Theatre, Drama & Cinema

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


The Charismatic Chameleon

The Actor as Creative Artist

Leslie O’Dell is a professor of Theatre and Film at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Her publications include Shakespearean Scholarship, Shakespearean Language, and Shakespearean Characterization. Her current research focuses on the psychology of acting and the phenomenology of creativity. She has worked in theatre and film as a director, actor, and script writer as well as a coach and dramaturge.

A working actor needs chameleon-like skills to transform into fictional characters shaped by the conventions of any of a wide variety of genres. Equally important is charisma, that unique personal energy that transforms a skilled mimic into a star. What is the secret of the charismatic chameleon? Beginning with the premise that actors are creative artists, and tracing individual creativity to six distinct temperaments (personality types), Leslie O–Dell demonstrates how actors can tap the profound resources of the psyche in even the most stress-filled situations. After introducing the nuances of the theory behind the practice, readers encounter a “Virtual Workshop” – A dialogue among acting students, each representing one of the six Creative Personality types, as they diagnose their individual temperaments and then explore how the charismatic chameleon insight might assist each of them in mastering their craft, confronting barriers to personal excellence, and in preparing themselves for a successful acting career. The volume concludes with an annotated bibliography that positions the concepts of charisma, creative temperament, and the dangers and challenges of acting training within the context of writings by leading scholars and theatre practitioners.

At the heart of the book is one simple truth: that an effortless flow of charismatic energy is available at any time and that the process for tapping into that source of authenticity and creativity is straightforward, flexible, and easily blended with other acting strategies and styles. The Charismatic Chameleon is essential reading for working actors, for students of acting, and for teachers and directors who seek a more finely-nuanced understanding of the source of acting excellence and how best to optimize creativity through collaborative and individual praxis.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-412-3
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $29.95
Release Date: June 2010
Page Extent / Format: 260 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Part One An Introduction to Creative Temperament
Chameleon Work
Disciplined Creativity
An Actor’s Individuality
Temperament and the Actor
Categorization and Creative Flow
The Four Conduits
Yin and Yang

Part Two The Virtual Workshop
The Charismatic Chameleon
In Search of a Well-tuned Engine
The Creative Temperament
The Four Conduits
Yin and Yang
An Actor’s Creativity
Creative Considerations
Temperament, Conduit, Consideration
Subcategories of the Six Creative Personality Types
Crimping and Noise
Danger, Safely
Virtual Workshop Session One: Exploring Conduits
Self Diagnosis through Reflection and Comparison
Individual or Universal
Narrowing the Field
Exploration with Improvisation
Mismatched Creative Temperaments
Diagnosis through Self-Reflection
Conduit or Trained Consideration
Learned Suppression
Avoiding Assumptions and Hierarchies
Exploration with Neutral Scene
Test Driving Discoveries
External Shape, Internal Energy
Creative Problem Solving
Digression: How do you know you are you?
Virtual Workshop Session Two: Exercises for Self-Diagnosis
Similar but Significantly Different
Dance of the Yin/Yang
The Yin/Yang Dance of Action/Relationship/Power
The Magnetic Yin/Yang Dance
Magnetic Pairs
Certainty and Uncertainty
Perception Pairs
Rethinking First Impressions
Reality Check
Stanislavsky and Conduits
Emotion Words via Stanislavsky
Playing Emotions
Digression: Love/Hate Chameleons
Virtual Workshop Session Three: Conduits and Considerations
Gifts and Pitfalls
Power/Relationship/Action/Perception Actors
Character Shape and Chameleon Energy
How Translation Works
Receptive Mode Dominance
Personalized Warm Ups
Ideal Learning Environments
Conduits and Considerations
Digression: Socialization
Virtual Workshop Session Four: Safely Dangerous
Present Tense
Disciplining the Flow
Craft and Creativity
Directing from Within
Cooling Down
De-briefing with Considerations
Negotiating Socialization
Emotional Blow Out
In Harm’s Way
Power Pitfall
Safety Net
Relationship Pitfall
Bungee Jumping
Digression: Temperament and Aptitude
Virtual Workshop Session Five: Mismatches and Simultaneous Translation
Type Casting
Avoiding Mismatch
Channel the Energy
Flow versus Effort
Fake versus Authentic
Conduits and Teaching Acting
Credibility and Dishonesty
Artistic Living
Real Emotions
Digression: The Authentic Chameleon
Virtual Workshop Session Six: Questions and Concerns
Monologues and Impulses
Auditions and Using the Real
Everything Counts
Stage Fright
Memorizing and Knowing
Camera Acting
Charismatic Chameleons

Works Cited
Development of the Theory: An Annotated Bibliography
Stanislavsky, the Method, and a Shelf-full of Acting Textbooks
Psychological Gold and Dross
Pragmatic Research
Laban for Actors
Great Minds Thinking Alike?
The Actor as Chameleon
Creating a Character
The Limits of Empathy
Believable Acting and the Audience’s Experience of Meaning
Destructive Mismatches
Toolbox or Legacy?
Master Teachers, Legacies, and the Development of Systems of Acting
Hegemony and the Ascendancy of Method Acting
Ethical Standards for the Classroom and Rehearsal Hall
Honouring Diversity


A definitive survey of acting-techniques that lucidly describes the processes by which theatre is created. Invaluable insights that no one entering the acting profession should be without.
Charles Marowitz, a leading critic, playwright, director and author whose recent books include The Other Chekhov and Roar of the Canon

O’Dell provides tools for actors and acting teachers to understand and master the processes through which outstanding acting is achieved … An insightful resource for those interested in furthering their acting skills.
Platform, Department of Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London

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