The Player's Passion

Studies in the Science of Acting
Joseph R. Roach
Explores the historical and cultural evolution of the theoretical language of the stage


The Player's Passion reinterprets theories of acting in light of the history of science, examining acting styles from the seventeenth to the twentieth century and measuring them against prevailing conceptions of the human body. The author explores how dominant theories of emotion, from the Galenic humor to the Pavlovian reflex, have shaped the critic's changing standards of the natural order of life and the actor's physical embodiment of it.

The Player's Passion has become a classic among theater historians and students of acting, and received the prestigious Barnard Hewitt Award for outstanding research in theater history. A wider audience will appreciate the book for its consideration of how far an idea can spread from its original discipline into the broader currents of intellectual history and popular comprehension.

Praise / Awards

  • "I consider it a modern classic. . . . a work of the finest erudition, without pretense but with a fine sense of learning and with an astonishing vocabulary that communicates complex and often controversial concepts with clarity and total competence."
    —Don B. Wilmeth, Brown University
  • "Player's Passion is an extraordinary piece of scholarship. It organizes a breathtaking sweep of material. Mr. Roach has assumed that the reality of acting has itself reflected an evolving understanding of the workings of the human organism throughout history. The reader, in fact, gradually begins to see that the theorists and the actors are mutually engaged in the common and ongoing effort of man to understand himself."
    —Robert L. Benedetti, University of Colorado
  • "A major contribution; it is also a cogent examination of central issues on the subject, and it should be studied assiduously by every teacher of acting and by all actors and directors genuinely concerned about acting as an art. The breadth of research is imposing; extensive endnotes and bibliography are excellent. Interpretive discussion reflects broad knowledge and penetrating intellect animated by high vision of both theater and scholarship."
  • "The most important study in the English language on the history of Western acting theory."
    Theatre Research International
  • Winner of the Barnard Hewitt Award, American Society for Theatre Research

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 256pp.
  • 25 B&W photographs, 6 line drawings.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1993
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08244-5

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  • $26.95 U.S.