three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
56-Jan-Feb-2012
By: 
John Lithgow
user_rating: 
0

An Actor's Education

A-DramaIn Drama: An Actor's Education, instantly recognizable star John Lithgow offers a candid memoir and a primer for aspiring thespians.

The Topic: John Lithgow is best known for his distinctive delivery and his roles in Terms of Endearment, The World According to Garp, and the television sitcom Third Rock from the Sun. But his roots in acting--and his talents--run much deeper than his most popular work. In Drama: An Actor's Education, Lithgow recalls his modest start in show business, an ill-fated production of Shakespeare's Henry V with a company headed by his director-actor father. From there, Lithgow's circumstances improved. After being declared 4-F in the draft for Vietnam (based at least in part on the budding actor's convincing performance) and after graduating from Harvard, Lithgow established himself as an award-winning, versatile triple threat: acting in film and television and on the stage, and garnering Tonys, Emmys, and Oscar nominations for his efforts.
Harper. 336 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 9780061734977

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Lithgow's Drama: An Actor's Education lowers our guard with a candid and self-deprecating narrative. ... Lithgow radiates deep affection and gratitude for family, friends, career--for those experiences and people who combined to create him." Daniel Dyer

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Lithgow--from ‘fawn in the headlights' toddler actor in his father's theater program to children's entertainer and Broadway-Hollywood dual citizen--is relentlessly likable. Even as he describes his pathological eagerness to please and Zelig-like ability to fit in, he manifests it." Ada Calhoun

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"At its unflinching, self-deprecating, wry, sensitive and generous best, the book owes its charm to its openhearted tone. Occasionally, the writing sounds a little formulaic, like a commencement speech, and the author momentarily seems to age into the public man he must sometimes feel himself to be." Mindy Aloff

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Drama: An Actor's Education is his highly articulate account of his upbringing in the American theater, the story of a provincial impresario's son, who, nurtured backstage on Shakespeare and Shaw, eventually found a place for himself in the national spotlight acting in a less lofty but no less flamboyant vein. ... Drama, which proceeds for an extended time at a moseying clip, lacks the soul of drama--conflict." Charles McNulty

Critical Summary

It should be no surprise for anyone who has appreciated John Lithgow's acting that his memoir is--notwithstanding some of the creepier roles he's played over the years--much like what you'd imagine the man himself to be if you were sitting across from him in a bar: witty, generous, charming, and full of good stories and famous names. Although some of the advice that he offers to aspiring actors in Drama might come across as business as usual, Lithgow delivers his advice with honesty and contagious curiosity stories about acting and its place in life. The author speaks frankly (if occasionally hackneyed in tone) about his own personal and professional decisions--good and bad--that have allowed him to enjoy his success. "Acting at its best is all about deceiving people," the author reminds us. Fortunately, readers have an engaging and trustworthy guide in Lithgow.