Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Supervisor

Dr Renee Newman

Second Supervisor

Dr Lyndall Adams


Actor training is a challenging and personally confronting course of study during which students can undergo intense emotional upheaval. Australian conservatoires and vocational drama schools teach acting students to access and expand their emotional range as part of their professional skill repertoire. A variety of methods and techniques are used to assist and enable them to accomplish this. Sometimes, student actors are requested to tap into personal memories, which can have severe emotional repercussions. Many exercises in other areas of training can also be very emotionally confronting. Finding a balance between having emotions available for use in acting work and avoiding being negatively affected or overwhelmed by them can be a precarious path.

This research investigates the broad pedagogical positions held by a select group of Australia’s leading drama schools towards the emotional aspects of actor training. It examines the range of stresses particular to acting students during their training, and what facets of their course may contribute to this pressure. The study explores how students’ emotional issues are handled by theatre instructors and the institutions in which they teach, and inquires whether current staff members feel they have the training and resources to deal with this aspect of the acting programmes. The project examines acting students’ exposure to training practices that may carry high emotional risks, and whether the drama schools have strategies and policies in place to safeguard students’ mental and psychological wellbeing. It also examines whether emotional boundary management can be formalised in the actor training setting and where duty of care responsibilities lie within this complex environment.

The research draws on the knowledge of experienced theatre practitioners, teachers, psychologists and drama school graduates. It aims to contribute to actor training pedagogy by focusing on what is considered an under- iii discussed and under-researched element of drama school training. By exploring ways of implementing change, it is anticipated that the study may play a part in ensuring a healthier and emotionally safer environment for actor training.

Included in

Acting Commons