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4.4 out of 5 stars25
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on 6 March 1999
Mamet's spare, angry demolition of the nonsense spoken about "great" acting is like pure oxygen to those of us who have harboured - but dared not express - nagging doubts about The Method, Stanislavsky, and a million other shibboleths masquerading as theatrical "wisdom".
His book is brief, practical, important, brave. It's a book to be wrestled with, argued over, acted on.
Actors - read it. Directors, agents, casting directors, staple it to your eyeballs.
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on 17 September 2005
"You readers are of a generation that would like to stay in school...You will encounter in your travels folks of your own age who chose the institutional path, who became the arts administrators rather than the writers. These folks chose to serve an institutional authority in exchange for a paycheck, and these folks are going to be with you for the rest of your life, and you actors and writers and people who come up off the street, who live without certainty day to day and year to year are going to have to bear with being called children by these institutional types...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 requres 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.
"...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 psuedo-religion, and is predicated on the individual's knowledge of his or her own worthlessness. The system holds itself out as the alleviator, cleanser, and redeemer of the guilty individual."
"...The Stanislavsky 'Method,' and the techniques of the schools derived from it, is nonsense. It is not a technique out of the practice of which one develops a skill--it is a cult.
"Concetration cannot be forced. It is a survival mechanism and an adaptive mechanism, and it will not stand down and stop making its own connections simply because we'd like it to. Acting, finally, has nothing whatever to do with the ability to concentrate. The ability to concentrate flows naturally from the ability to do something interetsing. Choose something interesting, legitimately intesreting to do, and concentration is not a problem. Choose something less interesting and concetration is impossible.
"...If you decide to become an actor, stick to your decision. 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."
David Mamet
Excerpts from
Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
This book was written for actors.
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on 30 December 2012
I've worked professionally as an actor for years but have only recently got round to reading this book - I wish someone had handed it to me sooner. It's a really insightful view into the practicalities of living and working as an actor and it strips back so many of those frustrating and pretentious ideas that are so often bandied around the theatre world. Down to earth and refreshing. If you perform, write or direct please read this.
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on 5 August 1999
In this slim volume, Mamet lays waste to the oppressive quasi-religious method nonsence that confuses and ruins so many actors. He describes the Business as it is - a chaotic free-for-all where not only the lucky but also the brave succeed. READ IT - sack your agent, sell your house and put on a play....
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on 31 May 2011
Mamet here provides a exceptionally well written provocative view on the nature of acting. He spends a large portion of the book dismissing the method school of acting and destroys many concepts and techniques commonly used in theater. However, he spends very little time on how actors should actually act, which is rather unsatisfying.
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on 9 June 2016
Like many acting teachers, David Mamet spends more than half his time talking about how terrible all other acting teachers are, and how all other methods are a complete waste of time.

Then after about half the book he starts to give some not very well explained tips (which anyway I think come from Meisner,) such as, keep your attention outside of yourself, do the scene ‘as if’ it were something important and personal to you, etc etc.

He admits he wanted to be an actor but wasn't very good. (Would you give advice to violin players if you were never very good?)

The book is well written (hence two stars), but the content is disappointing.

Hopefully elsewhere he writes about writing, since that is what he is good at.
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on 6 February 2014
Actors need this book because it does two things very well. First thing is it challenges the ideas you may have been taught while training and encourages you to think for yourself, rather than using the ideas of a particular practitioner or institution as a crutch. Secondly, it puts into words some of the feelings you may have had but didn't know how to describe. Heresy and Common Sense. If you've ever spouted garbage about the merits of one practitioner over another this book will also make you realize that you were talking like a douchebag ... and any book that lessens the number of douchebag actors in the world deserves special mention.
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on 8 April 2012
probably the best book on acting/training/auditioning i have ever read. really encouraging, iinformative, inspirational and motivational. Buy it. read it. love i. i promise you!
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on 15 October 2014
Fascinating, provocative, a good read and excellent on critique of the 'business' - but also creates a totally distorted and inaccurate view of what he calls the Stanislavski method, when what he is apparently attacking is the Srasberg Method in its worst manifestations: very ironic when Mamet praises the use of objectives and actions, which were a central technique of Stanislavski's. Confused and confusing, and his concept of ditching 'situation,' and almost arbitrary selection of actions is glib and superficial and unless taken with a huge ironic pinch of salt, dangerous for the actor.
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on 29 June 2008
A must read for all actors serious about their job. In it to act NOT prance about being a lovey! I agree with the other reviews it is positively a religious experience and completely changed the way I act. I went to my next TV job with a positive new outlook and far more confidence. Read it and see what this business is really all about!
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