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    Living the lives of others: how actors experience playing characters on stage and how the characters affect them

    Hatami, Neda (2023) Living the lives of others: how actors experience playing characters on stage and how the characters affect them. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This PhD thesis is composed of two studies conducted using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and focusing on detailed accounts of personal, lived experiences that demonstrate both convergence and divergence. The main study was carried out first to gain insights into the lived experiences of theatre actors. In this study, interviews were held with ten professional male theatre actors. The aim was to explore what it is like to be an actor and provide information about experiences related playing characters and the psychological impact of acting, as well as obtain further insights into the inter-individual differences between the experiences of theatre actors. The first theme to be discovered was that acting was experienced as a calling, with theatre actors describing how becoming an actor was not so much a decision as a realisation that it was their vocation. The second theme related to actors’ attitudes towards identification with characters, whereby their identity tended to be affected by the roles they played, but some actors had more control over this than others. A third theme was the positive impact of being on stage, with the subthemes revealing that acting was experienced as liberating and it had a transformative nature. Furthermore, performance boosted confidence and was perceived as a collective experience. Meanwhile, a fourth theme revealed that actors also experienced challenges and costs, with the subthemes being a sense of being rejected; a sense of loss at the end of a run; the possibility of substance and alcohol abuse; and the financial insecurity of the profession. The study identified potential refinements to the theoretical models, especially through the finding that profession-specific elements are necessary in theories about vocation. The most important practical implication was the need for better support concerning the psychological impacts of being an actor. The second study was conducted among acting trainers, which confirmed these findings in the first theme: how acting trainers experienced the training career and the second theme was how trainers perceived the career of acting, with the trainers recognising that role-blurring could be a problem for actors. Nevertheless, they thought acting simultaneously provided positive experiences that could help actors to gain self-knowledge, develop more empathy and provide experiences that enable personal growth. The trainers also acknowledged the challenges facing actors, in terms of both the intense emotional experiences and the insecure subsequent position due to the minimal job opportunities and income volatility. While the trainers found the training career highly pleasurable as it helped students to become professional actors, they also felt training to be a demanding and sensitive role since they had to rely mainly on their experience and had limited explicit pedagogical foundations that would allow them to help their students address the issues they faced. The author argues that interventions are needed to provide a better offering in this respect and stimulate changes to the harsh circumstances.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2023 15:25
    Last Modified: 24 Oct 2023 15:27


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