Acting, Actress, Brecht, Drama, Mistress ford, Performance, Shakespeare, Theater, Theatre


Art is too ethereal a thing to judge by tangible measure. There is no scale to weigh a performance on, no level to gauge a character’s balance, no plumb line to measure its depth. No critic can appoint an allotment of stars to represent the worth of a production, and the audience, though a vital participant within the performance experience, cannot act as Jury and deliberate together to reach an absolute verdict of approval or disapproval. How then can an actor go about working towards giving a successful performance? The Merry Wives of Windsor was written at a time when wives were not permitted to tread upon the stage at all. During Shakespeare’s era the roles of women were played only by cherub faced young men. The version of The Merry Wives of Windsor which was presented by the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2002 was not, however, set in those pre-femme days. The production was presented as if being performed by a traveling acting troupe of men and women with a repertoire of which The Merry Wives of Windsor was only a part. I was cast as Mistress Ford. Embarking on a Shakespeare play is no small feat. Earnest research on the lives of the Elizabethans will offer up clues into the mindset, customs, beliefs, and theories of the age in which the play was written. Modern day actors preparing themselves to take on a Shakespearian role may also look also to the theories and theatrical trends of his or her own time and those that have led up to it. This research is the foundation on which a performance must be built. The theatrical performer must act as his own instrument in the symphony of his performance. Stage acting is an art form which enfolds many forms of expressive artistic communication. The mind, the body, the voice, the emotions and in my opinion the soul must all come into play to reach the summit of an artistic theatrical performance and the actor’s journey must be comprised of exercises to stretch and strengthen each area of the actor’s instrument. A vigorous vocal regimen must be crafted and adhered to. An analytical investigation of the script is required. The actor’s physicality must be tailored to portray the proper class, energy level and spirit of his character. The emotional life of the character should be thoroughly probed and the performer must find a way to fully embody the soul of the character and the age in which the character lived. In this particular case, I came to find that the usual modern day methods of performance preparation most commonly used by actors of our age were not in themselves enough to bring me to what I felt was a successful performance. I came instead to discover that a Brechtian approach to Shakespearian acting solved many of the challenges I faced when coming up short in my prior attempts to use a more Stanislavsky based method. Although the very nature of art makes it impossible to judge by tangible measure, there are very tangible ways to go about preparing for a role upon the stage. No single approach can work for every piece. One must exercise the mind, voice, body and soul to perform a role as weighty as a Shakespearian character. Proper research, analysis, and a regimen built upon exercises for the body and voice are the tools available for the serious actor. This thesis outlines a University actress’ use of these tools and details how the discovery of Brechtian elements within the UCF production of Merry Wives opened doors to a new way of handling the portrayal Mistress Ford.


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Graduation Date





Listengarten, Julia


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

August 2004

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences