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.
Performing Ethos is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal which considers ethical questions relating to contemporary theatre and live performance. Global in scope, it provides a unique forum for rigorous scholarship and serious reflection on the ethical dimensions of a wide range of performance practices from the politically and aesthetically radical to the mainstream.