Date of Award


First Advisor

Kati Garcia-Renart

Second Advisor

Aimee Michel


An actor is useless unless they let themselves be vulnerable to the pain of surprise. Fear runs as an undercurrent to life and work, providing energy and passion, but can also limit us to fight, flight, or freeze. Thom Pain (based on nothing) is a play, in which, the title character relates the stories of a boy growing “sideways” to process his life and find a definition for fear. The aim of the thesis is to render fear with help from interviews with fellow artists, training from past teachers, and reflection on an actor’s preparation and performance. The prologue provides exposition on the choice of Thom Pain and Declan Donnellan’s The Actor and the Target as a working definition and framework for the actor’s journey into fear. The interviews use experiences from semesters at the National Theater Institute and the London Dramatic Academy and build on Donnellan’s suggestions to provide the groundwork for the actor’s exploration of fear in performance. The chapter on process picks up the journey after the performance and recounts audience responses, the actor’s work on the character through written adaptation and a dialogue with past teachers, and discoveries made with the director, Nathaniel Bokaer-Smith.1 We leave off with the actor’s reflection on the journey, its goals, purpose, and dedication before saying farewell with the actor answering his own interview questions. The journey is taken to discover but the account of the journey cannot replicate this discovery. It can only attempt to reconstruct the circumstances in the hope for more explorers.

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