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Drama: An Actor's Education

Drama: An Actor's Education

Written by John Lithgow

Narrated by John Lithgow


Drama: An Actor's Education

Written by John Lithgow

Narrated by John Lithgow

ratings:
4.5/5 (24 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 27, 2011
ISBN:
9780062099723
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

"A memoir as finely crafted as one of Lithgow's performances."
-Steve Martin

Emmy Award-winner John Lithgow presents a charming, witty, and revealing memoir about his family, his work, and his life in Drama-an intimate story of insights and inspirational reflections from one of America's most beloved actors. Lithgow pays tribute to his father, his greatest influence, and relives his collaborations with renowned performers and directors including Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse, Liv Ullmann, Meryl Streep, and Brian De Palma. A compelling reflection on the trials, triumphs, and changes across his long career, Lithgow's Drama illuminates the inner life of a celebrated talent, and points the way forward for anyone aspiring to greatness in their own life.

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 27, 2011
ISBN:
9780062099723
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

John Lithgow is an award-winning actor who has starred on stage, film, and television. A New York Times bestselling author of eight books for children, he lives in New York and Los Angeles.


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What people think about Drama

4.3
24 ratings / 18 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    From Lilac Wolf and StuffFor such a mundane and simple cover, I was dazzled at the direction the book and Lithgow's life took. He moved around a lot because of his father, who had this dream of starting the next great Shakespeare festival. So for all the goofy roles you've seen Lithgow in, he's been acting in Shakespeare plays since he was a child. John writes of the excitement of acting as a child, but his real dream was to be an artist. His parents were so supportive, they even sent him to an art class for teenagers in New York when the high school's class was too rigid.But he continued to act, for his father and in high school. If you've ever seen Buckaroo Bonzai, you will remember Dr. Emelio Lizardo. He says that not only was this his favorite role, but he played it based on Dr. Pinch whom he played way back in high school.While doing the art and acting, he was also a model and active student. Graduating with honors, he attended Harvard on a full scholarship. He had planned on pursuing art, and his father took him to see a respected artist and the guy's question to Lithgow was "If you want to be an artist, why the Hell are you going to Harvard?" It opened Lithgow's eyes, it really didn't have a program that would take him where he thought he wanted to go. When he got there he fell in love with the Drama area. There wasn't an actual program, but there was a theater and students working in it. He majored in English and went to town with the other Drama students.He married before he finished college and went to London on a Fulbright scholarship to study acting. It had been decided, he would be an actor. His wife was a special education teacher, 6 years his senior. She went where he went, working to support them and occasionally acting with him. He worked for his father first but then moved on to pursue more challenges. He really had a slow start, but by the 70s he was a Broadway actor, in fact he was in 12 plays through the 70s. He's done some movie work, and some TV but he absolutely adores the theater.I had no idea I would enjoy this book so much. He didn't have a terrible childhood, his parents loved him. The only trauma that shaped him was the constant moving around. But it certainly helped his acting career - he knows how to fit in. He didn't spiral out of control on a drugged-out bender. The worst period for him was in his 30s when adolescence finally hit. He was an ass, and he admits he was an ass. I finished this book with a lot of respect for the man, even though some of his actions I didn't like or agree with.I also learned that I really enjoy a well-written autobiography.
  • (4/5)
    Narrated by the one and only John Lithgow! I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Lithgow describe his early days in acting, the itinerant childhood and productions his father headed that formed the base of his education in drama, through his struggling New York days and his eventual stage success in the '70s. After finishing this, the rule still holds true: stage actors make the best book readers!
  • (5/5)
    I have been a fan of John Lithgow for awhile now. His sense of humor, timing, and talent exudes from every work of acting he has performed and this autobiography is further proof that his talents extend into writing as well. Raised and schooled in northeast Ohio myself, the name Lithgow comes up often in the summer especially with the Great Lakes Theatre Festival; little did I know that it was John's father who founded it.

    This autobiography is a wonderful tale of how childhood, education, experience, and dreams can form a person and create the basis of the rest of their lives. Though Lithgow's childhood was spent moving around to accommodate his father's jobs, he learned the art of acting, love of literature, how to manage an audience, and how to use life's lessons in what you do. His love for his parents and family is evident with every story, his sense of humor and timing create moments of laughter, and his honesty provides hope. He does not shy from his mistakes but rather exposes them in such a manner that his readers don't judge him on, but rather can empathize with. This book was a joy to read and I could not put it down. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a companion CD in which Lithgow read it to me; however, the entire I was reading it I had his unique voice in my head encouraging me to the next page.
  • (3/5)
    I read Drama: An Actor's Education on Christmas Day. I was disappointed. Three quarters of the book was about his life up until about 25 years of age. I was expecting/hoping for more of his later life, ie, the last thirty years and more of his personal life rather than just his acting career. There was a good bit about his adulterous affairs but no where near enough to offer titillation.
  • (5/5)
    I absolutely love the way Lithgow writes and his ability to tell a story through acting (be it physical or just with his voice) is superb, so when I found out that my local library had his audiobook, I jumped at the chance to listen to it.This is a book about father and son, but it is also about overcoming hardships in life, something we can all identify with. I was surprised how honest he was about his life, and in such a gentle way that is just accepting what was and is now moving on from it. The book doesn't cover his time on screen the way it covers his time on stage, but he really doesn't need Hollywood to talk about his life in a compelling way. In fact, I think we would probably lose some of the coherency and emotion if we looked deeper into Lithgow's on screen career. Not that it wasn't worthy, just that this book was about his journey to becoming an actor, which happened on stage. But then, I'm a theater person so I'm probably biased.Lithgow doesn't just tell you his story or the story of his family, he also reflects on why acting, theater, and performing are important to society. As someone who enjoys the arts, I was as wrapped up in that thought process as I was in his family history. I don't believe you have to be interested in the arts in order to enjoy this audiobook, but I think your appreciation for it might just grow a little after listening. One of the things I became more aware of while I listened is that though I love the career I picked out for myself and (I feel I am fairly good at it, if I may say), there are still things out there that I am just as good at, if not better at, and I should keep my eye open for those and try them out if they become available to me. You never know when something that matches you perfectly will pop up and offer its hand.
  • (4/5)
    Drama is a memoir, focusing largely on Lithgow's life up to the age of 30. He talks about his childhood, his family, his education, and his early stage acting experiences. He talks about the thrill of making an audience laugh, the performance he put on to get out of being drafted, and his tempestuous affair with cast mate Liv Ullmann.As a child, Lithgow's family moved around a lot. His father, Arthur Lithgow, was a Shakespearean actor, director, and producer - putting together the Shakespeare festivals at which John absorbed his earliest impressions of an actor's life. Lithgow went on to attend Harvard and then to London to study acting on a Fulbright grant.Lithgow meets some amazing people along the way. One of his babysitters growing up was "a vibrant girl named Coretta" (pg. 20). - later known as Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also tells a story of working with an unknown young actress from Yale in a play called Trelawny of the "Wells" in the mid-1970s. The actress was "authentic... vibrant, animated, and radiantly beautiful" (pg. 275). Later, he ran into the young woman again while directing a comedy revival in Manhattan. She auditioned for a role in Tennessee Williams' one-act play Twenty-seven Wagons Full of Cotton - the basis for the later movie Baby Doll. Lithgow calls watching this audition "a little piece of theater history" (pg. 277). Why? "It was the last time Meryl Streep had to audition for anything" (pg. 278).In Drama, Lithgow talks a lot about the joys of acting, especially on stage and especially for an audience of children and adolescents: "The more I perform for children, the more I love it. They are a sensational audience for a stage performer and an exhilarating change of pace from adults. The goal of theater is a suspension of disbelief. With grown-ups, you never completely achieve it. Adults never entirely forget that they are watching actors pretend. You can certainly have an impact on them. You can surprise them, move them, shock them, and make them laugh. But you're not fooling them for a moment. Adults always sit in a theater with the smug, unwavering knowledge that they are watching a calculated piece of fiction. "Not so children. They barely know what a theater is. For them, there is little difference between artifice and reality. Irony means nothing to them. Their disbelief is in a constant state of suspension" (pg. 82). "I began to realize that kids - so spontaneous, restless, and impudent - were the ideal focus group for a piece of theater. If you are inauthentic, excessive, or boring onstage, and adult audience will rarely protest. Out there in the darkness, they will cough, shift in their seats, stare at their programs, roll their eyes, or nod off. The only way they register their displeasure is by merely applauding at the curtain call with slightly less enthusiasm (when did you last hear someone actually boo an actor?). But kids? When kids think something is dull, fake, corny, square, gauche, or inept, they'll let you know it. They'll riot. But if you can keep their attention and reach into their hearts, you know you've really achieved something" (pg. 187).If you're a fan of John Lithgow, Drama is a must-read. Even cursory fans, like myself, will enjoy it. Aspiring actors and theater buffs will also get a lot out of it. Lithgow's writing is clear and interesting. His experiences range from funny to tragic, and he tells each story with the appropriate tone. As Drama leaves off fairly early in Lithgow's career, perhaps we can expect a follow-up memoir at some point?
  • (4/5)
    John Lithgow's autobiography focuses mainly on his youth (including life with his father, who had an interesting but uneven career bringing Shakespeare to the public) and his stage work up through the 70s, rather than on the TV and movie career most people are more likely to know him from. But even though I'm one of those "most people," that was just fine by me. This is a warm, thoughtful, intelligently written memoir that offers up some real insight into what the life of an actor is like. It's interesting that one of the points that Lithgow repeatedly makes is that, despite the fact that he started acting literally before he could remember, it took him a ridiculously long time to realize it's what he wanted to do professionally, because his love of the profession, and his love of storytelling, come through very clearly here. And he writes without either egomania or cloying false modesty, instead displaying sincere pride in his accomplishments and rueful honestly about his flaws. It's a surprisingly good read.
  • (4/5)
    This was a great memoir by John Lithgow. I was surprised on many fronts by his story. First, I did not realize that his earlies aspirations were to become an artist. For some reason, I was also expecting this book to be lighter, but it was surpisingly serious and moving. John Lithgow shares his early life and career before he became a star. It is also a tribute to his father Arthur Lithgow who brought John into the theater before his earliest memories. This story shows all of the backstage struggles and the long road that it takes to become a successful actor. It shows to continue to pursue your dreams and to find something that you love. This was a moving, candid story by a wonderful actor. I did want a little more of the story at the end as I felt it ended somewhat abruptly. However, the story was focuses on John's education, not on his later successes. That may be a great follow up story to this book and I would sign up to read it. Reader received a complimentary copy from the Good Reads First Reads program.
  • (5/5)
    The Good Stuff Charming and honest Hilarious and self deprecating The bit about how he got out of Vietnam is very honest and you really can feel his shame about what he did - honest and powerful Loved how he talked about his Dad and his faults but never laid blame and owns up to his own mistakes Fascinating information about the theatre scene during the sixties and seventies Great background information on some now famous stars Never gossipy, tacky or lurid, although some real life actors are very thinly disguised (hmm Cliff Robertson) Impressed with his writing style, sort of like he is talking to you Loved how he talked about how lucky he was to have had the contacts and the luck he did. Comes right out that he got his breaks it due to nepotism - very frankly done There better be a second book because I am very interested in his stories about his tv and film career The Not so Good Stuff Hoping there is going to be a second memoir that explores his later life and career. Slightly disappointed that there is very little about his movie and TV career, as this is how I was introduced to his talent (his portrayal of Roberta in The World According to Garp is brilliant and on Dexter he creeped the s**t out of me he was so good) Some of it comes across as a little theatrical pretentious but he's up front about that and it is something that is prevalent in most actors, so not really a bad thing, just more of an FYI Favorite Quotes/Passages"All of this urgent artistic activity took place before I was ten. Years later, big sister Robin told me that she'd found it all insufferably pretentious. Looking back, I have to agree. But at the time, and for many years later, I was deadly serious.""Adults never entirely forget that they are watching actors pretend. You can certainly have an impact on them. You can surprise them, move them, shock them, and make them laugh. But you're not fooling them for a moment. Adults always sit in the theatre with the smug, unwavering knowledge that they are watching a calculated piece of fiction. Not so children.""Before he went to sleep, Dad thanked me for the story as if I had given him a treasured gift. But he'd given me a gift, too. It was the gift of a father's love.:Who should/shouldn't read Fabulous for fans of Lithgow and his stage work Theatre buffs will also enjoy Those who were looking forward to more tales of his TV and movie career, will be a wee bit disappointed4.25 Dewey'sI received this from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review- Thanks guys, now I am totally counting down the days to his signing -- hope not to gush too much when I meet him -- hmm wonder what cookies I am going to make for him
  • (3/5)
    Read by Lithgow on audible. A great listen. Striking and useful analysis of what in his life gave him the distance on life to make an actor. Quite an amazing family background. Highly recommend--especially the Lithgow voice telling his story.
  • (5/5)
    Drama is a fascinating look at what happens to a young man "raised" in the theatre. John Lithgow's father, Arthur, was a theatre manager, director, and actor. Almost all of John's early memories are of plays and learning Shakespeare before most kids have heard of the Bard.Drama is both a praise to a father who gave him such amazing opportunities to excel and the struggles to develop his own identity outside that early background. Through it all are the things that all people go through like lacking self confidence and wondering if you will ever succeed at your chosen profession. As a Harvard graduate, John Lithgow seems to have had it made, but the world of acting is never easy and he struggled the same as all other actors seem to do.I really enjoyed spending time with John and his family. A fascinating look behind the curtains to see what theatre and movies are really like.
  • (4/5)
    If I knew anything about acting or plays, I might give this 5 stars. Maybe I should anyway since I have no interest in either & yet really enjoyed this autobiography that is full of both.

    How did he do that?!!!

    Part of it was his voice. It's great for an audio book, but mostly Lithgow was amazingly honest - not brutally, though. There wasn't anything shocking or particularly horrible, just a pretty typical man who didn't always measure up to his own standards, but still managed to make a good, successful life for himself. I wondered if he'd had therapy since there were some great self-insights. He did mention some, but he didn't use this to excuse anything, just told it like he thought it was & why.

    How it was was pretty interesting. With a father who was in the theater, he went into it too, but went on to become quite a success. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was horrifyingly difficult to make a living as an actor. I had no idea there were so many theater groups tossed together the way he describes. His several meetings with Meryl Streep, a short segment toward the end, was very well done. I played it for my wife, too. Anyway, it was fantastic.

    Thanks for turning me on to it, Joy!
  • (4/5)
    Superb. Would highly recommend this as an audio book:as you can imagine, Lithgow's tone and delivery is exemplary and his unflinching honesty about his life is a joy to behold in a modern autobiography.
    The only thing I would have like more of is his time in Hollywood over the last 20 years as this is skimmed over in the last chapter. But if that meant editing out some of his earlier years and any of the wonderful anecdotes about his early years and his wonderful father, then it's a worthy sacrifice.
  • (2/5)
    You go into way too much detail about your childhood. I love bios & childhood. Yours needed serious editing. And surprised to find you talking about the size of your name in credits... and using French names to hide the real Actors. A sign of extreme narcissism. However, you are a great Actor & I will see any film just because you are in it. A tad bit of info about Acting ( some good tips- insecure in films, etc). But as an Actor & unpublished writer, found it tedious. You wrote this book for your family... Good for you. You are thee best Churchill!
  • (5/5)
    An inspiring tale, beautifully written, warm, honest, and deeply compelling.
  • (4/5)
    Let me start by saying I'm not into theater at all, I've fallen asleep at every play or musical I've ever been to, except Annie when I was around 10. BUT, my mom was a seamstress and she worked backstage at at least a couple plays doing hair, makeup, and costuming, once in a while I dragged along and I always found it pretty fascinating. I even played a mouse, with no lines in a play I can't remember.I like John Lithgow and I like biographies, so I decided to give it a try. Pretty interesting, and often touching, stuff. He's a surprisingly good writer, certain turns of phrase really wow'd me. The audio was great because he reads it, but then he mentioned some pictures that are in the regular book so now I want to find a copy to look through. What I thought was kind of strange was that he barely talked about "Third Rock From the Sun" at all and he never mentioned Shrek. I thought those would be a big part of it because it's what he's most well-known for, but I guess he wanted it to be a book about acting and directing and maybe there are other books about Third Rock.
  • (3/5)
    Good read - an interesting life - maybe a little to personal - few anecdotes but some good stories. He references his favorite story twice - I know he couldn't reprint it but he should have played and paraphrased it a bit
  • (3/5)
    Drama: An Actor's Education by John Lithgow

    ★ ★ ★

    In many memoirs I read, one of my gripes is how little detail there is. Many seem to just skim through their lives. The opposite can be said about John Lithgow. Within the first 300 pages of his 316 pages book, he discusses the first 30 years of his 66 year life. He almost goes into too much detail. Last last 16 pages of sort of a skim of his more “recent years” - those being from 1980-now. So while interesting, I became bored with every tiny step of his life. But I give him credit. He is honest. He doesn't skip over the bad and he isn't overly fond of the “look at me!” syndrome so many actors have. His love and adoration for his dad shines through from beginning to end.

    He delves mostly into his theatrical work here so if you are into theater or a huge Lithgow fan, this might be a good book to read. For me, personally, I found it somewhat boring at points. But he is a great writer and I do admire John Lithgow's work as an actor.