Why do people act? Why are other people drawn to watch them? How is acting as a performing art related to role-playing outside the theater? As the first philosophical study devoted to acting,Acts: Theater, Philosophy, and the Performing Self sheds light on some of the more evasive aspects of the acting experience— such as the import of the actor’s voice, the ethical unease sometimes felt while embodying particular sequences, and the meaning of inspiration. Tzachi Zamir explores acting’s relationship to everyday role-playing through a surprising range of examples of “lived acting,” including pornography, masochism, and eating disorders. By unearthing the deeper mobilizing structures that underlie dissimilar forms of staged and non-staged role-playing, Acts offers a multi-layered meditation on the percolation from acting to life.
The book engages questions of theatrical inspiration, the actor’s “energy,” the difference between acting and pretending, the special role of repetition as part of live acting, the audience and its attraction to acting, and the unique significance of the actor’s voice. It examines the embodied nature of the actor’s animation of a fiction, the breakdown of the distinction between what one acts and who one is, and the transition from what one performs into who one is, creating an interdisciplinary meditation on the relationship between life and acting.
“A vibrant and vital addition to existing studies of acting/performance from an engaged philosophical perspective. Zamir traces the connections between acting and ‘energy,’ ‘intensity,’ and ‘inspiration’ before returning to the question of embodiment, a term with especially complicated conceptual baggage. All of this is imbricated deftly with Zamir’s citation of commentaries from actors and acting teachers/thinkers alike, grounding the work in material practice with a writerly grace rarely found in texts on the philosophy of acting. Zamir’s later turn to the question of ethics and to pornography is both bold and brilliant.”
—Patrick Anderson, University of California, San Diego
“Zamir’s account of acting is grounded in his own experience, deeply informed by his substantial background in philosophy and performance studies. The result is something new: an account of acting that is attuned to many issues currently being hashed out in performance studies and firmly attached to issues of major import in philosophy.”
—James Hamilton, Kansas State University
“Zamir uses a series of fascinating special topics and case studies to make a valuable and highly unique contribution to scholarship in the philosophy of art, theatre, and performance studies.”
—David Z. Saltz, University of Georgia