Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts

School or Department




Faculty Mentor Department


Faculty Mentor

Pamyla Stiehl


Musical Theatre, Golden Age, Musicals, acting, Mary Martin, Barbara Cook

Subject Categories

Acting | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Performance Studies


In my undergraduate performance work, I have become fascinated by the way in which the unique human experiences of an actor influence the ways in which they select choices when preparing a role. The individual personality, lived experience, and thought process of each actor means that their understanding of a character is unique to them and so their choices in the role are unique. This is the basis of what makes live performances and their ephemeral nature so captivating. The performance an audience receives in live theatre is filtered through the lens of an actor's experience and creative choice. This lens also filters the meaning intended by the writers.

This led me to a theory that exploring the processes of actors who originated roles may present insight for actors struggling to find ways of connecting with characters. I propose a similar course of study and experimentation as if working with text by one of theatre’s many writer-actor-director practitioners. Separating performance craft from the way in which a role was created is a disservice to the text and a hindrance to the actor. Using academic research about the techniques used to forge the role originally can inform contemporary choices by adding cultural context. In a studio working with text by Berolt Brecht using techniques and exercises associated with Brecht, like alienation, may be useful in discovering choices in his texts. I suggest that similar to this style of work, studying the practices and personal insights of originating actors may help inform future performances and understandings of roles.

In particular I believe this practice may be useful to contemporary performers struggling to connect with period work written or set in a time other than the actor’s own. I especially believe that there may be applications for performers working with non-contemporary roles in musical theatre. The collaborative relationship between actors and the roles they originate adds nuance and depth that may serve as a gateway for future generations to unlock understanding and more sensitive performances in their contemporary interpretations of the Golden Age (approximately 1943- the early 1960s) ingénue canon.

Honors College Research Project


GLI Capstone Project




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