There is no such thing as a great ‘dumb’ actor. The most famous “dumb blonde”, Ms. Marilyn Monroe, was always seen with a book in hand. And not just any book, but one of the Russians (Tolstoy, Dostoyevskey)! A good actor knows a little bit about a lot of things. In this day of reality TV, with instant celebrities that come and go like toilet paper, a great way to insure longevity is to be well-rounded and intelligent.
Why is reading so important for actors? Words, and how they are conveyed, are the vehicles of our expression. They are our paintbrushes, our violins. Words are the symbols that we use to convey images, stories and feelings (even though what we are conveying is the white part of the page). If you want to be able to do better at your readings…READ!
Once you understand how writers tell stories, you’re better able to discern the author’s intent with greater speed and accuracy.
The imaginary leap that we make between our day-to-day physical world reality and the given circumstances of the script become easier to maneuver when you are already doing it daily every time you pick up a book.
While google may be the greatest gift to actors in their ability to understand and research a role – I’m not writing about the mental benefits of reading. I’m alluding to the way that reading expands your imagination and library of images and senses.
When you read a wonderful novel, you are swept up in the sensory milieu of the character. To understand a day in the pre(and post)-Civil War South – read “Gone with the Wind” . To fully undersand the psyche and thoughts of a murderer read “Crime and Punishment”.
We are in the business of understanding and presenting humanity. The more that you read, the more you see the common thread that runs through all of us. Though people from the past may look different in pictures and paintings, they were just like us. Perhaps they dressed differently and had different ideas of hygiene, but they had more in common than we might want to admit.
Plus, if you read for just a few minutes before going to bed (rather than watching TV), you just may find that your dreams more vivid as your imagination has already been accessed.