The Actor and the Character
Explorations in the Psychology of Transformative Acting
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 as Mrs 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
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.
"A rich and fascinating exploration of what happens as actors embody fictional selves […] accessible, grounded in professional practice and wide-ranging in scope."
- Rick Kemp, author of Embodied Acting: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Performance
"This is a remarkable book – not a handbook, but the fullest discourse in recent years regarding the complex processes undergone by the protean actor […] a combination of impeccably detailed research, perception and example […] it has inspired me to think anew about my own practice. Brilliant, profound and shot through with passion and humanity, it is a must for both theatre academics and actors who seek to think about their craft."
- Annie Tyson, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts
"Mirodan’s study is such a rich and learned piece of research, that covers so much ground, and interrelates data and insights from so many disparate areas of inquiry. His intention - to challenge what may have become the complacent orthodoxy of the actor-in-action model – is carried through with an extraordinarily impressive range of scholarship. The Actor and The Character is an outstanding example of the way in which a cross-disciplinary approach to any subject can elicit striking new insights for the target discipline (in this case transformative character acting). It is a book I know that I shall return to again and again, and I have no doubt that my own practice will be deeply affected, at its root, as a consequence of reading it."
- Julian Jones, Stanislavski Studies