Drama: an Actor's Education by John Lithgow

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Monday, Oct 17, 2011

Upon picking up Lithgow’s memoir, I was surprised to find him, not only charming, but kind-hearted and caring. In the forward, Lithgow describes the difficulties of moving in with his parents after his father undergoes a difficult surgery, yet refuses to move to a retirement community. Finding the task of caring for his parents far more difficult than anticipated and with his father in a deep depression, Lithgow brings out the stories that his father had read to him as a child. And thus opens the door to long-forgotten, but fond memories.

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers (or about the 10,000 hours of practice it takes to successfully master a skill) Drama will certainly drive the point home. The child of a Shakespearian actor, Lithgow was immersed in theatre, although he didn’t claim it as a profession until adulthood.

The strength of the book lies in Lithgow’s memories of his nomadic childhood and loses steam during his early career while he recounts the plays and projects he worked on and the directors and actors with whom he worked. Because most of these names are unknown to me, the narrative lost its impact here, but I suspect those well-versed in theatre will appreciate the relationships.

As Lithgow brings his memoir to a close, he describes his tribute to his father: Stories by Heart, a one-man act of PG Wodehouse’ Uncle Fred Flits By, the fondly remembered story Lithgow read to his father as his father had done for him.

Written by Helen H.

Fun fact: I adore furry faces.