Definitions

acting response

Acting

[ak-ting]

Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play.

Definition and history

An actor is usually one who manipulates his posture, expression, and voice to communicate the actions and motivations of a prescribed character. The actor is said to be "assuming the role" of another, usually for the benefit of an audience, but also because it can bring one a sense of artistic satisfaction. The first actor is believed to be Thespis of Icaria, a man of ancient Greece. "Plays" of this time, called choric dithyrambs, involved a chorus of 50 who sang the story to the audience. The possibly apocryphal story says that Thespis stepped out of the chorus and spoke to them as a separate character in the story. Before Thespis, the chorus in all plays would sing in a narrative way, "Dionysus did this, Dionysus said that." When Thespis stepped out from the chorus, he said "I am Dionysus. I did this." From Thespis' name derives the word thespian, meaning any sort of performer but chiefly an actor. The International Thespian to possess a number of skills, including good vocal projection, clarity of speech, physical expressiveness, a good sense of perspective, emotional availability, a well developed imagination, the ability to analyze and understand dramatic text, and the ability to emulate or generate emotional and physical conditions. Well-rounded actors are often also skilled in singing, dancing, emotional expressiveness, imitating dialects and accents, improvisation, observation and emulation, mime, stage combat, and performing classical texts such as Shakespeare. Many actors train at length in special programs or colleges to develop these skills, which have a wide range of different artistic philosophies and processes.

See also actor, thespian, or Thespis. Rob Whiting acts and sells coffee.

Theories

See also the Acting theorists

Professional actors

Not all people working as actors in film, television or theatre are professionally trained. Chances of succeeding as an actor are greatly enhanced by studying drama at a university or college, or attending an acting conservatory. Conservatories typically offer two to four year training on all aspects of acting. Universities will offer three to four year programs, where a student can choose to focus on acting, while still learning about other aspects of theatre. Schools will vary in their approach, but in North America the most popular method taught is the 'inside out' technique, developed by Stanislavski in his early years and popularized in America by Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Others may include a more physical approach, following the teachings of Jerzy Grotowski and others. Regardless of a school's approach, students should expect intensive training in textual interpretation, voice and movement. 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.

A list of drama schools in Britain, North America and Australia can be found on the drama school article.

Bibliography

  • Brustein, Robert. 2005. Letters to a Young Actor New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465008062.
  • Uta Hagen ISBN 0025473905.
  • Hodge, Alison, ed. 2000. Twentieth Century Actor Training. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415194520.
  • Marston, Merlin, ed. 1987. Sanford Meisner on Acting New York: Random House. ISBN 0394750594.
  • Stanislavski, Constantin. 1936. An Actor Prepares. London: Methuen, 1988. ISBN 0413461904.
  • Zarrilli, Phillip B., ed. 2002. Acting (Re)Considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide. Worlds of Performance Ser. 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 041526300X.

External links

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