Acting Power: the 21st Century Edition
“If you have to/need to read a book about acting, here it is, all of it. Study it, know it.” —Sir Patrick Stewart
‘Robert Cohen’s book, Acting Power, follows the tradition of his other book, Acting One, and has been the veritable bible for acting teachers for the last quarter century.’ – David Krasner, Emerson College
“Informative, instructive, and prescriptive, the volume addresses creating and sustaining a powerful and authentic acting presence… Cohen’s book is marked by his personalized style and his ability to illuminate elusive aspects of acting as both craft and art. Including quotes by professional directors and actors, this masterful book remains relevant and offers a distinctive voice for performance studies and a new generation of actors.”
–J. Artman, Choice, 2014
“This newly revised edition of Robert Cohen’s influential book is an advanced exploration of what actors do, drawing on research in the biological and social sciences as well as the author’s full experience as a performer, teacher, and director. It is theoretical in its depth of intellectual exploration, but practical in its language and intent; the author wastes no time on either critical theory or personal psychologizing but focuses on interaction, role, and communication theory. It is carefully designed to be of lasting practical value, and is suitable for academic or popular readers outside the acting classroom, and readers in the social and cognitive sciences. It is written in a skilled, accessible style and will be a needed book.” Book News Inc. Portland, OR, 2013
“There are several thought-provoking notions contained in this …refreshing read [which] casts a relatively new scientific light on old acting problems[and] integrates more contemporary theories… regarding the origins of human emotions and how they impact on behaviour. Whether or not Cohen’s ideology will make more of an impact this time round, given the proliferation of books on acting, remains to be seen, [but] I have certainly benefited from rereading him.” Rufus Swart, South American Theatre Journal.
“Cohen’s reworking of his 1978 best-seller Acting Power sets out to affirm what he describes as his ‘sociological and psychological principles’ of the work of the actor… the relationship between emotion and control in performance in an attempt to find ‘…the link between an actor’s spontaneity and her technique, her imagination and her discipline.’ … The new edition flags the book’s focus on its relevance for the 21st century… [weaving] together ideas borrowed from philosophers, practitioners and theorists to demonstrate the ways they emerge in diverse reflections on the nature of human being and doing, as well as to highlight the often indescribable phenomena of what makes for ‘good’ performance… It is easy to recognize why the first edition of Acting Power became a seminal text.” —Jayne Richards, Stanislavski Studies, Nov 2013.
‘This book, above all else, is an attempt to explore the qualities of acting power…. to suggest to you, the actor, an approach toward not merely good acting but powerful acting. Great actors display the power to frighten – and the power to seduce – and can shift between the one and the other like a violinist can her notes.’ – From the Preface
The first edition of Acting Power was a groundbreaking work of acting theory which applied sociological and psychological principles to actor training. The book went on to influence a generation of theatre and performance studies students and academics, and has been translated and published in Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian and Romanian.
This carefully revised 21st Century Edition (re)considers, in the context of today’s field:
Cohen’s elegant and rigorous updates emphasise the continuing relevance of his uniquely integrated and life-affirming approach to this field. The new edition draws on his extraordinarily rich career as teacher, scholar, director, translator and dramaturg. It is a recipe for thrilling theatre in any genre.
Published Citations and Review Excerpts From the First Edition
“The most inspiring of recent books on acting because of its willingness to think theoretically about what one actually does while acting. Cohen explores a complex range of topics insightfully. His comments on style are the best available explanations.” —Kurt Daw, Acting: Thought Into Action
“A stimulating discussion of acting on a theoretical level, full of striking and original insights, connecting actor training with other areas of study, from computers to behavioral sciences.” —Robert Barton, Acting: Onstage and Off
“In his excellent book Acting Power, Robert Cohen offers the best practical help that I have come across for analyzing the world of a play. …An indispensable check list of questions to help us analyze a new world. —Maria Aitken, Style: Acting in High Comedy
“As Robert Cohen has demonstrated so brilliantly in his book Acting Power, we spend our lives playing roles with great integrity and sincerity; we act constantly, and we err greatly if we fail to draw upon these experiences in creating life on the stage.” —H. Wesley Balk, Performing Power
“Robert Cohen is one of America’s most significant theatre teachers. His Acting Power takes away the actor’s burden and gives him wings; mapping out his work and giving him everything from foundation to realization. Cohen uses as his support the newest investigations in physics, chemistry, medicine, and sports. He finds, for the work of acting, a new kind of definition, seeing ‘acting power’ as at the leading edge, and also the foundation stone, of life itself, mortality itself, that which unites actors, stage people, and the audience… His point of view combines healthy common sense, rock-solid logic, and love into a deep reality. This book is a great power in the actor’s hands.” —Finnish Theatre