Actor

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"Actress" redirects here. For other uses, see Actress (disambiguation) and Actor (disambiguation).
Actors from the Comédie-Française c. 1720.

An actor (or actress for female) is one who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre, and/or in modern mediums such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hypokrites), literally "one who interprets".[1] The actor's interpretation of their role pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art, or, more commonly; to act, is to create, a character in performance. [2]

Formerly, in some societies, only men could become actors, and women's roles were generally played by men or boys.[3] In modern times, women occasionally played the roles of prepubescent boys.[citation needed]

Terminology[edit]

After 1660 in England, when women first started to appear on stage, the terms actor or actress were initially used interchangeably for female performers, but later, influenced by the French actrice, actress became the commonly used term for women in theatre and film. The etymology is a simple derivation from actor with ess added.[4] Within the profession, the re-adoption of the neutral term dates to the 1950–1960s, the post-war period when the contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed.[5] Actress remains the common term used in major acting awards given to female recipients.[6]

With regards to the cinema of the United States, the gender-neutral term "player" was common in film in the silent era and the early days of the Motion Picture Production Code, but it is now generally deemed archaic. However, "player" remains in use in the theatre, often incorporated into the name of a theatre group or company, such as the American Players, the East West Players and so on. Also, actors in improvisational theatre may be referred to as "players".[7]

History[edit]

The first recorded case of a performing actor occurred in 534 BC (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 to become the first known person to speak words as a character in a play or story. Prior to Thespis' act, Grecian stories were only expressed in song, dance, and in third person narrative. In honor of Thespis, actors are commonly called Thespians. To this day, theatrical legend maintains Thespis is a mischievous spirit; disasters in the theatre are sometimes blamed on his ghostly intervention.

Traditionally, actors were not of high status; therefore, in the Early Middle Ages traveling acting troupes were often viewed with distrust. In many parts of Europe, traditional beliefs of the region and time period meant actors could not receive a Christian burial, which left an actor forever condemned. In the 19th and 20th centuries, this negative perception was largely reversed as acting became an honored, popular profession and art.[8]

Techniques[edit]

  • Classical acting is an umbrella term for a philosophy of acting that integrates the expression of the body, voice, imagination, personalizing, improvisation, external stimuli, and script analysis. It is based on the theories and systems of select classical actors and directors including Konstantin Stanislavski and Michel Saint-Denis.
  • In Stanislavski's system, also known as Stanislavski's method, actors draw upon their own feelings and experiences to convey the "truth" of the character they are portraying. The actor puts himself or herself in the mindset of the character finding things in common in order to give a more genuine portrayal of the character.
  • Method acting is a range of techniques based on for training actors to achieve better characterizations of the characters they play, as formulated by Lee Strasberg. Strasberg's method is based upon the idea that in order to develop an emotional and cognitive understanding of their roles, actors should use their own experiences to identify personally with their characters. It is based on aspects of Stanislavski's system. Other acting techniques are also based off Stanislavski's ideas, such as those of Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner, but these are not considered "method acting".[9]
  • Meisner technique requires the actor to focus totally on the other actor as though he or she is real and they only exist in that moment. This is a method that makes the actors in the scene seem more authentic to the audience. It is based on the principle that acting finds its expression in people's response to other people and circumstances. Is it based on Stanislavski's system.

As opposite sex[edit]

Actress Margaret Hughes c. 1670

Formerly, in some societies, only men could become actors. In ancient Greece and Rome[10] and the medieval world, it was considered disgraceful for a woman to go on stage; this belief persisted until the 17th century, in Venice. In the time of William Shakespeare, women's roles were generally played by men or boys.[3]

When an eighteen-year Puritan prohibition of drama was lifted after the English Restoration of 1660, women began to appear on stage in England. Margaret Hughes is oft credited as the first professional actress on the English stage.[11] This prohibition ended during the reign of Charles II in part because he enjoyed watching actresses on stage.[12] The first occurrence of the term actress was in 1700 according to the OED and is ascribed to Dryden.[6] In the 19th century many viewed women in acting negatively, as actresses were often courtesans and associated with promiscuity. Despite these prejudices, the 19th century also so the first female acting "stars", most notably Sarah Bernhardt.[13]

In Japan, onnagata, men taking on female roles, were used in kabuki theatre when women were banned from performing on stage during the Edo period. This convention continues. By contrast, some forms of Chinese drama involve women playing all roles.

In modern times, women occasionally played the roles of prepubescent boys. For example, the stage role of Peter Pan is traditionally played by a woman, as are most principal boys in British pantomime. Opera has several "breeches roles" traditionally sung by women, usually mezzo-sopranos. Examples are Hansel in Hänsel und Gretel, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier.

Women playing male roles are uncommon in film, with notable exceptions. In 1982, Stina Ekblad played the mysterious Ismael Retzinsky in Fanny and Alexander, and Linda Hunt received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously. In 2007, Cate Blanchett was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Jude Quinn, a fictionalized representation of Bob Dylan in the 1960s, in I'm Not There.

In modern times, women playing men in live theatre is particularly common in presentations of older plays, such as Shakespearean works with large numbers of male characters in roles where gender is inconsequential.[citation needed]

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 have each appeared in a hit comedy film (Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire, respectively) in which they played most scenes dressed as a woman.

Occasionally, the issue is further complicated, for example, by a woman playing a woman acting as a man—who then pretends to be a woman, such as Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria, or Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. In It's Pat: The Movie, filmwatchers never learn the gender of the androgynous main characters Pat and Chris (played by Julia Sweeney and Dave Foley). Similarly, in the aforementioned example of The Marriage of Figaro, there is a scene in which Cherubino (a male character portrayed by a woman) dresses up and acts as a woman; the other characters in the scene are aware of a single level of gender role obfuscation, while the audience is aware of two levels.

A few modern roles are played by a member of the opposite sex in order to emphasize the gender fluidity of the role. Edna Turnblad in Hairspray was played by Divine in the 1988 original film, Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway musical, and John Travolta in the 2007 movie musical. Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for playing Bree Osbourne (a male-to-female transsexual) in 2005's Transamerica.

Types[edit]

Actors working in theatre, film, television and radio have to learn specific skills. Techniques that work well in one type of acting may not work well in another type of acting.

In theatre[edit]

To act on stage, actors need to learn the stage directions that appear in the script, such as "Stage Left" and "Stage Right". These directions are based on the actor's point of view as he or she stands on the stage facing the audience. Actors also have to learn the meaning of the stage directions "Upstage" (away from the audience) and "Downstage" (towards the audience)[14]

Theatre actors need to learn blocking, which is "...where and how an actor moves on the stage during a play." Most scripts specify some blocking. The Director will also give instructions on blocking, such as crossing the stage or picking up and using a prop.[14]

Theater actors need to learn stage combat, which is simulated fighting on stage. Actors may have to simulate "hand-to-hand [fighting] or with sword[-fighting]." Actors are coached by fight directors, who help them to learn the choreographed sequence of fight actions. [14]

In film[edit]

Pioneering directors in Europe and the United States recognized the different limitations and freedoms of the mediums of stage and screen by the early 1910s. In America, D.W. Griffith's company Biograph Studios, would become known for its innovative direction and its acting which suited the cinema rather than the stage. Griffith realized that theatrical acting did not look good on film and required his actors and actresses to go through weeks of film acting training.[15] Lillian Gish has been called film's "first true actress" for her work with Griffith, as she pioneered new film performing techniques, recognizing the crucial differences between stage and screen acting.

Film actors have to learn to get used to and be comfortable with a camera being in front of them.[16] Film actors need to learn to find and stay on their "mark." This is a position on the floor marked with tape. This position is where the lights and camera focus are optimized. Film actors also need to learn how to prepare well and perform well on screen tests. Screen tests are a filmed audition of part of the script.

"Unlike the theater actor, who gets to develop a character during...a two- or three-hour performance, the film actor lacks continuity, forcing him or her to come to all the scenes (often shot in reverse order in which they'll ultimately appear) with a character already fully developed."[15]

"Since film captures even the smallest gesture and magnifies it..., cinema demands a less flamboyant and stylized bodily performance from the actor than does the theater." "The performance of emotion is the most difficult aspect of film acting to master: ...the film actor must rely on subtle facial ticks, quivers, and tiny lifts of the eyebrow to create a believable character."[15] Some theatre stars "...have made the theater-to-cinema transition quite successfully (Laurence Olivier, Glenn Close, and Julie Andrews, for instance), others have not..."[15]

Role of women[edit]

In 2015, Forbes reported that "...just 21 of the 100 top-grossing films of 2014 featured a female lead or co-lead, while only 28.1% of characters in 100 top-grossing films were female...". [17]In the U.S., there is an "industry-wide [gap] in salaries of all scales. On average, white women get paid 78 cents to every dollar a white man makes, while Hispanic women earn 56 cents to a white male’s dollar, Black women 64 cents and Native American women just 59 cents to that."[18] Forbes' analysis of US acting salaries in 2013 determined that the "...men on Forbes’ list of top-paid actors for that year made 2½ times as much money as the top-paid actresses. That means that Hollywood’s best-compensated actresses made just 40 cents for every dollar that the best-compensated men made." [19] Studies have shown that "...age and gender discrimination [together] can yield an even more significant wage gap." Young women actresses tend to make more than young male actors. However, "older [male] actors make more than their female equals" in age, with "female movie stars mak[ing] the most money on average per film at age 34, while male stars earn the most at 51." [20]

In television[edit]

"On a television set, there are typically several cameras angled at the set. Actors who are new to on-screen acting can get confused about which camera to look into." [21] TV actors need to learn to use lav mics (Lavaliere microphones).[21] TV actors need to understand the concept of "frame." "The term frame refers to the area that the camera's lens is capturing." [21]

In radio[edit]

Recording a radio play in the Netherlands (1949), Spaarnestad Photo

Radio drama is a dramatized, purely acoustic performance, broadcast on radio or published on audio media, such as tape or CD. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story: "It is auditory in the physical dimension but equally powerful as a visual force in the psychological dimension."[22]

Radio drama achieved widespread popularity within a decade of its initial development in the 1920s. By the 1940s, it was a leading international popular entertainment. With the advent of television in the 1950s, however, radio drama lost some of its popularity, and in some countries has never regained large audiences. However, recordings of OTR (old-time radio) survive today in the audio archives of collectors and museums, as well as several online sites such as Internet Archive.

As of 2011, radio drama has a minimal presence on terrestrial radio in the United States. Much of American radio drama is restricted to rebroadcasts or podcasts of programs from previous decades. However, other nations still have thriving traditions of radio drama. In the United Kingdom, for example, the BBC produces and broadcasts hundreds of new radio plays each year on Radio 3, Radio 4, and Radio 4 Extra. Podcasting has also offered the means of creating new radio dramas, in addition to the distribution of vintage programs.

The terms "audio drama"[23] or "audio theatre" are sometimes used synonymously with "radio drama" with one possible distinction: audio drama or audio theatre may not necessarily be intended specifically for broadcast on radio. Audio drama, whether newly produced or OTR classics, can be found on CDs, cassette tapes, podcasts, webcasts and conventional broadcast radio.

Thanks to advances in digital recording and Internet distribution, radio drama is experiencing a revival.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Definition of actor". Hypokrites (related to our word for hypocrite) also means, less often, "to answer" the tragic chorus. See Weimann (1978, 2); see also Csapo and Slater, who offer translations of classical source material using the term hypocrisis (acting) (1994, 257, 265–267).
  2. ^ "The dramatic world can be extended to include the 'author', the 'audience' and even the 'theatre'; but these remain 'possible' surrogates, not the 'actual' referents as such" (Elam 1980, 110).
  3. ^ a b Neziroski, Lirim (2003). "narrative, lyric, drama". Theories of Media :: Keywords Glossary :: multimedia. University of Chicago. Retrieved 2009-03-14. For example, until the late 1600s, audiences were opposed to seeing women on stage, because of the belief stage performance reduced them to the status of showgirls and prostitutes. Even Shakespeare's plays were performed by boys dressed in drag. 
  4. ^ "actress, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (3 ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. November 2010. Although actor refers to a person who acts regardless of gender, where this term "is increasingly preferred", actress remains in general use; actor is increasingly preferred for performers of both sexes as a gender-neutral term. 
  5. ^ Goodman, Lizbeth; Holledge, Julie (1998). The Routledge reader in gender and performance. New York: Routledge. pp. 8; 93. ISBN 0-415-16583-0. 
  6. ^ a b Linden, Sheri (18 January 2009). "From actor to actress and back again". Entertainment. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-03-14. It would be several decades before the word "actress" appeared -- 1700, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, more than a century after the word "actor" was first used to denote a theatrical performer, supplanting the less professional-sounding "player." 
  7. ^ Spolin, Viola (1999). Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques (3rd ed.). Evanston, Ill: Northwestern Univ Press. pp. Introduction to the 3rd Edition. ISBN 0810140004. 
  8. ^ Wilmeth, Don B.; Bigsby, C.W.E. (1998). The Cambridge history of American theatre. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 449–450. ISBN 978-0-521-65179-0. 
  9. ^ https://tribecafilminstitute.org/blog/detail/what_it_means_to_be_method
  10. ^ Women Actors in Ancient Rome 27 December 2002, BBC
  11. ^ Smallweed (23 July 2005). "Smallweed". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-14. "Whereas women's parts in plays have hitherto been acted by men in the habits of women ... we do permit and give leave for the time to come that all women's parts be acted by women," Charles II ordained in 1662. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the first actress to exploit this new freedom was Margaret Hughes, as Desdemona in Othello on December 8, 1660. 
  12. ^ "Women as actresses" (PDF). Notes and Queries. The New York Times. 18 October 1885. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-14. There seems no doubt that actresses did not perform on the stage till the Restoration, in the earliest years of which Pepys says for the first time he saw an actress upon the stage. Charles II, must have brought the usage from the Continent, where women had long been employed instead of boys or youths in the representation of female characters. 
  13. ^ ‘Studies in hysteria’: actress and courtesan, Sarah Bernhardt and Mrs Patrick Campbell
  14. ^ a b c http://www.sft.edu/tips/stage-acting.html
  15. ^ a b c d "Movies and Film". 
  16. ^ "Auditions for Film: Movie Acting Tips and Techniques". 
  17. ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2015/10/13/jennifer-lawrence-speaks-out-on-making-less-than-male-co-stars/
  18. ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2015/10/13/jennifer-lawrence-speaks-out-on-making-less-than-male-co-stars/
  19. ^ http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/02/23/gender_wage_gap_in_hollywood_it_s_very_very_wide.html
  20. ^ http://variety.com/2014/film/news/study-female-movie-stars-earn-significantly-less-after-age-34-1201091967/
  21. ^ a b c http://www.sft.edu/tips/television-acting.html
  22. ^ Tim Crook: Radio drama. Theory and practice. London; New York: Routledge, 1999, p. 8.
  23. ^ Compare the entry to Hörspiel e.g. in: dict.cc – Deutsch-Englisch-Wörterbuch
  24. ^ Newman, Barry (2010-02-25). "Return With Us to the Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear — Via the Internet". Wall Street Journal. 

Sources[edit]

  • Csapo, Eric, and William J. Slater. 1994. The Context of Ancient Drama. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P. ISBN 0-472-08275-2.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-416-72060-9.
  • 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 Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3506-2.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]