Acting

Acting

Overview

Acting is the work of an actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

 or actress, which is a person in theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, or any other storytelling
Storytelling
Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values...

 medium who tells the story by portraying a character
Character (arts)
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

 and, usually, speaking or singing
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

 the written text or play
Play (theatre)
A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

.

Most early sources in the West
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 that examine the art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 of acting discuss it as part of rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

.

One of the first actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s is believed to be an ancient Greek called Thespis
Thespis
Thespis of Icaria , according to certain Ancient Greek sources and especially Aristotle, was the first person ever to appear on stage as an actor playing a character in a play...

 of Icaria.
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Quotations

For an actress to be a success she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

Ethel Barrymore quoted in George Jean Nathan's The Theatre in the fifties

ACTOR: A professional exhibitionist who manufactures emotions in a manner convincing enough to earn a living, generally by reciting the daily specials to restaurant patrons.

Rick Bayan, The Cynic's Dictionary

It's not whether you really cry. It's whether the audience thinks you are crying.

Ingrid Bergman, Halliwell's Filmgoer's and Video Viewer's Companion

For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.

Sarah Bernhardt, Memories of My Life, Ch. 6

An actor's a guy, who if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening.

Marlon Brando, The Observer (1956)

Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It's a bum's life. Quitting acting, that's the sign of maturity.

Marlon Brando, Halliwell's Filmgoer's and Video Viewer's Companion

Acting is the least mysterious of all crafts. Whenever we want something from somebody or when we want to hide something or pretend, we're acting. Most people do it all day long.

Marlon Brando, as quoted in The New York Times (2 July 2004)

If a studio offered to pay me as much to sweep the floor as it did to act, I'd sweep the floor. There isn't anything that pays you as well as acting while you decide what the hell you're going to do with yourself. Who cares about the applause? Do I need applause to feel good about myself?

Marlon Brando, New York Times (July 2, 2004)

The close-up says everything, it's then that an actor's learned, rehearsed behavior becomes most obvious to an audience and chips away, unconsciously, at its experience of reality. In a close-up, the audience is only inches away, and your face becomes the stage.

Marlon Brando, New York Times (July 2, 2004)

By the time an actor knows how to act any sort of part he is often too old to act any but a few.

W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up
Encyclopedia

Acting is the work of an actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

 or actress, which is a person in theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, or any other storytelling
Storytelling
Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values...

 medium who tells the story by portraying a character
Character (arts)
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

 and, usually, speaking or singing
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

 the written text or play
Play (theatre)
A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

.

Most early sources in the West
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 that examine the art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 of acting discuss it as part of rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

.

Definition and history


One of the first actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s is believed to be an ancient Greek called Thespis
Thespis
Thespis of Icaria , according to certain Ancient Greek sources and especially Aristotle, was the first person ever to appear on stage as an actor playing a character in a play...

 of Icaria. An apocryphal story says that Thespis stepped out of the dithyramb
Dithyramb
The dithyramb was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility; the term was also used as an epithet of the god: Plato, in The Laws, while discussing various kinds of music mentions "the birth of Dionysos, called, I think, the dithyramb." Plato also...

ic chorus
Greek chorus
A Greek chorus is a homogenous, non-individualised group of performers in the plays of classical Greece, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action....

 and spoke to them as a separate character
Character (arts)
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

. Before Thespis, the chorus narrated (for example, "Dionysus did this, Dionysus said that"). When Thespis stepped out from the chorus, he spoke as if he was the character (for example, "I am Dionysus. I did this"). From Thespis' name derives the word thespian
Thespian
Thespian may refer to:* An actor * A citizen of the ancient Greek city of Thespiae* A member of the International Thespian Society, an honor society that promotes excellence in high school theater...

.

Acting requires a wide range of skills, including vocal projection, clarity of speech, physical expressivity, emotional facility, a well-developed imagination
Imagination
Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses...

, and the ability to interpret drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

. Acting also often demands an ability to employ dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s, accents and body language, improvisation
Improvisational theatre
Improvisational theatre takes many forms. It is best known as improv or impro, which is often comedic, and sometimes poignant or dramatic. In this popular, often topical art form improvisational actors/improvisers use improvisational acting techniques to perform spontaneously...

, observation and emulation, mime
Mime artist
A mime artist is someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art, involving miming, or the acting out a story through body motions, without use of speech. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer...

, and stage combat
Stage combat
Stage combat is a specialized technique in theatre designed to create the illusion of physical combat without causing harm to the performers. It is employed in live stage plays as well as operatic and ballet productions. The term is also used informally to describe fight choreography for other...

. Many actors train at length in special programs or colleges to develop these skills, and today the vast majority of professional actors have undergone extensive training. Even though one actor may have years of training, they always strive for more lessons; the cinematic and theatrical world is always changing and because of this, the actor must stay as up to date as possible. Actors and actresses will often have many instructors and teachers for a full range of training involving, but not limited to, singing, scene-work, monologue techniques, audition techniques and partner work.

Professional actors



Not all people working as actors in film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 or theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 are professional
Professional
A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee. The traditional professions were doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and commissioned military officers. Today, the term is applied to estate agents, surveyors , environmental scientists,...

ly trained. Conservatories typically offer two- to four-year training on all aspects of acting. Universities will offer three- to four-year programs, where a student is often able to choose to focus on drama, while still learning about other aspects of theatre. Schools will vary in their approach, but in North America the most popular method taught derives from the "system" of Constantin Stanislavski, which was developed and popularised in America by Lee Strasberg
Lee Strasberg
Lee Strasberg was an American actor, director and acting teacher. He cofounded, with directors Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, the Group Theatre in 1931, which was hailed as "America's first true theatrical collective"...

, Stella Adler
Stella Adler
Stella Adler was an American actress and an acclaimed acting teacher, who founded the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City and the The Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles with long-time protege Joanne Linville, who continues to teach and furthers Adler's legacy...

, and others. The ambiguously termed method acting
Method acting
Method acting is a phrase that loosely refers to a family of techniques used by actors to create in themselves the thoughts and emotions of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances...

 came about through iterations of Stanislavski's system by Strasberg. Other approaches may include a more physical approach, following the teachings of Jerzy Grotowski and others, or may be based on the training developed by other theatre practitioner
Theatre practitioner
Theatre practitioner is a modern term to describe someone who both creates theatrical performances and who produces a theoretical discourse that informs his or her practical work. A theatre practitioner may be a director, a dramatist, an actor, or—characteristically—often a combination of these...

s including Sanford Meisner
Sanford Meisner
Sanford Meisner , also known as Sandy, was an American actor and acting teacher who developed a form of Method acting that is now known as the Meisner technique....

. Other classes may include mask work, improvisation, and acting for the camera. Regardless of a school's approach, students should expect intensive training in textual interpretation, voice and movement. Although there are some teachers who will encourage the improvisation as technique in order to free the actor of limitations in rehearsal. Harold Guskin's approach or "taking it off the page" as he calls it is steeped in this philosophy. Applications to drama programs and conservatories are through auditions in the United States. Anybody over the age of 18 can usually apply to drama school
Drama school
A drama school or theatre school is an undergraduate and/or graduate school or department at a college or university; or a free-standing institution ; which specialises in the pre-professional training in drama and theatre arts, such as acting, design and technical theatre, arts administration, and...

.

Training may also start at a very young age. Acting classes and professional schools targeted at the under-18 crowd are offered in many locations. These classes introduce young actors to different aspects of acting and theatre from scene study to the marines

Improvisation


Improv was created by Viola Spolin
Viola Spolin
Viola Spolin was an important innovator of the American theater in the 20th century. She created directorial techniques to help actors to be focused in the present moment and to find choices improvisationally, as if in real life...

when working with Neva Boyd at a Hull House in Chicago, Illinios. Improv was created on the realization that adults do not play games. Spolin felt that playing games were good exercises and can benefit in future acting. With improv, people can find true expressive freedom since they don't ever know how the situation is going to turn out. When one continues to operate with an open mind they will have a real sense of spontaneity rather than pre-planning a response.

External links