10 Textbooks No Drama Teacher Should Be Without

I was having a moment the other day. One of those out of body experiences where you watch the chaos around you in the classroom and think to yourself, “How crazy is this?”, “Is this for real?” and “What the hell is little Johnny doing?”, “What the hell am I doing?” I have them occasionally and it just reminds me how incredible teachers are. We seem to battle on through amidst the seeming chaos.

I guess those experiences also remind me how far I’ve come in my five years of teaching. That ability to watch what is happening in front of me and laugh and know that it’s not the end of the world and if I had to tell new, beginning teacher’s what to expect and how to react, reacting the way I did the other day (watching everything happen in slow motion and as though it’s something out of a B Grade movie), is perfectly healthy and necessary at times.

I would also tell my beginning Drama teacher’s: don’t ever be stuck for resources. Utilise your school library and make sure it stocks not only the best plays and resource material for student’s but also resource material for yourself. Make friends with your librarian 🙂

Utilise every possible Professional Development day you can. Work towards some goals. Be realistic about those goals and know that it’s not possible to achieve everything you want to in your first year and that in every school you work at for your entire career the goals and expectations you have will be different because every school is different. Perhaps in your first year your goal will be about managing behaviour. The following year it might be how you teach a particular theatrical style or play. By having a goal to work towards it will make it easier to choose a course to take for Professional Development.

Over the years I have made sure my library is up to date with all the play scripts that are on the prescribed text list and added a few extra text books just for extra reference for myself and the student’s. I like walking into the library and going over to the theatre section a lot. It inspires me. I don’t even have to open any of the books. It just telepathically fills me with ideas. It’s funny like that.

Here are my ten text books that I cannot live without:

1. Acting in Person and In Style Australia by Carol Wimmer – I use this book a lot when I am teaching monologues, duologues, acting skills (voice workshops). It is also brilliant for teaching a range of performance styles.

2. Dramawise by Brad Haseman – The bible full of exercises for explicitly teaching the elements of drama. I highly recommend this book as a starting point for beginning teachers.

3. You’re On by Rob Galbraith – Another fantastic text with exercises to teach students about performance elements as well as the roles of people behind the scenes. 

4. Living Drama by Bruce Burton – This is actually part of a three part series (Making Drama and Creating Drama are his titles for lower secondary drama students) and is best used with senior students. It looks at aspects of drama in a slightly more sophisticated way which is applicable to senior students and their essays.

5. Navigating Drama by Richard Baines and Mike O’Brien – A great text for students in Year 9-10 Drama. Some of the particularly helpful sections include the playbuiding chapter and the commedia dell arte chapter.

6. Navigating Senior Drama by Richard Baines and Mike O’Brien – I like this senior text because of its focus on the NSW Drama Syllabus. It has focus chapters on Australian Drama and Theatre which forms part of the theory component of the course as well as a section specifically devoted to some of the Studies in Drama and Theatre topics (Brecht, Greek Theatre and American Drama). It also has good chapters on the Group and Individual Performance units.

7. Centre Stage by Matthew Clausen –  Great teaching suggestions plus some really great templates for teaching the elements of production including costume design and lighting and sound plotting.

8. Lighting and Sound by Neil Fraser – everything you need to know about lighting and sound in a simple easy to understand way. Absolute gold.

9. Stage Design and Props by Michael Holt – As above. An absolute gem of a book if you want to learn about set design and making.

10. Costume and Make-Up by Michael Holt Ditto as above.

Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it before Improvisation: A Guide by Lyn Pierse. Absolutely excellent for anything Theatre Sports or improvisation related. Oh, oh, oh and if you’re teaching Publicity and Program Design try Stage Management and Theatre Administration by Pauline Menear and Terry Hawkins.

Have you got a text book that you swear by? Share it with us in the comments.

Image Credits: T’aiuto io, tassomanAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)



  1. HI. Thanks for all the amazing input. I tried looking up a few of the suggested materials and came across an outstanding Australian source, which I can’t find again:(
    I hope someone might know if it, It was a textbook on how to integrate video/media art into stage productions for secondary performin arts classes. It was published in Australia and written by two Australian fellows with a small theatre company, possibly from NSW. If anyone has any information I would be so grateful. Thanks everyone.

  2. Thanks very much for all the suggestions. I will be teaching secondary performing arts for the first time next semester. Whilst browsing through some of the other resources suggested here, I came across a text published some years ago by two fellows running a small Australian theatre company on using video for stage. I have not been able to find it after my initial find. If anyone can help, I’d be so grateful.

  3. Hahaha! Just browsing through this post again… Thought “maybe I should give D.Roy a plug…”
    You beat me to it.

    It is a great text though.
    Also invested in “Stage Ideas” by Stephen Curtis this year. Lovely text, sometimes a bit overwhelming to try and sift through.

  4. I found this blog post through a google search… I will be teaching my first drama class this coming fall, with no prior experience, and this list has been very helpful. I plan on purchasing several of these books. Thanks for taking the time to put this together!

  5. For movement I have never been far away from

    The intimate Act of Choregraphy, I studied Dance as well as Drama. Especially now that Drama can be taught within Performing Arts, I find this book really useful for reminding me of skills etc. Also a great read.

    How to Survive your First Year in Teaching was a good resource when I started teaching by Sue Cowley.

    The Moving Body by Jacques Lecoq is another book I couldn’t do without when starting plans etc.

    Through The Body by Dymphna Callery, also a great resource and strangely enough the author was my lecture at University.

    As you can probably tell it’s all about the physical movement for me in Drama lol.

  6. Stagecraft Trevor Griffiths Phaidon…getting a little old now but great for basics on elements of Theatre and putting on a show. but you must get Stephen Curtis’ latest Currency Press STAGING IDEAS…this is awesome!!!! Living Drama 4th Ed is great too. I agree with lots of the above also.There are some improv games books I also have-games for people who say no i think it is called but there are two in the series. I can check when I go to work Tues.

  7. Hi Brooke,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the blog. Of all the texts I think the one that would be most useful for primary aged children is the Dramawise text. The exercises are simple enough that you could use them or modify them in some way to suit younger students. I hope that helps.

  8. Thanks for the great post, I am looking forward to checking these all out. Just a question though, would any of these mentioned be more appropriate than others for Primary yr 4-6 lessons?

    I find “Yes, let’s” handy for improv based units by Angela and Michael Sanderson- Green.

  9. I have the third edition. It’s very precise and covers just about anything technical wise to even telling you what types of castors are good for certain floor types, scenery types and even which ones would last if there was a chemical spill. Perhaps not the best for beginners but anyone considering set design for their Drama Major Work (this is in Australia i don’t know if any other countriy’s year 12 do major works) or completing a CERT III Live Production, Theatre and Events course via TAFE or VET (again Australian so i’m not sure how it works everywhere else).

  10. I find that a lot of the Routledge published books on practitioners are good summaries of their works for students; they’re also the publishers for Augusto Boal’s ‘Games for Actors and Non-Actors’. I would also recommend for those doing method acting and realism ‘The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit’ by Bella Merlin, anything about Meyerhold and Jaque Lecoq’s ‘Les Corps Poetique’.

  11. I have a new book which is a reflective/creative inquiry approach to acting for students of middle/high/college/professional levels.
    THE STUDENT ACTOR PREPARES: ACTING FOR LIFE e-book available. The book is a practical, interactive approach to a student’s actor’s journey.

  12. Pingback: Drama Teacher’s Network | Brian's Drama Warmups

  13. I have found Technical Theater for Non-Technical People by Drew Campbell especially helpful when teaching tech units. I also have used The Stage Management Handbook by Daniel Ionazzi as an independent book study for my stage managers in my extracurricular program.

  14. Theatre Games for Actors and Non Actors by Augusto Boal.
    It’s actually Theatre of the Oppressed exercises and information and is great for breaking people out of their shell and introducing them to performance.

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