The Actor and the Character: Explorations in the Psychology of Transformative Acting, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Actor and the Character

Explorations in the Psychology of Transformative Acting, 1st Edition

By Vladimir Mirodan


190 pages

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Transformative acting remains the aspiration of many an emerging actor, and constitutes the achievement of some of the most acclaimed performances of our age: Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, Meryl Streep asMrs Thatcher, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter – the list is extensive, and we all have our favourites. But what are the physical and psychological processes which enable actors to create characters so different from themselves? To understand this unique phenomenon, Vladimir Mirodan provides both a historical overview of the evolution of notions of 'character' in Western theatre and a stunning contemporary analysis of the theoretical implications of transformative acting. The Actor and the Character:

  • Surveys the main debates surrounding the concept of dramatic character and – contrary to recent trends – explains why transformative actors conceive their characters as ‘independent’ of their own personalities.
  • Describes some important techniques used by actors to construct their characters by physical means: work on objects, neutral and character masks, Laban movement analysis, Viewpoints, etc.
  • Examines the psychology behind transformative acting from the perspectives of both psychoanalysis and scientific psychology and, based on recent developments in psychology, asks whether transformation is not just acting folklore but may actually entail temporary changes to the brain structures of the actors.

The Actor and the Character speaks not only to academics and students studying actor training and acting theory, but contributes to current lively academic debates around character. This is a compelling and original exploration of the limits of acting theory and practice, psychology, and creative work, in which Mirodan boldly re-examines some of the fundamental assumptions of actor training and some basic tenets of theatre practice to ask: What happens when one of us ‘becomes somebody else’?

Table of Contents


A Note on Terminology

Chapter One – Introduction

PART ONE – The Idea of Character

Chapter Two An Independent Character

Chapter Three A Brief History of … Type

Chapter Four Friends for Life: Character and Literary Criticism

Chapter Five The Drama of No Character

PART TWO – Transformations in Body and Mind

Chapter Six Constructing the Character

Chapter Seven Psychologies: I – Trait, Type and Temperament

Chapter Eight Psychologies: II – Conflict and Energy

Chapter Nine Psychologies: III – Character on the Couch

PART THREE – The Melding of Actor and Character

Chapter Ten Imagining the Character

Chapter Eleven Experiencing the Character

Chapter Twelve Deception, Self-Deception and the Transformative Actor


About the Author

Vladimir Mirodan is a theatre director, Emeritus Professor of Theatre, and was Vice-Principal and Director of Drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Principal of Drama Centre London. He has published on topics of acting psychology, as well as the theory and practice of acting.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General