Acting By Walker, Julia A.
Acting on the modern stage ranges from the psychological realism of Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863–1938) to the sensory assault of Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) to the didactic presentation of Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956), to name only three of the best-known styles. While the range and variety of acting styles is not unique to the modern stage, the self-conscious delineation of those styles—both in relation to and as theories of representation—is. Previously, an actor’s performance—often of a well-known dramatic text—was regarded as his or her own interpretation of a role, assessed in relation to other actors’ forays in that part. But with the development of advanced stage machinery, allowing for elaborate scenic and lighting designs, acting became only one of many elements from which to make a theatrical work of art, displacing the actor from the center to the margins of the creative process. Assuming center stage were the playwright and director. The passage of an international copyright agreement in 1891 meant that playwrights could exercise more authorial control over their dramatic designs. And, in order to realize the material dimensions of such dramas in performance, the specialized position of the director emerged to coordinate the increasingly complex elements of the production. Consequently, modernist styles of acting developed in relation to the textual and directorial constraints of the newly configured modern theater.