The other night I went to see Billy Joel at the University of Miami’s convocation center. He had graciously offered to do a Q&A about the music business. Tickets were limited and the 1,200 seats offered were filled. On stage were two baby grands with a big gong hanging between them. When Mr. Joel came out he was informal—in speech and in attire. He wore a UM baseball cap and sweats. Without much preamble he said he was here because when he started out there was no one he could go to to ask questions about the business. He had written a long letter to The Beatles, his idols, and in return had gotten a brochure for Beatles memorabilia. He wanted to do better. And he did.
During the two-hour session, he was informative, energetic, self-effacing, and very funny. He also played and sang magnificently. The most striking thing about him, though, was the humility he demonstrated about his career and talent. He described himself as merely “competent.” The students in the hall knew the words to every song he sang. So did I, and I was forty years older than most of the audience. Many of Mr. Joel’s songs provide the background score to my life. But in his mind, he’s just competent. Mozart and Beethoven—they were the real deal. He studied them and borrowed their structural ideas. He hammered his songs together hoping that we wouldn’t see and hear the musical nuts and bolts he lifted from his betters to hold his songs together. Just competent, indeed.
The Actor as Storyteller is intended for serious beginning actors. It opens with an overview, explaining the differences between theater and its hybrid mediums, the part an actor plays in each of those mediums. It moves on to the acting craft itself, with a special emphasis on analysis and choice-making, introducing the concept of the actor as storyteller, then presents the specific tools an actor works with. Next, it details the process an actor can use to prepare for scene work and rehearsals, complete with a working plan for using the tools discussed. The book concludes with a discussion of mental preparation, suggestions for auditioning, a process for rehearsing a play, and an overview of the realities of show business.