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’?

chapter 1|7 pages


part I|39 pages

The Idea of character

chapter 2|12 pages

An independent character

chapter 3|10 pages

A brief history of . . . type

chapter 4|8 pages

Friends for life

Character and literary criticism

chapter 5|7 pages

The drama of no character

part II|84 pages

Transformations in body and mind

chapter 6|23 pages

Constructing the character

chapter 7|19 pages


I – Trait, type and temperament

chapter 8|20 pages


II – Conflict and energy

chapter 9|20 pages


III – Character on the couch

part III|51 pages

The melding of actor and character

chapter 10|19 pages

Imagining the character

chapter 11|20 pages

Experiencing the character