Reviews for Actors Talk About Shakespeare

"Every once in a while a book comes along that makes you feel as if you have just uncovered a long-lost wizard's tome containing all the secrets of the universe. Such a tome is the unassumingly titled Actors Talk About Shakespeare by Mary Maher." - Ron Severdia,, which awarded their 2010 Falstaff Award for Best of the Books about Shakespeare to Actors Talk About Shakespeare.
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"One hundred plus people packed into the Barnes and Noble event space at Lincoln Triangle Thursday night to see renowned actress Zoe Caldwell and Mary Z. Maher, author of Actors Talk About Shakespeare (published by Limelight Editions). ... Each chapter profiles a career in context, resulting in a treasury of talents, tactics, and tales from veteran performers who return often to Shakespeare. This book is accessible to drama educators, aspiring actors, and professionals alike." Read about this book signing and view photos.


"Tony Award-winning actress Zoe Caldwell called Mary Maher last week to say that the chapter about her in Maher's new book was 'glorious.' Such a reaction may not be the reason writers write, but it doesn't hurt." - Mail Tribune, Tempo Read the review...


"In her utterly engrossing new book, Actors Talk about Shakespeare, Mary Z. Maher meets the challenge of the ineffable head-on. First of all, she is dealing with theatre, that most evanescent mode of artistic expression. Though grounded in a stable text and weeks of rehearsal, a single performance depends on countless variables and a continuous spontaneous adjustment to their instability. In the white spaces of the script, a lot of life happens. Now add Shakespeare to the mix. As Maher teases out the mysteries of an actor's genius, she does so in relation to the most mysterious genius of Western literature. ... "In pursuing the elusive process, Maher has uncovered and preserved a rich trove of theatre history-from comic anecdote to complex wisdom. At the same time she has herself created ten wonderfully distinct protrats of theatre artists- her pages breathe with their unique humanity. Actors Talk about Shakespeare can be found at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland." - Molly Tinsley, Jefferson Monthly, February 2011


"Author Mary Z. Maher saw her first onstage Hamlet in 1982. 'After the intermission,' she writes, 'I followed a father and his young son back into the theater. Hanging on to his parent's hand, the son looked up anxiously and said, 'He isn't really crazy, is he Daddy?' Mad or not, Hamlet has long bedeviled, inspired, and sometimes thwarted actors. In her now book, Actors Talk About Shakespeare, Maher asks some well-known thespians about the challenges of playing this complex and demanding role." Folger Magazine, Spring 2010


"There is no need to tell Ashlanders that Shakespeare represents a commercial opportunity. In fact, it may seem at times that the Bard has become more trademark than theater. An antidote to this notion has recently been published by Limelight Editions in the form of Mary Z. Maher's new book Actors Talk About Shakespeare. A collection of interviews with the likes of Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Stacy Keach and Derek Jacobi, Maher's book seeks to get at exactly what it takes technically, physically and emotionally to belong to this rarified company of masters. ... "The book features a chapter on each of ten actors. Using their words in the main, Maher cuts in her own narrative consisting of the biography, acting credential and setting of the interview. In her introduction she provides the questions put to the actors, then steps aside to let her subjects answer. The result is a volume with a considerable variety of voices all addressing the same essential matter: how do they do what they do?" - MJ Daspit, Daily Tidings Read the review...


"The lively tome goes beyond scholarship into the nuts and bolts of how performers who must speak sometimes archaic lines make them sound fresh and vital to modern audiences. Maher found that "classical acting demands a heightened level of commitment to language so challenging that it places pressure on the performers to use consummate technique." David A. Rosenberg, The Stamford Times Read the review...


Maher is fascinated by the actor's process, especially when it comes to Shakespeare, the Everest of acting, and her passion is to document stage work.

Here is Kevin Kline, for instance, on why Hamlet is the hardest role: "Because it draws on everything. You need every bit of spiritual, psychic, emotional, and physical reserve to play it."

Kline's theory is that the actor "takes authorship" and creates his role. This is at loggerheads with the Svengali-type director who has a big "idea" of the character and a "concept" for the play. Mail Tribune Read the review...

Reviews for Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies

"For Mary Z. Maher, in her superb Modern Hamlets, the soliloquy is the key of the play’s stagecraft . . . The author has conducted her interviews with exemplary tact, and opened up a lode of theatrical lore. Modern Hamlets is theatre history at its best, full of insights into the workings of the stage and understanding of larger social movements.” –Contemporary Review


Modern Hamlets provides fresh insights into the acting process, while also emphasizing Hamlet as a performance text. Maher’s impressive descriptions of the various Hamlets reinforce the notion that Hamlet is the ultimate ‘personality role’ which allows for a broad range of fascinating interpretations. Scholars and practitioners alike will benefit from this balanced, insightful, and entertaining work.” –Theatre History Studies


“Interviewing such performers as Derek Jacobi, David Warner and Ben Kingsley, and analyzing the work of such greats as Gielgud and Olivier, her book has a depth and clarity that will appeal to those interested equally in acting and Shakespeare.” –Stages, The National Theatre Magazine


“This is the first title to consider the special problems involved in delivering the soliloquies . . . Highly recommended for both college-level literary courses and those studying theatre history and acting.” – Bookwatch


“Originally published in 1992, Maher has updated her engaging study to take in Kenneth Branagh and Simon Russell Beale (who confesses, 'I'm actually in love with Hamlet—with his soul and his noble heart.'" –-Plays International Magazine

Reviews for Actor Nicholas Pennell: Risking Enchantment

"This is a charming and readable biography of a man who dedicated himself to one remarkable theater in particular—the Stratford Festival in Ontario . . . where he quickly became and remained one of the stars of the company. Maher, who knew Pennell, bases her biography on his correspondence, interviews with his friends and associates, and interviews of Pennell. The book is full of amusing anecdotes, as one always hopes to find in a book about theatrical personalities. It could also serve as a useful teaching aid for young actors because Pennell talks compellingly about the demands and techniques of acting." –Bibliographic Solution