Theater Books?

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.
Brad A._dup1
Posts: 224
Joined: July 16th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Location: Berkeley, CA

Theater Books?

Postby Brad A._dup1 » August 13th, 2001, 5:39 pm

I have suddenly become interesting in learning more about the "theater." Considering I've been doing mostly closeup and parlor types of shows I've yet to experience or learn about working with stage.

When I say "stage" I mean it in the general term. All types of theater. Set design, lighting, etc. Anybody out there read any books covering all these topics?

I did a search on Amazon... foung some books, not sure if they're for me though.

Former Vonnegut Character


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » August 13th, 2001, 8:29 pm

Three great books come to mind:

"Zen & The Art Of Stand-Up Comedy"
"Zen & The Art of Monologue" both by Jay Sankey

And... "Impro" by Keith Johnstone

-Ryan Pilling


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » August 13th, 2001, 9:58 pm

Most magicians are familiar with Henning Nelms' excellent book "Magic & Showmanship."
He also wrote a book on general theatre called "Play Production." (Barnes & Noble, 1958)

Another book to consider is "The Art of Play Production" by John Dolman, Jr. and Richard K. Knaub (Harper & Row, 1973)

These books cover the topics you mentioned.

Good Luck!

Brian Marks
Posts: 914
Joined: January 30th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Nyack, NY

Re: Theater Books?

Postby Brian Marks » August 14th, 2001, 2:28 am


There are better books on the subject of stand up comedy and specifically joke writing.

I like Jay Sankey but found his book on stand up comedy to be too general.

Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy by Greg Dean is the best book on the subject.

Improv cant be taught by book although the book you mention is a good book.

Both subjects are better learned by doing them then by classes or books

Posts: 217
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Hampshire

Re: Theater Books?

Postby sleightly » August 14th, 2001, 11:16 pm

I assume that your primary interest is in performing.

It can be of great value if you have at least rudimentary stagecraft knowledge, but most performers will never have any significant play time in a "legitimate" theatre.

Of special interest to all performers (not just magicians) is Constantin Stanislavski's trilogy on acting: An Actor Prepares, Building A Character, and Creating A Role. The first two are particularly good as they give you a perspective as to the process of "assuming the mantle" of a character and how an actor relates to his environment (from scenery to props to costumes to other actors). All written in a journal-like style of someone going through the process of discovery.

Reading these works also provides the reader with the vocabulary which they can expect when they make the plunge to actual acting in a class or production.

There is of course, no substitute for personal involvement or education, but a reflective performer willing to invest of himself (and able to avoid self-deception), could learn a great deal from these works.


User avatar
Tom Stone
Posts: 1245
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Re: Theater Books?

Postby Tom Stone » August 15th, 2001, 2:30 am

As Ryan Pilling mentioned above, Keith Johnstone's book "Impro" is a good book. But the sequal "Impro for Storytellers" is even more useful for magicians. Especially the chapter "Fastfood Stanislavsky".

Henning Nelms' book "Magic and Showmanship" is still good, even though it is a bit dated. The chapter "The Silent Script" (p.163) should be required reading.


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » August 18th, 2001, 12:17 pm

When I tell Keith about all this conversation of his work he is going to flip. And say, "Glad they're getting it." or "It's about time."

Just finishing up a workshop with him today in San Francisco, how timely guys.

Joe M. Turner
Posts: 418
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

Re: Theater Books?

Postby Joe M. Turner » August 19th, 2001, 7:43 am

Books I have found helpful in my acting ventures:

"A Practical Handbook for the Actor," Melissa Bruder
"The Art of Dramatic Writing," Lajos Egri
"Fundamentals of Play Directing," Alexander Dean
"On Performing" and "On Singing Onstage," David Craig

"Respect for Acting" by Uta Hagen is worth a mention.

Joe M. Turner


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » November 30th, 2001, 5:42 am

Check out
Joanie Spina's Website She has a great set of videos about magic and stage presentation.


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » November 30th, 2001, 5:58 pm

Brad - You will learn one hundred times more about all areas of theatre by taking part in a community theatre production - any play, any theatre group. Try out for a small role! If you get it, great - if not, volunteer for set building, costumes, lighting - and be prepared to work. If you're not cast, try to go to rehearsals anyway and observe. Devote yourself to the production and you will be rewarded with more knowldge and experience than you could gain from a bookshelf of books. Once you experience the transformation from page to stage you will understand the relationship the performers and audience share and feel the energy that passes between them. You'll be hooked! Plus, after you have had some experience, the books you do study will have greater relevance and you will have a much deeper understanding of what they are teaching you. It may seem like a lot of work, but the rewards are greater than the effort you expend! ;)


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » December 1st, 2001, 2:28 am

In the late sixties, my friend, our mentor and honorary member of our magic club in Wuppertal, V.J. ASTOR, wrote a series of articles about acting and directing for magicians. These articles were published in several magazines, first in “Magische Welt” in Germany, then in “Magigram” in England and also in France(sorry, I dont remember the name of the magazine). Some years later he published a revised and extended version as a book, which is now out of print for a long time and is much sought after by magic students. This is the reason why a young German dealer will produce a new edition very soon(second time sorry, if you dont speak German, but perhaps is there anybody out there, who will bring it out for the English speaking world). Viktor (Astor) is now 79 years old. He is from Hungary originally and has spent more than 40 years of his life as a pro. In January he was honored by the German Magic Circle. They gave him a kind of literary fellowship for his writings.
He is still an active member of our club, and helps young magicians to get on their way, as he did before with a lot of others (for example, Gerd Promper).
Greetings from Germany


Re: Theater Books?

Postby Guest » December 4th, 2001, 12:24 pm

If you really want to learn about theater and magic, you should give Bob Fitch a call. He is a very successful Broadway actor as well as a great magician. There have been articles about him in Genii and other magazines.

Also, Meisner's book on acting is excellent. It talks about being in the moment and reacting to what is happening in the moment. That is pretty useful for us as magicians. We have specific routines that we have practiced in front of a mirror, but when face-to-face with an audience we can be like a deer in the headlights - stiff and unnatural. Meisner teaches us how to be in the moment and deal with the audience that is right in front of us (or on the side or behind us).

You might also check out Livingston Taylor's book, Stage Performance.

These books have really been the most helpful introductions to theater that I have found.

Return to “Platform & Stage Magic”