In contemporary Western theatre and actor’s training, there is a tension
between different traditions in the actor’s work, concerning the bodily
practices that are related to representation, construction of identities,
authenticity and self-expression. One aspect of the actor’s methodical
tradition – the openness to suffering and sacrificing oneself in the name of
the arts – will be displayed and scrutinized through examples from ancient
theatre, European avant-garde, and the Method acting tradition. I will argue
that this aspect is aimed at exposing the artist as a unique original, and in
this way also serves the commodification of the artist’s self-presentation.
In contrast to the abovementioned moods of representation, 20th century
artists and philosophers like Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin practi-
cally and theoretically challenge concepts such as originality, authenticity
and artists’ self-representation. They instead investigate the creative and
political potential in phenomena like quoting and copying, and above all
a playful and critical role-taking process, not based on self-expression.
I will finally argue that Brecht’s stance is in accordance with a non-essen-
tialist view of humans and that his views are in line with certain tendencies
in the post-dramatic tradition.