our intention is under our control. As we strive to make our intentions pure, devoid of the desire to manipulate, and clear, directed to a concrete, easily stated end, our performances become pure and clear." "We are of course trained in our culture to hold our tongue and control our emotions and to behave in a reasonable manner. So, to act one has to unlearn these habits, to train oneself to speak out, to respond quickly, to act forcefully, irrespective of what one feels and in so doing to create the habit, not of "understanding." not of "attributing," the moment, but of giving up control and, in so doing, giving oneself up to the play." "In life there is no emotional preparation for loss, grief, surprise, betrayal, discovery; and there is none on stage either." "Any worthwhile goal is difficult to accomplish. To say of it “I’ll try” is to excuse oneself in advance." “Those with “something to fall back on” invariably fall back on it. They intended to all along. That is why they provided themselves with it.” "'I would have been alright if they'd just sat me down on day one and explained the rules.' Well, so would we all. But who are "they"? And what are the rules? There is no "they" and there are no rules." "The folks you meet in supposed positions of authority – critics, teachers, casting directors – will, in the main, be your intellectual and moral inferiors. They will lack your imagination, which is why they became bureaucrats rather than artists; and they will lack your fortitude, having elected institutional support over a life of self-reliance. They spend their lives learning lessons very different from the ones you learn, and many or most of them will envy you and this envy will express itself as contempt. It’s a cheap trick of unhappy people, and if you understand it for what it is, you need not adopt or be overly saddened by their view of you. It is the view of the folks on the verandah talking about the lazy slaves.” "Keep your wits about you. It is not necessary to barter your talent, your self-esteem, and your youth for the chance of pleasing your inferiors. It is more frightening, but it is not less productive to go your own way, to form your own theatre company, to write and stage your own plays, to make your own films. You have an enormously greater chance of eventually presenting yourself to, and eventually appealing to, an audience by striking out on your own, by making your own plays and films, than by submitting to the industrial model of the school and studio." "Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you've got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you're learning to say it better." "Beliefs are unreasoning. In life, our beliefs are so primordial, so basic, we don't even know what they are. Let us leave belief alone. Let us deal with something that is susceptible to reason. Let us learn acceptance. This is one of the greatest tools an actor can have. The capacity to accept: to wish things to happen as they do. It is the root of all happiness in life, and it is the root of wisdom for an actor. Acceptance. Because the capacity to accept derives from the will and the will is the source of character." "To deny nothing, invent nothing—accept everything, and get on with it." "Any system built on belief functions through the operations of guilt and hypocrisy. Such a system, whether of acting training, meditation, self-improvement, etc., functions as a pseudo-religion, and is predicated on the individual's knowledge of his or her worthlessness. The system holds itself out as the alleviator, cleanser, and redeemer of the guilty individual." "Art does not flourish in subsidy, and it does not flourish in the studio—it is more frightening, more sordid, funnier and truer than the certainties of the instructor. It is the stuff of the soul. It is the counterbalance to the reasonable view of the world; and, so, it is likely to be despised. To cherish, rather than despise it—that's the job of the artist."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This book gets five stars because I hate the book so much that I love it. I think everybody interested in acting or theater/film as a perfession or even as hobby should read this book. I understand that the above statement is nothing short of confusing so in hopes to clarify I will put here a review on the book by Alec Baldwin to which I agree with every word, "I agree with almost nothing Mr. Mamet says in this book and encourage you to devour every word. Mamet is a genius."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marc Hampson

    I picked this book up on recommendation as a Director and found it incredibly insightful and thought provoking. There are some ideas he briefly discusses in "On Directing Film" on full display here, but this is a much deeper dive into the actor's practice and the culture of life as an artist. In true Mamet form, there is a whole lot of blunt speak, letting you know what' what and who's full of it - but there's also a lot of encouragement and I find the book to be quite inspirational.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Luana

    Mamet sweeps you up in his ideas on performance and life in general in this compelling, to-the-point quasi-handbook to stage acting. While captivatingly written, his ideas at times seem to be based on the fact that you'd rather not contradict The Great Mamet as it's easy to poke holes in at least a few on a first readthrough.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Necessary reading for any actor.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Well, that explain's Mamet's directorial work. I like a few of the things said, but I don't trust him as a source of acting wisdom.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This book was so contradictory. he thought he was being unique but he was saying the method was wrong, and then told us what to actually do and IT WAS THE METHOD

  28. 5 out of 5

    Phoenix

    Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage Mrs. Worthington.... A delicious rant against method acting and theater schools, but that's about it. Mamet takes a Director's view that the role of the actor is to be in the moment and deliver the lines the playwright has provided, reacting to the other characters rather than an irrelevant hidden back story. Acting is simply make believe, the audience cannot read your mind and will fill in their own interpretations. Over-analyzing is false because the portra Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage Mrs. Worthington.... A delicious rant against method acting and theater schools, but that's about it. Mamet takes a Director's view that the role of the actor is to be in the moment and deliver the lines the playwright has provided, reacting to the other characters rather than an irrelevant hidden back story. Acting is simply make believe, the audience cannot read your mind and will fill in their own interpretations. Over-analyzing is false because the portrayal must evolve as the play unfolds. A focus on internal emotions is a conceit that "takes one out of the play" and bores the audience. I love Mamet's words, but I disagree with some of his conclusions. Acting is a craft and there are techniques and insights that can be picked up. Classroom acting exercises gives one an opportunity to practice, observe, experiment and learn. Background knowledge has its value - knowing a realistic context of a play will lead to truer behaviours. However I agree that the actor does not ala Brando or Peter Sellars have to subsume his or her personality and BE the character. Mamet's distinction is that the performer shouldn't need to actually experience the implied emotions and memory internally in order to tell the story. Be yourself, invent nothing - that is the essence of believability. Don't force yourself to concentrate as this is always uninteresting - be genuine and look outward to what is happening on the stage. Perpetual schooling is for amateurs and diletants. What is important, says Mamet, is to act. In front of an audience. It's a too short but honest book, not overly profound. If you are or intend to act or be in the theatre or are just interested in the process of being an actor it's worth reading for insight and inspiration but moderate this with the same approach one should give to any theory of everything. Recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Greg Talbot

    Razor edge writing from Mamet, with all the wiry explosive dialogue "Glengarry Glenn Ross" or "American Buffalo" but in a text on ways to approach acting. Mamet is unequivocial - there is no method, no character, no plot, no narrative, no emotional manipulation, no talent, no putting on, no inner strife to show the audience, no transcendence and possibly no money. It's just the lines, doing, behavior. In many ways, it reminds me of some of the behaviorism I studied in my psycholology work. All ab Razor edge writing from Mamet, with all the wiry explosive dialogue "Glengarry Glenn Ross" or "American Buffalo" but in a text on ways to approach acting. Mamet is unequivocial - there is no method, no character, no plot, no narrative, no emotional manipulation, no talent, no putting on, no inner strife to show the audience, no transcendence and possibly no money. It's just the lines, doing, behavior. In many ways, it reminds me of some of the behaviorism I studied in my psycholology work. All about reward systems, measuring effective changes based on observations. It's simple, but simple is never easy. The book is provacative but full of conviction as well. Many of the observations about doing are really about priming the actor to enter that ring - so that when she is on that live-wire, vulnerable, in a space shared with an audience, there's nothing to hide - only the opportunity to share the truth, the plot as written by the playwright. Some have quiveled about Mamet's distain for so many acting institutions or his bellicose writing style...i didn't find it off-putting, i found it to be a very consistent truthful perspective. "Technique" is the occupation of a second-rate mind. Act as you would in your fantasy. Give yourself a simple goal onstage, and go and accomplish it bravely" (p.120). Having spent some time working on Glengarry Glen Ross, I became enamored with Mamet's writing. Because it eschewed lofty dialogue and ideas, but supported a robust range of emotions and actions for the actors to take on. Speaking truthfully, being authentic, not adding to the text...this is the toward great acting..read the book and get inspired.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angel Nava

    my interest in becoming an actor was recently sparked by an interview with shia lebouf wherein he mentions this book, and - after reading it - i am looking forward to finding a local theater as soon as covid subsides. in true and false: heresy and common sense for the actor david mamet brilliantly and irreverently elucidates the essence of theater and good acting. true and false was a blast to read and the wisdom contained within is broadly applicable to the larger "stage" of life. mamet's work my interest in becoming an actor was recently sparked by an interview with shia lebouf wherein he mentions this book, and - after reading it - i am looking forward to finding a local theater as soon as covid subsides. in true and false: heresy and common sense for the actor david mamet brilliantly and irreverently elucidates the essence of theater and good acting. true and false was a blast to read and the wisdom contained within is broadly applicable to the larger "stage" of life. mamet's work and training in the theater has allowed him to distill and unpack what makes good "acting" - in the sense of truthful, conscientious and intentional action. his writing style is blunt, witty and incredibly practical. as a fellow idealist and iconoclast, i found mamet's critiques of the institutions (acting schools) created around his craft eerily similar to my dissatisfaction with academia. as any good educator knows, there is no shortcut nor cheat code to succeeding at something. there is only hard work and getting out of your own way. in true and false david mamet facilitates the latter for us by mapping out the landscape of theater and boldly disabusing us of many false notions. "what is true, what is false, what is, finally important? it is not a sign of ignorance not to know the answers. but there is great merit in facing the questions."

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