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A Queer Actor Prepares: A Reimagining of Stanislavski's System to Work Against the Consequences of Heteronormativity

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Actor-training is a practice that has constantly evolved and shifted as we develop our understandings of humanity. However, for some contemporary actors, actor-training has not grown enough to acknowledge and liberate certain ‘truths’ of the self. One of these ‘truths’ is one’s queer identity. Without careful examination, ‘tried-and-true’ methods of actor-training can reinforce heterosexual standards and write-off queerness as taboo. As a result, many queer actors are left feeling alienated and stifled as they try to fit a mold that does not honor their lived experiences. This thesis argues that actor-training must be reinvented to not only include queer actors but also to liberate their queerness and use it as a valid means of connecting to their art. Modern actor-training in the Western world is heavily influenced by the works of theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski. The longevity and success of this actor-training prove the existence of valuable tools that demand a queer reimagining. His work encourages the actor to tap into the self and work off of inner, ‘truthful’ impulses. Too often, the queer actor is failed in this training and assimilates to anti-queer standards by ignoring their queer impulses. This thesis argues that this issue must be dissected and addressed in order to further the trajectory of actor-training that is cognizant of contemporary ‘truths.’ My work reimagines several of Stanislavski’s methods through a queer lens and proposes them as a valid alternative to classic techniques that do not fully honor the queer actor’s experience. By engaging with queer theory and acting theory, this work explains why queer actors are performing heterosexuality in the space and how this false impulse defeats the intentions of Stanislavski’s methods. I describe a practice-as-research approach that allowed me to develop a workshop where I tested out my reimagined Stanislavski System and received feedback from my queer-identified participants. If reimagining how we utilize Stanislavski in the studio proves useful to the group, then this is something that should be considered for all methods of actor-training.

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