Ethical Stress and Playing Real People

Mary E Luckhurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article argues that actors playing real people find themselves subject to specific forms of ethical stress that they do not suffer from when playing fictional characters. It investigates particular aspects of ethical stress and examines what individual actors might mean by their common claim to feel a greater `responsibility' when playing a real person. Ethical quandaries and anxieties lead actors to modify their usual approaches and their experience is often one of imaginative and emotional containment. This article also exposes the difficulty actors face in articulating their ethical dilemmas because of assumptions about their subordinate role in the production hierarchy. Lastly, this article makes a plea for ethics to be incorporated into actor-training courses and for acting theory to be revisited in respect of ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-152
Number of pages18
JournalPerforming Ethos: International Journal of Ethics in Theatre & Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2010


  • Theatre, Acting, Ethics, Performance


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