There's no better time to crack open a book—especially one that lets us escape to the world of theatre while we await the curtain to rise again. From dance world biographies and memoirs to musical retrospectives to children's books by some of theatre's leading BIPOC artists, there's plenty of summertime reading to be found in this list of theatre reads.
Help is on the Way: From Places You Don’t Know About Today…
By David Friedman
In today’s complex and challenging world, we often find ourselves facing problems for which there seem to be no answers. In this practical and inspirational book, songwriter and author Friedman explores the idea that there are always answers, and they often come in ways we don’t expect, if only we are willing to be open to the possibilities. Available now from Library Tales Publishing.
In My Own Footsteps - A Memoir
By Michael Pennington
The life and times of an extraordinary stage career and sometimes unconventional world of the acclaimed actor, director, and writer. A successful actor’s life is a road trip that continually leads back to the start—now subtly changed for the better. This book follows Pennington’s memoir of his life and the many people he has known and worked with, loved or shied away from. Available June 24 from Michael Pennington Books.
by Geoffrey Hilsabeck
For nearly 50 years, from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s, vaudeville was everywhere—then, suddenly, it was nowhere. This book tells the story of what was once the most popular form of entertainment in the country using lists, creation myths, thumbnail biographies, dreams, and obituaries. Available July 1 from West Virginia University Press.
Hirschfeld: The Biography
By Ellen Stern
Al Hirschfeld knew everybody and drew everybody. He occupied the twentieth century and illustrated it. This is the first portrait of the renowned artist's life—as spirited and unique as his pen-and-ink drawings. Beginning in the 1920s, he caricatured Hollywood actors, Washington politicians, and—his favorite—celebrities of the stage. Broadway belonged to Hirschfeld. His work appeared in the New York Times and other publications, as well as on book jackets, album covers, posters, and postage stamps, for more than 75 years. Available July 6 from Skyhorse.
Breaking It Down: Audition Techniques for Actors of the Global Majority
By Nicole Hodges Persley and Monica White Ndounou
A practical guide that shows BIPOC actors how to break down the audition process rather than being broken down by the entertainment industry and its practices of exclusion and bias. Working in an environment that often stereotypes or attempts to “universalize” experiences, it’s more important than ever that actors consider how culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability are inseparable. Available July 15 from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
by Georgina Pazcoguin
In this love letter to the art of dance and the sport that has been her livelihood, New York City Ballet’s first Asian American female soloist Georgina Pazcoguin lays bare her unfiltered story of leaving small-town Pennsylvania for New York City and training amid the unique demands of being a hybrid professional athlete/artist, all before finishing high school. Available July 27 from Macmillan.
Putting It Together
by James Lapine
The two-year journey of getting Sunday in the Park With George to Broadway began with a meeting between Lapine (then an Off-Broadway playwright) and Stephen Sondheim (following the end of a multi-year professional partnership with Harold Prince). As they searched for inspiration for a new show, they eyed Georges Seurat’s 1884 painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The book features anecdotes from the development process, conversations with Lapine, Sondheim, and cast and creatives from the original production, script notes, archival photos and sketches, and more. Available August 3 from Macmillan.
Perspectives on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend : Nuanced Postnetwork Television
Edited by Amanda Konkle and Charles Burnetts
With an off-putting title and a decidedly retrograde premise, the CW musical dramedy was a gamble. Loyal viewers quickly came to appreciate the show’s sharp cultural critique through masterful parody, making it a critical darling. The essays in this collection underscore the show’s ability to distinguish itself, focusing on themes of feminism, gender identity, and mental health. Available August 12 from Syracuse University Press.
by James Whiteside
A daring, joyous, and inspiring memoir-in-essays from the American Ballet Theatre principal dancer-slash-drag queen-slash-pop star who’s redefining what it means to be a man in ballet. In this collection of essays, Whiteside tells us the story of how he got to be a primo ballerino—stopping along the way to muse about the tragically fated childhood pets who taught him how to feel, reminisce on ill-advised partying at summer dance camps, and imagine fantastical run-ins with Jesus on Grindr. Available August 17 from Penguin Random House.
By Robert McCrum
Following a life-changing stroke, McCrum discovered that the only words that made sense to him were snatches of Shakespeare. Unable to travel or move as he used to, he asks: why is it that we always return to Shakespeare, particularly in times of acute crisis and dislocation? What is the key to his hold on our imagination? And why do the collected works of an Elizabethan writer continue to speak to us as if they were written yesterday? Available September 7 from Pegasus Books.
Balanchine’s Apprentice: From Hollywood to New York and Back
By John Clifford
Dancer and choreographer Clifford offers a highly personal look inside the day-to-day operations of the New York City Ballet and its creative mastermind, George Balanchine. During his tenure at NYCB, Clifford danced the lead in 47 works, several specifically created for him. In his memoir, Clifford provides first-hand insight into Balanchine’s relationships with his dancers, and examines his own attachment to his charismatic teacher, exploring questions of creative influence and integrity. Available September 14 from University Press of Florida.
Dancing Past the Light
By Orel Protopopescu
This biography of the late Tanaquil “Tanny” Le Clercq follows one of the most celebrated ballerinas of the twentieth century, describing her brilliant stage career, her struggle with polio, and her important work as a dance teacher, coach, photographer, and writer. Enhanced with a wealth of previously unpublished photos, personal letters, and sketches by George Balanchine, this book offers an intimate portrait of Le Clercq’s dancing life and her relationship to the man who was both her mentor and husband. Available September 14 from University Press of Florida.
Dance or Die
by Ahmad Joudeh
An autobiographical coming-of-age account of a young refugee who grows up in Damascus with dreams of becoming a dancer. Neither bombs nor family opposition keep him from taking classes, practicing hard, and ultimately becoming a Middle Eastern celebrity after success on a Lebanese reality show. But ISIS threatens him with death if he continues dancing, his father kicks him out of the house, and the war around him intensifies. Available September 21 from Penguin Random House.
Remember to Dream, Ebere
By Cynthia Erivo, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
The picture book is a tale of a mother and child and the dreams they build together. When Ebere's mother puts her to bed at night, she always says, "Remember to dream, Ebere." And dream, she does, imagining herself as the captain of a rocket ship with the ability to go anywhere in the universe. Available September 28 from Little, Brown Books.
Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History
By Schele Williams, illustrated by Tonya Engel
Beginning in Africa before 1619, Your Legacy presents an unprecedentedly accessible, empowering, and proud introduction to African American history for children. This book celebrates their accomplishments, acknowledges their sacrifices, and defines how Black ancestors are remembered—and how their stories should be taught. Available September 28 from Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Warrior: Audrey Hepburn
By Robert Matzen
Following up from his Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, Matzen explores Hepburn's experiences as a humanitarian for UNICEF and the fearlessness it took to charge into war-torn countries on behalf of children and their mothers in desperate need. She set the standard for celebrity humanitarians and—according to her son Luca Dotti—ultimately gave her life for the causes she espoused. Available September 28 from GoodKnight Books.
Smile: The Story of a Face
By Sarah Ruhl
In a series of piercing, witty, and lucid meditations, Ruhl chronicles her journey as a patient, wife, mother, and artist. She explores the struggle of a body yearning to match its inner landscape, the pain of postpartum depression, the story of a marriage, being a playwright and working mom to three small children, and the desire for a resilient spiritual life in the face of illness. Available October 5 from Simon and Schuster.