Actors who cite the Method to excuse outlandish behavior perpetuate a misunderstanding of acting theory. These individuals risk their mental health while non-actors witnessing this exaggeration of their clinical disorders see themselves and their experiences with psychological disorders either erased or stigmatized. Because the ineffective portrayal of mental illness has become an ongoing problem, I have chosen to ask the following critical question: Because affect and cognition are inherently linked, how might an actor better understand a psychological disorder with which they have no firsthand experience, and how might the actor then evaluate their moral responsibility to correctly portraying the character’s truth?

To answer the question, I rely upon Stanislavski’s theories as found in An Actor Prepares, which will provide a foundation upon which my exploration can be built. Stanislavski’s psychotechnique lays the groundwork for approaching a character with abnormal psychology, a topic explored in Chapter Two. Herein, I define abnormal psychology and psychological disorders, specifically depression, Bipolar disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, all in a clinical sense. The plays I utilize as brief case studies are ‘night, Mother by Marsha Norman, 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane, and Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue by Quiara Alegría Hudes. My chapters will come together to explore the ways in which an actor can ethically portray a psychological disorder they have not had.


Huston-Findley, Shirley


Theatre and Dance


Acting | Performance Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies


Stanislavski, Abnormal Psychology, Mental Illness

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Marisa Adame