Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Mark A. Hector

Committee Members

Howard Pollio, Schuyler Huck, Susan Lonborg, Gary Klukken


The purpose of this study is to describe the process of character development as experienced by the actor. Twelve professional actors participated in 60 to 90 minute phenomenological interviews in which they were asked to talk about their experiences of character development. Each participant was asked to respond to the following statement, ''Take a moment to think about a specific character you played. Please describe for me in as much detail as you can what stood out for you during the development of that character."

Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. The transcripts were analyzed individually and in a group format using an existential/phenomenological method. Data analysis revealed a thematic structure comprised of five themes: (a) Preparation, (b) Use of Self, (c) Connection, (d) Being in the Moment, and (e) Personal Gain. Analysis also revealed that the five figural themes were contextualized within the frame of one experiential ground: Authenticity. In other words, this ground provides the primary context through which the themes of the experience of character development become figural. Participants' descriptions of their experiences were always situated within the context of being authentic to all aspects of character development.

The first theme Preparation was comprised of three sub-themes: The Script, Research, and Meaning of the Text. The theme Use of Self was comprised of six subthemes: Association of Self with Character/Past Experiences, Own Emotions, Body/Embodiment, Intuition, Availability of Self, and Reciprocity of Two Worlds. The theme Connection was comprised of three sub-themes: Relating to the Character, Connection with Scene Partners, and Connection with the Director. The theme of Being in the Moment was comprised of two sub-themes: Being in the Zone and The Ultimate Goal. The last theme, Personal Gain was comprised of the following three sub-themes: Catharsis, Security, and Personal Transformation. Results are discussed in relation to existing literature. This was followed by implications for the fields of psychology and theatre and suggestions for further research.

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