Missing the target: emotion, stoic psychology and the actor

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This chapter situates concepts from Stoic psychology within a Stanislavskian and post-Stanislavskian tradition of western actor-training. The central concern of this chapter rests with the concept of “emotional truth” in acting. The relation between actor, emotion and character is a widely discussed and much debated theme within the Stanislavskian tradition, encompassing a range of practitioners such as Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner and David Mamet as well as contemporary British directors such as Mike Alfreds and Declan Donnellan. There are parallels between this actor-training context and Stoic ideas about emotion, subjectivity and action. The key issue addressed by this chapter is to what extent emotional experience leads to a failure of agency. In this sense, “to act” brings together both the concept of action for the actor (the pursuance of objectives onstage) with the concept of “rational action” within Stoic thought. Particular attention is paid to Declan Donnellan’s text The Actor and the Target, in which he argues for a particular treatment of emotion by the actor. As in Stoic psychology, emotional experience and more precisely how one uses that emotional experience, stands at the cusp of success and failure in the performance of action.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Failure
Subtitle of host publicationNew Essays on the Cultural History of Failure in Theatre and Performance
EditorsTony Fisher, Eve Katsouraki
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781351247733
ISBN (Print)9780815370987, 9780815370994
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018


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