- Plural of actress
An actor, actress, player or rarely thespian (see terminology) is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity. The ancient Greek word for an actor, (hypokrites), when rendered as a verb means "to interpret"; in this sense, an actor is one who interprets a dramatic character.
TerminologyThe word actor refers to one who acts, while actress refers specifically to a female who acts. The Oxford English Dictionary states that originally "'actor' was used for both sexes". The English word actress does not derive from the Latin actrix, probably not even by way of French actrice; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, actress was "probably formed independently" in English. As actress is a specifically feminine word, some feminists assert that the word is sexist. Gender-neutral usage of actor has re-emerged in modern English, especially when referring to male and female performers collectively, but actress remains a commonly used word.
The gender-neutral term player was common in film in the early days of the Production Code, but is now generally deemed archaic. However, it remains in use in the theatre, often incorporated into the name of a theatre group or company (such as the East West Players).
HistoryThe first recorded case of an actor performing took place in 534 BC (probably on 23 November, though the changes in calendar over the years make it hard to determine exactly) when the Greek performer Thespis stepped on to the stage at the Theatre Dionysus and became the first known person to speak words as a character in a play or story. Prior to Thespis' act, stories were only known to be told in song and dance and in third person narrative. In honour of Thespis,a 6th century B.C poet, actors are commonly called Thespians. Theatrical legend to this day maintains that Thespis exists as a mischievous spirit, and disasters in the theatre are sometimes blamed on his ghostly intervention.
Actors were traditionally not people of high status, and in the Early Middle Ages travelling acting troupes were often viewed with distrust. In many parts of Europe, actors could not even receive a Christian burial, and traditional beliefs of the region and time period held that this left any actor forever condemned. However, this negative perception was largely reversed in the 19th and 20th centuries as acting has become an honored and popular profession and art. Part of the cause is the easier popular access to dramatic film entertainment and the resulting rise of the movie star—as regards both their social status and the salaries they command. The combination of public presence and wealth has profoundly rehabilitated their image.
In the past, only men could become actors in some societies. In the ancient Greece and Rome and the medieval world, it was considered disgraceful for a woman to go on the stage, and this belief continued right up until the 17th century, when in Venice it was broken. In the time of William Shakespeare, women's roles were generally played by men or boys. The British prohibition(Victor Andersen) was ended in the reign of Charles II who enjoyed watching female actors (actresses) on stage.
GeneralActing and actresses employ a variety of techniques that are learned through training and experience. Some of these are:
- The rigorous use of the voice to communicate a character's lines and express emotion. This is achieved through attention to diction and projection through correct breathing and articulation. It is also achieved through the tone and emphasis that an actor puts on words
- Physicalisation of a role in order to create a believable character for the audience and to use the acting space appropriately and correctly
- Use of gesture to complement the voice, interact with other actors and to bring emphasis to the words in a play, as well as having symbolic meaning.
Shakespeare is believed to have been commenting on the acting style and techniques of his era when Hamlet gives his advice to the players in the play-within-the-play. He encourages the actors to “speak the speech ... as I pronounced it to you,” and avoid “saw[ing] the air too much with your hand” , because even in a “whirlwind of passion, you must ... give it smoothness.” On the other hand, Hamlet urges the players to “Be not too tame neither.” He suggests that they make sure to “suit the action to the word, the word to the action”, taking care to “o'erstep not the modesty of nature.” As well, he told the players to not “... let those that play your clowns ... laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too,” which Hamlet considered to be a “villainous” and “pitiful” tactic.
The English critic Benedict Nightingale discussed and compared great classical actors of the long dead past, and the present, and their magical effects upon audiences, in this 1983 article from the New York Times, available online.
As opposite sexHistorically, acting was considered a man's profession; so, in Shakespeare's time, for instance, men and boys played all roles, including the female parts. However when an eighteen year Puritan prohibition of drama was lifted after the English Restoration of 1660, women began to appear on stage. The first occurrence of the term actress in the OED being by Dryden in 1700.
In Japan, men (onnagata) took over the female roles in kabuki theatre when women were banned from performing on stage during the Edo period. However, some forms of Chinese drama have women playing all the roles.
In modern times, women sometimes play the roles of prepubescent boys. The stage role of Peter Pan, for example, is traditionally played by a woman, as are the principal boy and dame in British pantomime. This is uncommon in film, however, except in animated films and television programmes, where boys are sometimes voiced by women. For example, in The Simpsons the voice of Bart Simpson is provided by Nancy Cartwright. Opera has several "pants roles" traditionally sung by women, usually mezzo-sopranos. Examples are Hansel in Hänsel und Gretel, and Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro.
Having an actor dress as the opposite sex for comic effect is also a long standing tradition in comic theatre and film. Most of Shakespeare's comedies include instances of overt cross-dressing, such as Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The movie A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum stars Jack Gilford dressing as a young bride. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon famously posed as women to escape gangsters in the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot. Cross-dressing for comic effect was a frequently used device in most of the thirty Carry On films. Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams each appeared in a hit comedy film in which they played most scenes dressed as a woman.
Several roles in modern plays and musicals are played by a member of the opposite sex (rather than a character cross-dressing), such as the character Edna Turnblad in Hairspray — played by Divine in the original film, Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway musical, and John Travolta in the 2007 movie musical. Occasionally the issue is further complicated through a woman acting as a man pretending to be a woman, like Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria or Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love.
- Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, for film
- Cannes Film Festival Awards, international French festival for world wide films and documentaries
- Golden Globe Awards for film and television
- Emmy Awards for television
- Genie Awards for Canadian film
- Gemini Awards for Canadian television
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for film and television; also known as BAFTA
- Tony Awards for the theatre (specifically, Broadway theatre)
- European Theatre Awards for the theatre
- Laurence Olivier Awards for the theatre (named in honour of actor Sir Laurence Olivier)
- Screen Actors Guild Awards for actors in film and television
- Indian National Film Awards for the Indian cinema.
- Filmfare Awards honors excellence in the Indian Film Industry (Bollywood) - limited to Hindi language films only.
- Goya Awards for Spanish film.
- San Sebastián International Film Festival Spanish film festival Celebrated in San Sebastián.
- César Awards for French film.
- AFI Awards for Australian film.
- Berlinale German film festival in Berlin (Golden and Silver Bear)
- Piala Citra (Citra Award) for Indonesian film.
- IFTA's for the Irish Film and Television
- Kids Choice Awards for Nickelodeon and TV channels based on kids.
- Voice Actor
- Leading actor
- Supporting actor
- Character actor
- Bit part
- Movie star
- Stunt work
- List of male film actors
- List of female film actors
- Method acting
- Pornographic actor
- Presentational acting and Representational acting
- Improvisational theatre
- Film producers
- Q Score
- Dramatis personæ
- An Actor Prepares by Konstantin Stanislavski (Theatre Arts Books, ISBN 0-87830-983-7, 1989)
- A Dream of Passion: The Development of the Method by Lee Strasberg (Plume Books, ISBN 0-452-26198-8, 1990)
- Sanford Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner (Vintage, ISBN 0-394-75059-4, 1987)
- Letters to a Young Actor by Robert Brustein (Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-00806-2, 2005).
- The Alexander Technique Manual by Richard Brennan (Connections Book Publishing ISBN 1-85906-163-X, 2004)
- The Empty Space by Peter Brook
- The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler
- Acting Power by Robert Cohen, (McGraw-Hill, 1987)
- Acting Professionally: Raw Facts About Careers in Acting by Robert Cohen (2003). (McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-072-56259-5, 2003)
- Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0416720609.
- Weimann, Robert. 1978. Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function. Ed. Robert Schwartz. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801835062.
- Actors' Equity Association (AEA): a union representing U. S. theatre actors and stage managers.
- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA): a union representing U. S. television and radio actors and broadcasters (on-air journalists, etc.).
- British Actors' Equity: a trade union representing UK artists, including actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.
- Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance: an Australian/New Zealand trade union representing everyone in the media, entertainment, sports, and arts industries.
- Acting, Just the Facts an article on being an actor
- Screen Actors Guild (SAG): a union representing U. S. film and TV actors.
actresses in Tosk Albanian: Schauspieler
actresses in Arabic: ممثل
actresses in Asturian: Actor
actresses in Bosnian: Glumac
actresses in Bulgarian: Актьор
actresses in Catalan: Actor
actresses in Czech: Herec
actresses in Welsh: Actor
actresses in Danish: Skuespiller
actresses in German: Schauspieler
actresses in Modern Greek (1453-): Ηθοποιός
actresses in Spanish: Actuación
actresses in Esperanto: Aktoro
actresses in Persian: هنرپیشه
actresses in French: Acteur
actresses in Scottish Gaelic: Actair
actresses in Galician: Actor
actresses in Korean: 배우
actresses in Croatian: Glumac
actresses in Ido: Aktoro
actresses in Indonesian: Pemeran
actresses in Italian: Attore (spettacolo)
actresses in Hebrew: שחקן
actresses in Georgian: მსახიობი
actresses in Latin: Actor
actresses in Lithuanian: Aktorius
actresses in Hungarian: Színész
actresses in Macedonian: Актер
actresses in Malay (macrolanguage): Pelakon
actresses in Dutch: Acteur
actresses in Japanese: 俳優
actresses in Norwegian: Skuespiller
actresses in Norwegian Nynorsk: Skodespelar
actresses in Novial: Aktore
actresses in Uzbek: Aktyor
actresses in Polish: Aktor
actresses in Portuguese: Actor
actresses in Romanian: Actor
actresses in Quechua: Aranway pukllaq
actresses in Russian: Актёр
actresses in Albanian: Aktori
actresses in Simple English: Actor
actresses in Slovak: Herec
actresses in Slovenian: Filmski igralec
actresses in Serbian: Глумац
actresses in Serbo-Croatian: Glumci
actresses in Finnish: Näyttelijä
actresses in Swedish: Skådespelare
actresses in Tagalog: Artista
actresses in Thai: นักแสดง
actresses in Vietnamese: Diễn viên
actresses in Tajik: Ҳунарпеша (филм)
actresses in Turkish: Aktör
actresses in Ukrainian: Кіноактор
actresses in Yiddish: אקטיאר
actresses in Chinese: 演員