Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award


Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project

Faculty Advisor



This thesis examines the theories explicated in Stanislavski’s second acting text, Building a Character, as they are utilized in the creation and continued manifestation of Tatiana Maslany’s seven different clone characters in the first season BBC America’s drama, Orphan Black. The paper begins by exploring the historical contexts of both Stanislavski’s System and Orphan Black before narrowing in focus to discuss the ‘outward-in’ approach of external character creation, its importance and relevance in the field of acting, and its application in Maslany’s performances. Stanislavski’s basic concepts of external characterization as realized through an actor’s stylistic, physical, vocal, and tempo-rhythmic choices are discussed, with examples of practical application drawn from specific scenes of Maslany’s work in Orphan Black. Intentional aberrations and breaks from Stanislavski’s theories are discussed, as are a number of curious manipulations of these theories based on the inherent medium, premise, and circumstances of the given drama. The essay concludes by examining the prevalence of these theories in Maslany’s work, arguing that these often-undervalued avenues of external character exploration are more important to character manifestation than the inner psycho-technique for which Stanislavski is often remembered. Mastery and manipulation of these theories are what enable masterful, distinct, specific, honest, and living performances, like those given by Maslany in Orphan Black.

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