The Acting Life

liz hamlet

As previously noted, I truly am a junkie for the printed word and I love combing used bookstores and library book sales for that elusive gem. I am currently knee deep in one of those great finds, a book entitled, “Letters from an Actor” by William Redfield. The letters were penned to a literary man named, Robert Mills, who was curious about the inner workings of the theatre. Mr. Redfield decided the time was right to set down his thoughts on the subject when he landed the role of Guildenstern in the 1964 Gielgud-Burton production of Hamlet. Redfield comes across as an intelligent, witty guy who was more than sufficiently equipped to relate his experiences as a working actor in the theatre. He shines the light on acting in a way that would probably make an actor say “spot-on” (his wish) and a non-actor such as myself to be amused (which I am). He relates everything from the audition process (with Gielgud no-less), rushed rehearsals, flaring temperaments, drinking (with Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Ophelia, and Liz), deciding just how much direction to take and how exactly they ‘get there’ by opening night. I’d recommend the book to anyone, whether you tread the boards for a living or not.

Photograph: Life Magazine/George Silk 1964

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