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Springer, Claudia
Rutgers University Press, 2015
Screen performances entertain and delight us but we rarely stop to consider actors’ reliance on their craft to create memorable characters. Although film acting may appear effortless, a host of techniques, artistic conventions, and social factors shape the construction of each role.  

The chapters in Acting provide a fascinating, in-depth look at the history of film acting, from its inception in 1895 when spectators thrilled at the sight of vaudeville performers, Wild West stars, and athletes captured in motion, to the present when audiences marvel at the seamless blend of human actors with CGI. Experts in the field take readers behind the silver screen to learn about the craft of film acting in six eras: the silent screen (1895–1928), classical Hollywood (1928–1946), postwar Hollywood (1947–1967), the auteur renaissance (1968–1980), the New Hollywood (1981–1999), and the modern entertainment marketplace (2000–present). The contributors pay special attention to definitive performances by notable film stars, including Lillian Gish, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Beulah Bondi, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Nicholas Cage, Denzel Washington, and Andy Serkis.
In six original essays, the contributors to this volume illuminate the dynamic role of acting in the creation and evolving practices of the American film industry.  
Acting is a volume in the Behind the Silver Screen series—other titles in the series include Animation; Art Direction and Production Design; Cinematography; Costume, Makeup, and Hair; Directing; Editing and Special/Visual Effects; Producing; Screenwriting; and Sound


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Acting and Its Refusal in Theatre and Film
The Devil Makes Believe
Marian McCurdy
Intellect Books, 2017
Acting has traditionally been considered a form of pretending or falsehood, compared with the so-called reality or truth of everyday life. Yet in the postmodern era, a reversal has occurred—real life is revealed as something acted and acting is where people have begun to search for truth.

In Acting and its Refusal in Theatre and Film, Marian McCurdy considers the ethical desire of refusing to act—which results from blurred boundaries of acting and living—and examines how real life and performance are intertwined. Offering a number of in-depth case studies, the book contextualizes refusals of acting on stage and screen and engages in an analysis of fascist theatricality, sexual theatricality, and the refusal of theatricality altogether.

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Acting in Concert
Music, Community, and Political Action
Mattern, Mark
Rutgers University Press, 1998
In this lively account of politics and popular music, Mark Mattern develops the concept of "acting in concert," a metaphor for community-based political action through music. Through three detailed case studies of Chilean, Cajun, and American Indian popular music, Mattern explores the way popular muisicians forge community and lead members of their communities in several distinct kinds of political action that would be difficult or impossible among individuals who are not linked by communal ties.

More than just entertainment, Mattern argues that popular music can serve as a social glue for bringing together a multitude of voices that might otherwise remain silent, and that political action through music can increase the potential for relatively marginalized people to choose and determine their own fate.

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Acting in Real Time
Paul Binnerts
University of Michigan Press, 2012

Acting in Real Timeby renowned Dutch director and acting teacher Paul Binnerts describes his method for Real-Time Theater, which authorizes actors to actively determine how a story is told---they are no longer mere vehicles for delivering the playwright's message or the director's interpretations of the text. This level of involvement allows actors to deepen their grasp of the material and amplify their stage presence, resulting in more engaged and nuanced performances.

The method offers a postmodern challenge to Stanislavski and Brecht, whose theories of stage realism dominated the twentieth century. In providing a new way to consider the actor's presence on stage, Binnerts advocates breaking down the "fourth wall" that separates audiences and actors and has been a central tenet of acting theories associated with realism. In real-time theater, actors forgo attempts to become characters and instead understand their function to be storytellers who are fully present on stage and may engage the audience and their fellow actors directly.  

Paul Binnerts analyzes the ascendance of realism as the dominant theater and acting convention and how its methods can hinder the creation of a more original, imaginative theater. His description of the techniques of real-time theater is illuminated by practical examples from his long experience in the stage. The book then offers innovative exercises that provide training in the real-time technique, including physical exercises that help the actor become truly present in performance. Acting in Real Time also includes a broad overview of the history of acting and realism's relationship to the history of theater architecture, offering real-time theater as an alternative. The book will appeal to actors and acting students, directors, stage designers, costume designers, lighting designers, theater historians, and dramaturgs.


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Acting Now
Conversations on Craft and Career
Vilga, Edward
Rutgers University Press, 1997
 If you thought the most challenging aspects of a career in acting would involve choosing the "right" roles and dodging the paparatzzi, think again.  Success requires a tremendous amount of hard work, creativity, and dedication, as you'll learn from some of the industry's most respected name, in Acting Now.  

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Acting with the World
Agency in the Anthropocene
Andrew Pickering
Duke University Press, 2025

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Theater, Philosophy, and the Performing Self
Tzachi Zamir
University of Michigan Press, 2014

Why do people act? Why are other people drawn to watch them? How is acting as a performing art related to role-playing outside the theater? As the first philosophical study devoted to acting, Acts: Theater, Philosophy, and the Performing Selfsheds light on some of the more evasive aspects of the acting experience— such as the import of the actor's voice, the ethical unease sometimes felt while embodying particular sequences, and the meaning of inspiration. Tzachi Zamir explores acting’s relationship to everyday role-playing through a surprising range of examples of “lived acting,” including pornography, masochism, and eating disorders. By unearthing the deeper mobilizing structures that underlie dissimilar forms of staged and non-staged role-playing, Acts offers a multi-layered meditation on the percolation from acting to life.

The book engages questions of theatrical inspiration, the actor’s “energy,” the difference between acting and pretending, the special role of repetition as part of live acting, the audience and its attraction to acting, and the unique significance of the actor’s voice. It examines the embodied nature of the actor’s animation of a fiction, the breakdown of the distinction between what one acts and who one is, and the transition from what one performs into who one is, creating an interdisciplinary meditation on the relationship between life and acting.


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The Craft Of Librarian Instruct Tion
Using Acting Techniques
Julie Artman
Assoc of College & Research Libraries, 2016

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Cue Tears
On the Act of Crying
Daniel Sack
University of Michigan Press, 2024
Crying holds a privileged place in conversations around emotions as an expression of authentic feeling. And yet, tears are ambiguous: they might signal the most positive and negative of affects; they might present a sincere revelation of self or be simulated to manipulate others. Unsurprisingly, tears figure prominently on stage and on screen, where actors have experimented with the mechanics of making tears. Cue Tears: On the Act of Crying uses tears as a prism through which to see some of the foundational problems and paradoxes of acting and spectatorship anew, including matters of authenticity and sincerity, the ethics of the witness, the interaction between a speech act and its affective force, liveness and documentation.

Across seven semi-autonomous essays, Cue Tears looks at the mechanisms of tear production, internal and external techniques that actors use to weep, and the effects of tears in performance situations on the stage, in the gallery, and in the classroom. The writing moves with a light touch between theory and criticism of a broad range of instances from literature, theater, performance art, visual art, and cinema, while also embracing a strong autobiographical and personal slant. Author Daniel Sack’s father was a biochemist who studied tears and collected his son’s tears for research during his childhood. These “reflex tears” were produced as a physical response to irritation—an eye stretched past the point of blinking, a cotton swab up the nose. This childhood occupation coincided with his first years taking acting classes, trying to learn how to cry “emotional tears” onstage through psychological stimulation and the recollection of memory. Cue Tears investigates these memories and methods, finding that tears both shore up and dissolve distinctions between truth and artifice, emotional and physical, private and public, sad and humorous.

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Fangs Of Malice
Hypocrisy Sincerity And Acting
Matthew H Wikander
University of Iowa Press, 2002

The idea that actors are hypocrites and fakes and therefore dangerous to society was widespread in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Fangs of Malice examines the equation between the vice of hypocrisy and the craft of acting as it appears in antitheatrical tracts, in popular and high culture, and especially in plays of the period. Rousseau and others argue that actors, expert at seeming other than they are, pose a threat to society; yet dissembling seems also to be an inevitable consequence of human social intercourse. The “antitheatrical prejudice” offers a unique perspective on the high value that modern western culture places on sincerity, on being true to one's own self.

Taking a cue from the antitheatrical critics themselves, Matthew Wikander structures his book in acts and scenes, each based on a particular slander against actors. A prologue introduces his main issues. Act One deals with the proposition “They Dress Up”: foppish slavery to fashion, cross-dressing, and dressing as clergy. Act Two treats the proposition “They Lie” by focusing on social dissembling and the phenomenon of the self-deceiving hypocrite and the public, princely hypocrite. Act Three, “They Drink,” examines a wide range of antisocial behavior ascribed to actors, such as drinking, gambling, and whoring. An epilogue ties the ancient ideas of possession and the panic that actors inspire to contemporary anxieties about representation not only in theatre but also in the visual and literary arts.

Fangs of Malice will be of great interest to scholars and students of drama as well as to theatre professionals and buffs.


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Imaging the Role
Makeup as a Stage in Characterization
Jenny Egan
Southern Illinois University Press, 1992

Concerned as much with acting as it is with makeup, this work illuminates every actor’s quest for character—starting with a search for clues concealed in the script. Yet few actors fully understand the bond between a character’s psyche and physical appearance, and makeup classes seldom give the subject the attention it deserves.

Jenny Egan draws on her extensive experience to provide detailed instructions supported by clear illustrations for sculpting the face with paint, putty, and prostheses. She enlivens her instruction with personal anecdotes from her work on Broadway, television, and films with notables George C. Scott, Rip Torn, Maureen Stapleton, and Joseph Papp.


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Interchangeable Parts
Acting, Industry, and Technology in US Theater
Victor Holtcamp
University of Michigan Press, 2019
While Hollywood has long been called “The Dream Factory,” and theatrical entertainment more broadly has been called “The Industry,” the significance of these names has rarely been explored. There are in fact striking overlaps between industrial rhetoric and practice and the development of theatrical and cinematic techniques for rehearsal and performance. Interchangeable Parts examines the history of acting pedagogy and performance practice in the United States, and their debts to industrial organization and philosophy. Ranging from the late nineteenth century through the end of the twentieth, the book recontextualizes the history of theatrical technique in light of the embrace of industrialization in US culture and society.
Victor Holtcamp explores the invocations of scientific and industrial rhetoric and philosophy in the founding of the first schools of acting, and echoes of that rhetoric in playwriting, production, and the cinema, as Hollywood in particular embraced this industrially infected model of acting.  In their divergent approaches to performance, the major US acting teachers (Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Sanford Meisner) demonstrated strong rhetorical affinities for the language of industry, illustrating the pervasive presence of these industrial roots. The book narrates the story of how actors learned to learn to act, and what that process, for both stage and screen, owed to the interchangeable parts and mass production revolutions.

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"It Was Play or Starve"
Acting in the Nineteenth-Century American Popular Theatre
John Hanners
University of Wisconsin Press, 1993
American popular entertainers in the nineteenth century faced physical hardships, prejudices, and cultural barriers. This book examines the fascinating world of these itinerant actors and their experiences with early showboats, frontier theater, minstrelsy, panorama exhibitions, and the circus. Admirable and not-so-admirable characters, who possessed equal amounts of pluck, courage, and naiveté, are contrasted popular cultural tastes

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The Law of Blood
Thinking and Acting as a Nazi
Johann Chapoutot
Harvard University Press, 2018

Winner of the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research

The scale and the depth of Nazi brutality seem to defy understanding. What could drive people to fight, kill, and destroy with such ruthless ambition? Observers and historians have offered countless explanations since the 1930s. According to Johann Chapoutot, we need to understand better how the Nazis explained it themselves. We need a clearer view, in particular, of how they were steeped in and spread the idea that history gave them no choice: it was either kill or die.

Chapoutot, one of France’s leading historians, spent years immersing himself in the texts and images that reflected and shaped the mental world of Nazi ideologues, and that the Nazis disseminated to the German public. The party had no official ur-text of ideology, values, and history. But a clear narrative emerges from the myriad works of intellectuals, apparatchiks, journalists, and movie-makers that Chapoutot explores.

The story went like this: In the ancient world, the Nordic-German race lived in harmony with the laws of nature. But since Late Antiquity, corrupt foreign norms and values—Jewish values in particular—had alienated Germany from itself and from all that was natural. The time had come, under the Nazis, to return to the fundamental law of blood. Germany must fight, conquer, and procreate, or perish. History did not concern itself with right and wrong, only brute necessity. A remarkable work of scholarship and insight, The Law of Blood recreates the chilling ideas and outlook that would cost millions their lives.


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Life and Acting
Techniques for the Actor
Jack Garfein
Northwestern University Press, 2010

Arriving in America as a teenage Holocaust refugee, Jack Garfein would soon rise to the top of his field. Life and Acting is the product of more than sixty years in the world of theater and film, offering the kind of insight only gained by experience as both a teacher and practitioner. In Garfein’s case, his experience is unparalleled—he has worked with a who’s who of twentieth-century acting, especially those associated with the Actors Studio, the West Coast arm of which Garfein cofounded.

In Life and Acting, Garfein distills his experience into a holistic technique for learning and teaching. “The Beginning” functions as a kind of memoir, focusing on Garfein’s own education in the theater. “The Art” describes how Garfein’s exposure to nontheater artists, particularly painters and writers, has contributed to his understanding of acting. “Basic Training” offers thirty-seven detailed lessons for teaching acting. In “Training for Film,” Garfein applies his principles to acting in front of a camera.

Like Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting and other classics of this genre, Life and Acting will be an invaluable resource for teachers as well as students.


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The Lone Actor
Viola Spolin
Northwestern University Press, 2001
Viola Spolin's Theater Games for the Lone Actor offers theater games and side coaching for the solo player. Available for the first time, this handbook presents more than forty exercises that allow actors to side coach themselves at home, in rehearsal, or in performance.

Spolin's improvisational techniques changed the nature and practice of modern theater. Her work has inspired actors, directors, teachers, and writers in theater, television, and film. Her techniques have also influenced the fields of education, mental health, social work, and psychology.

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Mask Characterization
An Acting Process
Libby Appel
Southern Illinois University Press, 1982

Behind the mask, Appel notes, the stu­dent is free to create a personality; paradox­ically, because the mask hides the self, it en­ables the student to probe more deeply into himself.

“This book describes, defines, and dis­cusses the mask characterization process, providing the theory behind the exercises and the step-by-step procedure in the organ­ic development of the character from the masks,” Appel notes. The manual is divided into two parts: “The Instructor’s Guide” and “The Actor’s Guide.” There is also an intro­ductory chapter, “The Class Structure,” which explains mask characterization pro­cedures in the classroom, and a sample class schedule may be found in the back of the manual.

This book adds a new dimension to actor training and learning. It is essential to aspir­ing actors seeking new ways to create honest dramatic characterizations.


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Modern Hamlets & Soliloquies
An Expanded Edition
Mary Z. Maher
University of Iowa Press, 2003

In Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies (Iowa, 1992), Mary Maher examined how modern actors have chosen to perform Hamlet’s soliloquies, and why they made the choices they made, within the context of their specific productions of the play.

Adding to original interviews with, among others, Derek Jacobi, David Warner, Kevin Kline, and Ben Kingsley, Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies: An Expanded Edition offers two new and insightful interviews, one with Kenneth Branagh, focusing on his 1997 film production of the play, and one with Simon Russell Beale, discussing his 2000-2001 run as Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre.


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Planning Matter
Acting with Things
Robert A. Beauregard
University of Chicago Press, 2015
City and regional planners talk constantly about the things of the world—from highway interchanges and retention ponds to zoning documents and conference rooms—yet most seem to have a poor understanding of the materiality of the world in which they’re immersed. Too often planners treat built forms, weather patterns, plants, animals, or regulatory technologies as passively awaiting commands rather than actively involved in the workings of cities and regions.

In the ambitious and provocative Planning Matter, Robert A. Beauregard sets out to offer a new materialist perspective on planning practice that reveals the many ways in which the nonhuman things of the world mediate what planners say and do. Drawing on actor-network theory and science and technology studies, Beauregard lays out a framework that acknowledges the inevitable insufficiency of our representations of reality while also engaging more holistically with the world in all of its diversity—including human and nonhuman actors alike.

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The Player's Passion
Studies in the Science of Acting
Joseph R. Roach
University of Michigan Press, 1993
Explores the historical and cultural evolution of the theoretical language of the stage

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The Purpose of Playing
Modern Acting Theories in Perspective
Robert Gordon
University of Michigan Press, 2006
The Purpose of Playing providesthe first in-depth introduction to modern critical acting, enabling students, teachers, and professionals to comprehend the different aesthetic possibilities available to today’s actors. The book presents a comparative survey of the major approaches to Western acting since the nineteenth century, their historical evolution, and their relationship to one another. Author Robert Gordon explores six categories of acting: realistic approaches to characterization (Stanislavski, Vakhtangov, Strasberg, Chekhov); the actor as a scenographic instrument (Appia, Craig, Meyerhold); improvisation and games (Copeau, Saint-Denis, Laban, Lecoq); political theater (Brecht, Boal); exploration of the self and other (Artaud, Grotowski); and performance as cultural exchange (Brook, Barba). The synthesis of these principal theories of dramatic performance in a single text offers practitioners the knowledge they need to contextualize their own practice within the wider field of performance, while encouraging theorists and scholars to be more sensitive to the material realities of artistic practice.

“This analysis of major movements and figures from the early nineteenth century to the present is clear, thorough, and penetrating, and its scope across periods, countries, and styles is impressive.”
--Xerxes Mehta, University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Robert Gordon is Reader in Drama, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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The Six Questions
Acting Technique For Dance Performance
Daniel Nagrin
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997
In the late twenties, actors and directors of the Group Theatre, who were pioneering the use of Stanislavski's teachings, saw the value of teaching ballet and the emerging modern dance. Actors now routinely learn dance, but dancers rarely study acting. In The Six Questions, Nagrin maintains that a command of acting techniques allows the dancer to couple the passion of a body in motion with the heart and mind of the dancer.

In five parts, the book first examines the personal essentials demanded by dance. The second part looks at the pitfalls inherent in the act of performing from vanity to self-hatred. The third part, the core of the book, poses six questions: Who? is doing what? to whom? where and when? and why? and against what obstacle? In the fourth part, Nagrin looks at the tools for working on the role, and the fifth part enters into the very act of performing. All of the work is handled in terms of movement alone: no dialogue or scenes from plays are used.

The Six Questions is a companion piece to Nagrin's other works, How To Dance Forever, and Dance and the Specific Image: Improvisation. Together they present an invaluable teaching and learning tool for anyone in love with dance.



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Speaking in Shakespeare's Voice
A Guide for American Actors
Linda Gates
Northwestern University Press, 2019
Speaking in Shakespeare's Voice: A Guide for American Actors is a book for undergraduate and graduate students of acting as well as for the professional who would like to perform Shakespeare with the skill of a classical actor. It is also valuable for European actors interested in performing Shakespeare in American English and British actors who would like to explore Shakespeare from an American perspective.

This guide focuses on the technical elements of voice and speech, including breathing, resonance, and diction, as well as providing an introduction to verse speaking and scansion and to Shakespeare’s rhetorical devices, such as antithesis, alliteration, onomatopoeia, irony, metaphor, and wordplay. These topics are annotated with examples from Shakespeare’s plays to demonstrate how an actor can apply the lessons to actual performance. The book also explores the history of Shakespearean performance in the United States and provides guidance on current editions of Shakespeare’s text from the Folio to online Open Source Shakespeare. A helpful appendix offers examples of two-person scenes and contextualized monologues.

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Theatre Symposium, Vol. 27
Theatre and Embodiment
Edited by Sarah McCarroll
University of Alabama Press, 2019
A substantive exploration of bodies and embodiment in theatre

Theatre is inescapably about bodies. By definition, theatre requires the live bodies of performers in the same space and at the same time as the live bodies of an audience. And, yet, it’s hard to talk about bodies. We talk about characters; we talk about actors; we talk about costume and movement. But we often approach these as identities or processes layered onto bodies, rather than as inescapably entwined with them. Bodies on the theatrical stage hold the power of transformation. Theatre practitioners, scholars, and educators must think about what bodies go where onstage and what stories which bodies to tell.

The essays in Theatre Symposium, Volume 27 explore a broad range of issues related to embodiment. The volume begins with Rhonda Blair’s keynote essay, in which she provides an overview of the current cognitive science underpinning our understanding of what it means to be “embodied” and to talk about “embodiment.” She also provides a set of goals and cautions for theatre artists engaging with the available science on embodiment, while issuing a call for the absolute necessity for that engagement, given the primacy of the body to the theatrical act.

The following three essays provide examinations of historical bodies in performance. Timothy Pyles works to shift the common textual focus of Racinian scholarship to a more embodied understanding through his examination of the performances of the young female students of the Saint-Cyr academy in two of Racine’s Biblical plays. Shifting forward in time by three centuries, Travis Stern’s exploration of the auratic celebrity of baseball player Mike Kelly uncovers the ways in which bodies may retain the ghosts of their former selves long after physical ability and wealth are gone. Laurence D. Smith’s investigation of actress Manda Björling’s performances in Miss Julie provides a model for how cognitive science, in this case theories of cognitive blending, can be integrated with archival theatrical research and scholarship.

From scholarship grounded in analysis of historical bodies and embodiment, the volume shifts to pedagogical concerns. Kaja Amado Dunn’s essay on the ways in which careless selection of working texts can inflict embodied harm on students of color issues an imperative call for careful and intentional classroom practice in theatre training programs. Cohen Ambrose’s theorization of pedagogical cognitive ecologies, in which subjects usually taught disparately (acting, theatre history, costume design, for example) could be approached collaboratively and through embodiment, speaks to ways in which this call might be answered.

Tessa Carr’s essay on "The Integration of Tuskegee High School" brings together ideas of historical bodies and embodiment in the academic theatrical context through an examination of the process of creating a documentary theatre production. The final piece in the volume, Bridget Sundin’s exchange with the ghost of Marlene Dietrich, is an imaginative exploration of how it is possible to open the archive, to create new spaces for performance scholarship, via an interaction with the body.

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The Wages of History
Emotional Labor on Public History's Front Lines
Amy Tyson
University of Massachusetts Press, 2013
Anyone who has encountered costumed workers at a living history museum may well have wondered what their jobs are like, churning butter or firing muskets while dressed in period clothing. In The Wages of History, Amy Tyson enters the world of the public history interpreters at Minnesota's Historic Fort Snelling to investigate how they understand their roles and experience their daily work. Drawing on archival research, personal interviews, and participant observation, she reframes the current discourse on history museums by analyzing interpreters as laborers within the larger service and knowledge economies.

Although many who are drawn to such work initially see it as a privilege—an opportunity to connect with the public in meaningful ways through the medium of history—the realities of the job almost inevitably alter that view. Not only do interpreters make considerable sacrifices, both emotional and financial, in order to pursue their work, but their sense of special status can lead them to avoid confronting troubling conditions on the job, at times fueling tensions in the workplace.

This case study also offers insights—many drawn from the author's seven years of working as an interpreter at Fort Snelling—into the way gendered roles and behaviors from the past play out among the workers, the importance of creative autonomy to historical interpreters, and the ways those on public history's front lines both resist and embrace the site's more difficult and painful histories relating to slavery and American Indian genocide.

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Writing Performance
Poeticizing the Researcher's Body
Ronald J. Pelias
Southern Illinois University Press, 1999

Ronald J. Pelias is concerned with writing about performance, from the everyday performative routines to the texts on stage. He seeks to write performatively, to offer poetic or aesthetic renderings of performance events in order to capture some sense of their nature. In his quest for the spirit of theatrical performances, Pelias asks more of the written word than the word can deliver. Yet the attempt is both desirable—and necessary. To discuss performance without some accounting for its essence as art, he asserts, is at best misleading, at worst, fraud.

Pelias divides his efforts to present performance events into three general categories: "Performing Every Day," "On Writing and Performing," and "Being a Witness." "Performing Every Day" focuses on performances ranging from the daily business of enacting roles to the telling of tales that make life meaningful. It incorporates essays about the ongoing process of presenting oneself in everyday life; the gender script that insists that men enact manly performances; the classroom performances of teachers and students; stories of gender, class, and race that mark identity; and a performance installation entitled "A Day’s Talk."

"On Writing and Performing" examines the written script and performance practices. It includes a description of a struggle between a writer and a performer as they protect their own interests; an intimate look at an apprehensive performer; a short play entitled "The Audition"; and a chronicle of performance process from the perspective of an actor.

"Being a Witness" examines performance from the perspective of the audience and the director: being an audience member; viewing theatre in the context of New York City; directing and being directed by actors’ bodies; and watching The DEF Comedy Jam.


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