The Art of Breath and Everyday Performance
I hear with my breath, I get frightened with my breath. When I fall in love the breath knows it first. I feel furious and the breath registered the emotion, long before the brain catches on.
Original and quirky, this collection of expert advice and observations once reserved for actors has been specially formatted for a new generation and a broader audience interested in:
Improvisation. Performing. Fear. Fame. Laughing. Being Sexy. Emotions. Ego. Technique. Timing. Doing Nothing. Just Doing It. In her wry, entertaining, and astute style, master of her craft Beatrice Manley dispenses wide-ranging insights and nuanced wisdom accumulated from a lifetime on the stage. Manley (1921–2002) had an acclaimed 60-year theater career centered in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, distinguishing herself in tragic and comic performances, in classical and modernist works, and ultimately as a beloved teacher and acting coach.
Read the review in the South African Theatre Journal:
Your Breath in Art: Acting from Within
Author: Beatrice Manley
Imprint: Everything Goes Media
Page Count: 220
Pub Date: May 30, 2017
Format: Trade paperback, 7" x 7"
Biography from: www.beatricemanley.com.
Beatrice Manley (1921-2002) was born in the Bronx on May 23, 1921, to Harry and Anna Mandell and headed for Greenwich Village as soon after as she could.
Manley traveled through the world of American theater on a unique itinerary of her own making. She debuted on Broadway in 1941 at the age of twenty where she appeared in Maxwell Anderson’s Eve of Saint Mark and Eva le Gallienne’s Cherry Orchard. Married at the time to the painter Albert Freedberg, she was pregnant with her first child, Richard (Dick), when she performed with Beatrice Straight in Eastward in Eden.
Awarded a fellowship as artist-in-residence at Stanford University, Manley moved to California in 1949 where she met and eventually married director and author Herbert Blau, who was completing a PhD in English there.
After moving with Blau to San Francisco in 1952, where he and Jules Irving co-founded the San Francisco Actor’s Workshop, Manley played many leading roles in the Workshop’s innovative and early productions of various controversial, now canonical, dramatists of the modernist period, such as Brecht, Beckett, and Genet. In Blau’s production of 1956, Manley became the first American actress to perform title role in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.
In 1965, Blau and Irving were invited to take over the leadership of the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, and Manley performed there as well, appearing in, among others, Georg Buchner’s Danton’s Death, Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma.
Moving to Los Angeles in the early 70s, Manley taught at the California Institute of the Arts, the University of Southern California, and privately. Her students included Paul Reubens, Bill Irwin, and Ed Harris. Manley continued her stage work in New York as well, returning to appear in Andre Serban’s production of Uncle Vanya. She and Blau were divorced in 1980.
In the mid-80s, Manley adapted a number of literary texts for solo performance: Poe’s A Predicament, Yeats’s Crazy Jane poems, Julio Cortazar’s Tales of Cronopius and Famas, and James Joyce’s Molly Bloom soliloquy from Ulysses. Among her other roles in Los Angeles, Manley starred in Samuel Beckett’s Rockaby and Footfalls for which she received an LA Weekly award for “the performance of a lifetime.”
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Manley also performed as a reader for KPFK’s Pacifica Tape Library. Her performances on KPFK included literary correspondence between Anais Nin and Lawrence Durell, Mt. Olive from the Alexandria Quartet, Persephone by Meridel LeSeuer, Mrs. Glendinning, Pierre’s mother in the Herman Melville’s novel of the same name, and Oscar Wilde’s Salome, as well as studies of Celeste (Marcel Proust’s housekeeper) and Alma Mahler.
Manley is the author of five plays, two librettos, and a screenplay. Fwyygnhn (Finny) was premiered at the California New Music Festival at the California Institute of the Arts in 1980. (A film made at the time has been produced as a DVD.) Manley’s Conjur Woman was performed at La Mama E.T.C in New York in 1983.
Manley also wrote three books on acting. My Breath in Art: Acting from Within (Applause Books, 1998—reissued by Everything Goes Media in 2017 as Your Breath in Art: Acting from Within); The Actor’s Dickens, in which she adapted and discussed 85 scenes from five novels by Charles Dickens (Applause Books, 2001); and an unpublished manuscript completed in late 2001, Theater Workshop for Seniors.
In 1990, Manley was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts from the California Institute of the Arts. In 1999, she relocated from Los Angeles to Milwaukee where she continued to do her writing in collaboration with her son, Dick Blau.
In addition to her career on the stage, she was also a devoted mother, for which her children, Jonathan Blau, Tara Blau, Dick Blau, their children and their children’s children—Anna, Max, Ruby, Ari, Beka, Drake, Jeremy, Josh, Justin, and Julia—have much to be grateful.
One is left with the pleasurable sensation of having had a series of delightful, compelling conversations with a great actor
"The author skilfully gathers her wealth of experience to weave philosophical and practical guidance into a collection expressed partly as anecdotes by well-known actors and informed by her own experiences, and partly as her own teaching practice....This book is a welcome and refreshing addition to the canon of texts on vocal training for experienced or seasoned actors, who perhaps take their craft for granted, to encourage a re-examination of principles, stimulate a fresh approach to breath control, re-evaluate intuition and further explore text and words. I would recommend the book for aspiring actors or beginners with some caution, however, as much of the material presupposes a fundamental appreciation of voice technique....One is left with the pleasurable sensation of having had a series of delightful, compelling conversations with a great actor, some more original and accessible than others, but where the whole makes up a composite view of a complex and wide-ranging career dedicated to the craft of acting."
—Fiona Ramsay, South African Theatre Journal, August 14, 2018
Breath for Singers and Actors
"Manley's advice is not only good for actors but also for the singers, who also must audition and perform despite stage fright. Manley stresses the importance of trusting good breathing technique to liberate the performer to sing and act naturally. Tension constricts the voice. Manley advises the use of instinct rather than intellect to minimize nerves, 'doing nothing' as she says. Actors and singers are wind instruments. Manley gives many tips to maximize performance. Her book is useful and comforting."
—Kit Basquin, Amazon, 5 Stars
There is brilliance in the advice and observations coming from a great actress and acting teacher
"There is brilliance in the advice and observations coming from a great actress and acting teacher. Her ideas intersect with Hindu meditative breathing and extends to Jewish-Hassidic mystical principles. Everything she says applies to the way of a mindful living in which acting is only a subset of the total. 'Acting' as defined here, takes place not only on spoken theatrical and filmic realm. It applies equally to all forms of communication and performance: musical, athletic, dance, classroom teaching and effective social interaction. The layout of the book is very attractive and reads like a compendium of principles and witty aphorisms to illustrate them."
—Yehuda Yannay, Amazon, 5 Stars
Thoroughly "user friendly" in tone, commentary, organization, and presentation
"Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, organization and presentation, Your Breath in Art should be a core part of every community theatre group, highschool and college drama department, and community library Theatre/Cinema/TV instructional reference collection and supplemental studies reading list."
—Midwest Book Review, The Theatre/Cinema Shelf, June 2017
A lasting contribution to the performing arts...a treasure that can help guide the performer to a greater understanding of their craft
"Your Breath in Art by the late Beatrice Manley was her lasting written contribution to the performing arts. Ms. Manley had a long theatrical career during which she played many demanding roles, performed along side the greats and the not so greats, and graced the boards across the country. This book is her view into a niche of acting that all too few think about. Before the performances and the rehearsals, before the casting of the roles, before the scenery and lights and directors and understudies and everything else that goes into a play, there is the play itself. And what is a play? Nothing more than a collection of scenes and stage directions and preferences, but mostly it is dialogue. Words. Words that must be performed in just the right manner. At the bottom of the words, before the first is spoken, there is the breath. The inhalation and the air coming out, the forming of the words in conjunction with the throat, the larynx, the mouth, teeth and tongue, but always the breath. This book is a spiritual guide to a greater understanding of the work of air in enunciation, in diction and in performance. This is a treasure that can help guide the performer, young and old, to a greater understanding of their craft."
—Tom Donaghey, LibraryThing, 4 Stars
Interesting Concept, Attractive Design
Your Breath in Art: Acting from Within is an intriguing book. As the title suggests, it explains how breath is fundamental to acting. The book is a fascinating combination of instruction with anecdotes from both famous and unknown, unidentified actors. The book is especially enjoyable because of its attractive design. Brief paragraphs, chapters of manageable length, and abundant callouts all make it an easy read.
—Diana Schneidman (standup8times.com), Amazon, 5 Stars
Her advice is applicable to writing, music, sports and most any endeavor that involves mastery of a craft and developing the faith to leap beyond
"One day we discover that technique has become a natural response… and then our technique is who we are.” Beatrice Manley is writing about stage acting, but as with many aspects of her thespian manual, her advice is applicable to writing, music, sports and most any endeavor that involves mastery of a craft and developing the faith to leap beyond. Manley had a long career on stage before turning to teaching and coaching actors. Your Breath in Art summarizes her methods, and with its emphasis on mindfulness and authenticity, can even serve as a signpost to leading a fuller, more connected life."
—Dave Luhrssen, Shepherd Express