An Actor's Education
By John Lithgow
Harper, Hardcover, 9780061734977, 336pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2011
In this riveting and surprising personal history, John Lithgow shares a backstage view of his own struggle, crisis, and discovery, revealing the early life and career that took place out of the public eye and before he became a nationally known star.
Above all, Lithgow's memoir is a tribute to his most important influence: his father, Arthur Lithgow, who, as an actor, director, producer, and great lover of Shakespeare, brought theater to John's boyhood. From bedtime stories to Arthur's illustrious productions, performance and storytelling were constant and cherished parts of family life. Drama tells of the Lithgows countless moves between Arthur's gigs John attended eight secondary schools before flourishing onstage at Harvard and details with poignancy and sharp recollection the moments that introduced a budding young actor to the undeniable power of theater.
Before Lithgow gained fame with the film The World According to Garp and the television show 3rd Rock from the Sun, his early years were full of scenes both hilarious and bittersweet. A shrewd acting performance saved him from duty in Vietnam. His involvement with a Broadway costar brought an end to his early first marriage. The theater worlds of New York and London come alive as Lithgow relives his collaborations with renowned performers and directors, including Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse, Liv Ullmann, and Meryl Streep. His ruminations on the nature of theater, film acting, and storytelling cut to the heart of why actors are driven to perform, and why people are driven to watch them do it.
Lithgow's memory is clear and his wit sharp, and much of the humor that runs throughout Drama comes at his own expense. But he also chronicles the harrowing moments of his past, reflecting with moving candor on friends made and lost, mistakes large and small, and the powerful love of a father who set him on the road to a life onstage.
Illuminating, funny, affecting, and thoroughly engrossing, Drama raises the curtain on the making of one of our most beloved actors.
“Drama is a cut above—touching, self-aware, and beautifully written.”
“Warm and generous. . . . Lithgow is relentlessly likable. . . . A brisk book, packed with funny stories. . . . A buoyant, heartwarming account of coming into one’s own.”
-The New York Times Book Review
“Anyone interested in an actor’s life—especially backstage—will find this book enlightening.”
“A memoir as finely crafted as one of Lithgow’s performances. Lithgow tells of transgressions, indiscretions, and a tabloid-worthy affair that my PR people could only have wished for. An exciting and revealing book, and what’s more, it’s about ACTING!”
“John Lithgow’s memoir is more than an insider’s view of his craft. The portrait of his father is as finely articulated as it is heartfelt, and the account of the young actor’s struggles with his too-young, too-early first marriage is both moving and candid. I loved this book.”
“This book has all the drama we’ve come to expect from John Lithgow, the alternately dark, tender, romantic, dangerous, deranged actor we find in Drama, which is also a family tale of the richest variety. A great read.”
“John Lithgow’s memoir is both unflinching and irresistible. It captures the long, hard road to the stage for any actor, or for virtually anyone trying to make it in New York, and shows how putting all of your hopes into the one thing you love isn’t so crazy after all.”
“Drama recounts in graceful, considered prose a life that after a few wrong turns is now happier and more well adjusted than most.”-
-Charles McGrath, The New York Times
“Lithgow rises to the occasion with courageous honesty and fairness. . . . There’s something breath-catchingly poignant in the simple, hard-won wisdom he imparts before taking his final bow: ‘Acting is pretty great. But it isn’t everything.’”
-The Los Angeles Times
“John Lithgow’s memoir, Drama, reminded me that the world is indeed all a stage and that professionals have some great ideas about how to perform on it.”
-Drew Gilpin Faust, The Wall Street Journal
John Lithgow was born into a theater family, but he never intended to become an actor; he wanted to paint. In his memoir, Drama: An Actor's Education, he focuses on the years before the fame â�� from his stage debut at the age of 2 to his move West to become a star. More at NPR.org
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