From Plato's fears about the corrupting effects of tragedy on the civic devotion of citizens, to Rousseau's concerns about the theater as the cause of moral decay, to Richard Sennett's contemporary arguments for an understanding of citizenship as a performance in the "theatrum mundi," the performance and spectacle of theater, through both watching and in acting, has been closely linked to expectations of democratic citizenship. This course will examine the history of acting as a way to consider what we are called to do to sustain democratic life. How is being a citizen or a juror the equivalent of playing a role? Can the practice of acting help develop skills of empathy and deliberation that are needed to navigate difficult political questions? On the other hand, can the "inauthenticity" of acting be a corrosive parallel that treats all civic interactions as strategic ones grounded in self-interest? Drawing on texts from the history of political thought, theater studies, and the psychology of acting, the course will culminate in a performance art piece at Wesleyan, developed by the class, to highlight the demands of citizenship. A willingness to act is expected, but no experience is required.