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Revisits the history of acting pedagogy and performance practice to reveal the influence of industrial culture and philosophy on theater and film


While Hollywood has long been called “The Dream Factory,” and theatrical entertainment more broadly has been called “The Industry,” the significance of these names has rarely been explored. There are in fact striking overlaps between industrial rhetoric and practice and the development of theatrical and cinematic techniques for rehearsal and performance. Interchangeable Parts examines the history of acting pedagogy and performance practice in the United States, and their debts to industrial organization and philosophy. Ranging from the late nineteenth century through the end of the twentieth, the book recontextualizes the history of theatrical technique in light of the embrace of industrialization in US culture and society.
Victor Holtcamp explores the invocations of scientific and industrial rhetoric and philosophy in the founding of the first schools of acting, and echoes of that rhetoric in playwriting, production, and the cinema, as Hollywood in particular embraced this industrially infected model of acting.  In their divergent approaches to performance, the major US acting teachers (Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Sanford Meisner) demonstrated strong rhetorical affinities for the language of industry, illustrating the pervasive presence of these industrial roots. The book narrates the story of how actors learned to learn to act, and what that process, for both stage and screen, owed to the interchangeable parts and mass production revolutions.  

Victor Holtcamp is Associate Professor of Theatre, Tulane University.

 “Interchangeable Parts makes a persuasive case for the acting profession’s increasing attention to notions of efficiency and clarity, and will make a useful contribution to studies of acting theory. The author’s substantial archival research allows illuminating connections among acting practitioners whose work is often overlooked or, in other instances, framed in narratives that are by now overly familiar."
–Cynthia Baron, Bowling Green State University

"Theater educators and theorists could use this text as a way to intuit what comes next in modern theater education. The epitome of excellent research and writing, this well-crafted text will be invaluable to those involved in theater research, dramaturgy, and history. Highly recommended."

- E. C. Skiles, Lone Star College-Kingwood

"Thoroughly researched and clearly articulated, Holtcamp’s study of acting methodology would be useful to upper-level acting students and faculty as well as to scholars and historians looking to understand the disappearance of stock companies and “lines of business” in favor of a systematic and craft-based model of acting."
Theatre Topics

- Beth Johnson

Finalist: Theatre Library Association (TLA) 2019 George Freedley Memorial Award

- TLA George Freedley Memorial Award