Say Goodbye to Hollywood: Stars, Real and Imagined

You know what Lisa Jakub looks like. You saw her in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matinee. But you don't see her anymore. Her book, You Look Like That Girl, explains why she walked away from a successful Hollywood career. First, however, she describes how she got into acting as a preschooler and her adventures as a child performer. For those of you who think screen actors have it made, especially the ones in commercially successful films, Jakub has some news for you: They don't. They have very little privacy, they have to be cheerful and well-behaved at all times in case a fan (or several) ambushes them in the supermarket, and they sometimes have to be walked from their trailer to the set by a Hell's Angel named Fuzzy. And if you're doing it all the time, it gets old, but not as old as waiting around for the phone to ring with another audition and the attendant emotional rollercoaster. Jakub does not have a ghostwriter for this book, but writing is a talent she has been nurturing lately, and it shows. I found this compulsive, quick read a window into the realities of Hollywood and the freedom of being your own person.

Another young actress to abandon Tinseltown is Jennifer Donahue, star of The Blair Witch Project. Many were surprised that Blair Witch exploded into popular culture the way it did, but Donahue was gobsmacked. Soon after, however, Donahue hit the bottom of her acting career, and followed her boyfriend to Nuggetville, California to join "The Community" of marijuana growers there. Donahue's book, Growgirl, follows the seasons on the farm, and while she and her boyfriend hit rocky patches, she found that there was a true community to which she could belong. Funny and opinionated, this is an insightful coming-of-age memoir.

After her acting career hit the skids, Mel Ryane decided to create an after-school Shakespeare club at a local school in a disadvantaged neighborhood. Armed only with goodwill, enthusiasm and high expectations, Ryane attempted to mount a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Drama, as might be expected, was not just on the stage. After histrionics, jealousy and plotting that would have done the Bard proud, both students and teacher realized that it would take all of them to make this bit of whimsy a reality. Full of comedy and pathos by turns, Ryane's Teaching Will is a record of a dream abandoned and another found.