Rehearsing Emotions
The Process of Creating a Role for the Stage
Stockholm Studies in Sociology N.S. 45

By Stina Bergman Blix
December 2010
Stockholm University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789186071417
237 pages
$87.50 Paper Original

Rehearsing Emotions investigates how stage actors work with their roles, in particular with emotions. It thus expands sociological roles theories that often presume what stage acting is about in order to use it as a simile for everyday acting. Participant observation and interviews with stage actors were used during the rehearsal phase of two productions at a large theatre in Sweden. The inhabiting of a role for the stage was found to be more difficult and painstaking than has been assumed in role theories so far. Shame and insecurity are common, particularly in the start up phase of the rehearsals, emotions that do not disappear with growing experience, but instead become recognized and accepted as part of the work process.

The interplay between the actors' experience and expression of emotions was analyzed in terms of surface and deep acting, concepts which are elaborated and put in a process perspective. Actors were found to gradually decouple the privately derived emotional experiences that they use to find their way into their characters from the emotions that they express on the stage. Thus private experiences are converted to professional emotional experiences and expressions. Step by step the physical manifestation of an emotion can be repeated with a weaker base in a simultaneous experience, since the body remembers the expression. The ability to professionalize emotions makes the transitions in and out of emotions less strenuous but can infiltrate and cause problems in the actors' intimate relations.


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