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An Actor Remembers: Memory's Role in the Training of the United States Actor

Malcolm, Devin (2013) An Actor Remembers: Memory's Role in the Training of the United States Actor. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the different ways actor training techniques in the United States have conceived of and utilized the actor’s memory as a means of inspiring the actor’s performance. The training techniques examined are those devised and taught by Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Joseph Chaikin, Stephen Wangh and Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. As I shall illustrate, memory is not the unified phenomenon that we often think and experience it to be. The most current research supports the hypothesis that the human memory is composed of five distinctly different, yet interrelated systems. Of these five my research focuses on three: episodic, semantic, and procedural. As I believe no one theoretical approach could do justice to the variety of ways the actor’s memory has been conceived of and used in U.S. training techniques I have chosen to explore the issue from three different theoretical perspectives. Beginning with a conception of memory that will, in all likelihood be the most familiar to my readers, I explore the ways in which contemporary neuroscience can help us to understand how Strasberg’s Method uses the actor’s episodic memory to achieve a state of affective remembering. I then use sociologist Maurice Halbwach’s theory of collective memory to reveal how the techniques of Adler and Chaikin utilize the actor’s semantic memory system but to very different ends. Philosopher Edward Casey’s phenomenological study of procedural, or as it is more commonly known, body memory serves as the foundation for my examination of how Wangh’s acrobatic technique uses the actor’s procedural memory to stimulate a state of affective remembering in a manner which is remarkable similar to Strasberg’s use of the actor’s episodic memory. My study concludes with an examination of another highly physical technique known as Viewpoints, developed by Bogart and Landau. In Viewpoints we see a technique that utilizes not just procedural memory, but also the actor’s episodic and semantic memory systems in a manner that is unique in United States actor training.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFavorini, Attiliobucfav@pitt.eduBUCFAV
Committee MemberGeorge, Kathleengeorgeke@pitt.eduGEORGEKE
Committee MemberMcConachie, Brucebamcco@pitt.eduBAMCCO
Committee MemberMachery, Edouardmachery@pitt.eduMACHERY
Date: 29 January 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 November 2012
Approval Date: 29 January 2013
Submission Date: 19 November 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 228
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: memory, collective memory, body memory, Strasberg, Adler, Chaikin, Wangh, Bogart, Viewpoints, actor training, Stanislavski
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2013 22:32
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:07


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