This book offers fresh, accessible insights and exercises that are nothing short of game changing for actors and everyone.

Book: Actor for Life

I watch fresh-faced young actors leave school and enter the entertainment business every semester, but five to ten years later, they hit a wall of discouragement and self-doubt. Acting textbooks are about the technique of acting, or the business. None of them speaks to how we manage our state of mind, our doubts, our nerves, living with uncertainty. How we think either supports or undermines an actor’s success. (or anyone’s, I was thinking.)

This is what Connie de Veer came to me with. She wanted to write a book, a textbook for seniors, grad students and first decade actors, to help them fight discouragement. And she wanted to write it for teachers, who want to give young actors personal resources like resilience and confidence and good habits like craftsmanship and generous collaboration.

So where does Jan come in? She wanted the book to have exercises. Ah, you’ve come to the right place. Do I ever have have exercises….

Actor for Life: How to have an amazing career without all the drama is the result of our collaboration. It is not the only result; it’s not even the most important one. I can count many hours of laughter, numerous learning curves, and a steady reminder of the beauty and complexity of the written word.

So, the Book. Connie interviewed people who are still active in theatre professions decades after formal training. She wanted to know about their choices, attitudes, and strategies. Eight working actors and two casting directors told us how they have been able to work, even though a career in the theatre can be a minefield of opportunities for self-doubt, fear, and insecurity.

  • Deborah Barylski (casting director, Arrested Development)
  • Duane Boutté (Brother to Brother)
  • Gary Cole (Veep)
  • Suzzanne Douglas (The Parent Hood)
  • Sean Hayes (Will & Grace)
  • Judith Ivey (Devil’s Advocate)
  • Paul Kampf (Paul Kampf Studios)
  • Linda Lowy (casting director, Friday Night LightsGrey’s Anatomy)
  • Julia Murney (Wicked) and
  • Jeff Perry ( Scandal)

We looked at the skills these people have developed, things like resilience, motivation, and courage.

The Book is a non-textbook-like textbook. This was our recipe:

Take one acting professor: Connie de Veer.
Add artist, teacher, coach Jan Elfline.
Build on a shared vocabulary of coaching and self-leadership.
Utilize neuroscience that has revealed how our brains tend to work.
Include age old wisdom in a 21st century world.
Enhance with mental exercises and thought experiments.
Embellish with The Bard.
Decorate with pictures.

Bake for five years.

Now that it is done, it speaks to working actors, acting teachers, and students of acting just as we had hoped it would. What we hear from others is that it is just as relevant for non-actors. These readers are people who act in their lives, and want to have amazing careers, and preferably without all the drama! “All the world’s a stage,” after all.

See events and more details about the book on my co-author Connie de Veer’s website.

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