Evan Yionoulis taught acting at the Yale School of Drama for twenty years, and since has become the head of acting at Juilliard.  She is also a world class theater director.  She was also my mentor when I was at Yale.  I assisted her for three summers with the Yale Summer School Acting Program, and it was the greatest educational experience of my life.

She has just published a book on acting, called Listening and Talking  A Pathway to Acting.  It is, quite simply, THE definitive book on acting. Yionoulis writes in a straightforward, approachable way about the finer points of the actor’s craft.  She covers concepts like the underlying objective, plot objectives, given circumstances, personalization and destination in a manner that does justice to the complexity of these topics but is also eminently concrete and practical.

It’s hard to overstate how down-to-earth she is in approaching her material.  He’s an anecdote from the first chapter, when she is making the case for technique:

“Once I directed a musical play whose cast consisted primarily of amazing musicians—singers and guitar players—most of whom had never acted before. After an early performance, one of the youngest came up to me and said, ‘This acting thing isn’t so hard. All you have to do is learn the lines and be that guy.’ In the moment, I think I was a bit amused by his answer. But as I’ve pondered it over the years, I’ve come to think that his definition of acting is as good as any I’ve heard.

All you have to do is: Learn the lines. And be that guy.

Or, I might say: Learn the lines. And do what that guy does.”

So even as she is embarking on the explication of a sophisticated and eminently challenging approach to the craft, she is grounded in the miraculous simplicity that acting entails.

The book is a remarkable achievement, and belongs in the libraries of actors everywhere.  (As of this writing, it may be that only the Kindle version is available.  I attempted to order a hard copy and was eventually told it would be delayed indefinitely.  But anyone can read the Kindle version with the Kindle app on their phone.)