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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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. Most early sources in the West that examine the art of acting (Ancient Greek: hypokrisis) discuss it as part of rhetoric.[1] While there is a set definition for the word "acting", there is no set definition for the phrase "to act". It is thought that the actor is typically supposed to "become the other", where the actor molds his or herself to the character. In all actuality, the actor should mold the character to his or herself based on common interests and goals that the character needs to achieve. This method is commonly taught through Constantin Stanislavski.


Definition and history

The first actor is believed to be Thespis of Icaria, a man of ancient Greece. "Plays" of this time, called dithrombic chorus 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 is said 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 visual arts, emotional expressiveness, imitating dialects, accents and body language, 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 art.
"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances."
"The foundation of acting is the reality of doing." -Sanford Meisner[2]

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 acting classes in studios or conservatories. 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. Other classes might include mask work, improv, acting for the camera workshops, etc. 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.
Training can also start at a very young age. Acting classes and professional schools targeted at the under-eighteen crowd are offered in many locations. These classes introduce young thespians to different aspects of acting and theater from scene study to musical theater. Aspiring young actors may or may not go on to study at a University or Conservatory program.


  1. ^ Csapo and Slater (1994, 257); hypokrisis, which literally means "acting," was the word used in discussions of rhetorical delivery.
  2. ^


  • Boleslavsky, Richard. 1933 Acting: the First Six Lessons. New York: Theatre Arts, 1987. ISBN 0878300007.
  • Brustein, Robert. 2005. Letters to a Young Actor New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465008062.
  • Csapo, Eric, and William J. Slater. 1994. The Context of Ancient Drama. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P. ISBN 0472082752.
  • Darius, Adam. 1998. Acting - A Psychological and Technical Approach. Kolesnik Production OY, Helsinki. ISBN 952909146X
  • Hagen, Uta. 1973. Respect for Acting. New York: Macmillan. 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, Konstantin. 1938. An Actor’s Work: A Student’s Diary. Trans. and ed. Jean Benedetti. London: Routledge, 2008. ISBN 9780415422239.
  • 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.
  • Piven Theatre Workshop


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Quotes on Acting.
Arranged alphabetically by author.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An actor's a guy, who if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening.
  • 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. .
  • If a studio offered to pay me as much to sweep the floor as it did to act, I'd sweep the floor.^ Location: Manhattan Beach Studios, New York City Label: [radio broadcast] Marian McPartland (ldr) , Kenny Barron, Marian McPartland (p) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    ^ Paying New York Dues - 20:38 .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    ^ Date: February 17-19, 1998 Location: Avatar Studios, New York City Label: GRP/Impulse!
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    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? .
  • 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.^ Autumn In New York - 8:00 ( Vernon Duke ) Uptown LP 12": UP 27.26 — Autumn In New York (1985) Uptown CD: UPCD 27.41 — New York Attitude (1996) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    ^ New York Attitude - 5:58 ( Kenny Barron ) Uptown LP 12": UP 27.26 — Autumn In New York (1985) Uptown CD: UPCD 27.41 — New York Attitude (1996) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    ^ Date: July 31, 1992 Location: Lincoln Center, New York City Label: CBS Jazz At Lincoln Center (ldr) , Kenny Barron (p) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    In a close-up, the audience is only inches away, and your face becomes the stage. .
  • By the time an actor knows how to act any sort of part he is often too old to act any but a few.^ You Don't Know What Love Is - 6:24 ( Don Raye, Gene DePaul ) Uptown CD: UPCD 27.41 — New York Attitude (1996) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    ^ Date: July 31, 1992 Location: Lincoln Center, New York City Label: CBS Jazz At Lincoln Center (ldr) , Kenny Barron (p) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

  • Acting is therefore the lowest of the arts, if it is an art at all.
  • In music, the punctuation is absolutely strict, the bars and rests are absolutely defined. But our punctuation cannot be quite strict, because we have to relate it to the audience. In other words we are continually changing the score.
  • The art of acting consists in keeping people from coughing.
  • An actor can practice anywhere any time with anybody, and most of them do.


  • To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.
  • The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis.
  • You can sit there and have a universal experience, of fear, of anger, of tears, of love, and I discovered that its the audience, really, that is doing the acting.
  • If there's anything unsettling to the stomach, it's watching actors on television talk about their personal lives.
  • An actor is at most a poet and at least an entertainer.
  • If you're successful, acting is about as soft a job as anybody could ever wish for. But if you unsuccessful it's worse than having a skin disease.
  • When an actor has money he doesn't send letters, he sends telegrams.
  • Pray to God and say the lines.
    • Bette Davis, Advice to the actress Celeste Holm. Attrib.
  • I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn't dare to make an enemy should get out of the business.
  • Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.
  • [T]he question actors most often get asked is how they can bear saying the same things over and over again night after night, but God knows the answer to that is, don't we all anyway; might as well get paid for it.
    • Elaine Dundy
  • Unlike writers or painters, we don't sit down in front of a blank canvas and say, 'How do I start? Where do I start?' We're given the springboard of the text, a plane ticket, told to report to Alabama, and there's a group of people all ready to make a film and it's a marvelous life.
  • Acting is frivolous, but frivolity is a big part of our society; so we might as well relax and enjoy it.
  • It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor.
    • John Ford, Attributed
  • Actors are crap.
    • John Ford
  • If there wasn't something called acting they would probably hospitalize people like me. The giddiness and the joy of life is the moving and grooving, the exploration.
  • You're an actor, are you? Well, all that means is: you are irresponsible, irrational, romantic, and incapable of handling an adult emotion or a universal concept without first reducing it to something personal, material, sensational — and probably sexual!
    • George Herman
  • All actors are cattle. Actually, all actors are not cattle, but should be treated as such.
  • When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, But what's my motivation?, I say, 'Your salary.'
  • Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, actors!
  • Movie actors are just ordinary mixed-up people -- with agents.
  • An actor onstage can no more act upon the order 'Be happy' than she can upon the order 'Do not think of a hippopotamus.'
  • We used to have actresses trying to become stars; now we have stars trying to become actresses.
  • Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion.
    • Kate Reid
  • An actress must never lose her ego — without it she has no talent.
    • Norma Shearer
  • I do a job. I get paid. I go home.
    • Maureen Stapleton
  • Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that's printed about him. .
  • Every now and then, when you're onstage, you hear the best sound a player can hear.^ It's Over Now [lyric version of Well, You Needn't] - 3:32 ( Thelonious Monk, Mike Ferro ) .
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    ^ Fresh Sound CD: FSR CD 323 — Now, Hear This!
    • Kenny Barron Discography 16 January 2010 23:13 UTC [Source type: Academic]

    It's a sound you can't get in movies or in television. It is the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you've hit them where they live.

External links

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Look up acting in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 15, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Mark Hamill, which are similar to those in the above article.

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