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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An actor or actress (see terminology) is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity.[1] The ancient Greek word for an "actor," ὑποκριτής (hypokrites), means literally "one who interprets";[2] in this sense, an actor is one who interprets a dramatic character.[3]

Contents

Terminology

The word actor refers to a person who acts regardless of sex, while actress refers specifically to a female person who acts; therefore a female can be referred to by either term. 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 groups assert that the word is sexist. Gender-neutral usage of actor has re-emerged in modern English,[4][5] especially when referring to male and female performers collectively, but actress remains the common term used in major acting awards given to female recipients and is common in general usage.

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).

History

Actors Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin performing in The Big Voice: God or Merman play.

The first recorded case of an actor performing took place 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 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, 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 honoured and popular profession and art.[6]

Techniques

Method acting

Method acting is a technique developed from the acting "system" created in the early 20th century by Constantin Stanislavski in his work at the Moscow Art Theatre and its studios. The Group Theatre (New York) first popularised the Method in the 1930s; it was subsequently advanced and developed in new directions by Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in the 1940s and 50s.[7] In Stanislavski's "system" the actor analyses deeply the motivations and emotions of the character in order to personify him or her with psychological realism and emotional authenticity. Using the Method, an actor recalls emotions or reactions from his or her own life and uses them to identify with the character being portrayed.

Method actors are often characterized as immersing themselves so totally in their characters that they continue to portray them even off-stage or off-camera for the duration of the project. However, this is a popular misconception. While some actors do employ this approach, it is generally not taught as part of the Method. Stella Adler, who was a member of the Group Theatre, along with Strasberg, emphasised a different approach of using creative imagination.[8]

Method acting offered a systematized training that developed internal abilities (sensory, psychological, emotional); it revolutionized American theater

Presentational and representational acting

Presentational acting refers to a relationship between actor and audience, whether by direct address or indirectly by specific use of language, looks, gestures or other signs indicating that the character or actor is aware of the audience's presence.[9] (Shakespeare's use of punning and wordplay, for example, often has this function of indirect contact.)

In representational acting, "actors want to make us "believe" they are the character; they pretend."[9] The illusion of the fourth wall with the audience as voyeurs is striven for.[10]

As opposite gender

In the past, only men could become actors in some societies. In the ancient Greece and Rome[11] 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.[12]

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 credited by some as the first professional actress on the English stage.[13] This prohibition ended during the reign of Charles II in part due to the fact that he enjoyed watching actresses on stage.[14]The first occurrence of the term actress was in 1700 according to the OED and is ascribed to Dryden.[5]

In Japan, men (onnagata) took over the female roles in kabuki theatre when women were banned from performing on stage during the Edo period. This convention has continued to the present. 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 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 in male roles are uncommon in film with the notable exception of the film The Year of Living Dangerously. In this film Linda Hunt played the pivotal role of Billy Kwan. She received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

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 pretending to be a woman, like 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).

A few roles in modern films, 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. Linda Hunt won an Academy Award for Best Actress for playing Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously. Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for playing Bree Osbourne (a man in the process of becoming a woman) in Transamerica.

Acting awards

See also

References

  1. ^ "Actor: Job description and activities". Prospects UK. http://www.prospects.ac.uk/cms/ShowPage/Home_page/Explore_types_of_jobs/Types_of_Job/p!eipaL?state=showocc&pageno=1&idno=465. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  2. ^ 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 that utilises the term hypocrisis (acting) (1994, 257, 265–267).
  3. ^ This is true whether the character than an actor plays is based on a real person or a fictional one, even themselves (when the actor is 'playing themselves,' as in some forms of experimental performance art, or, more commonly, as in John Malkovich's performance in the film Being John Malkovich); to act is to create a character in performance: "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).
  4. ^ dictionary.com actor retrieved 13 November 2007
  5. ^ a b Linden, Sheri (18 January 2009). "From actor to actress and back again". Entertainment. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/18/entertainment/ca-actress18. 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."" 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Hornby, Richard (4 May 1987). "Where the Gurus of Method Acting Part". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/05/04/opinion/l-where-the-gurus-of-method-acting-part-811787.html. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  8. ^ Flint, Peter B. (22 December 1992). "Stella Adler, 91, an Actress And Teacher of the Method". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/22/obituaries/stella-adler-91-an-actress-and-teacher-of-the-method.html. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  9. ^ a b Trumbull, Dr. Eric W. "Introduction to Theatre -- The Actor". novaonline.nv.cc.va.us. http://novaonline.nv.cc.va.us/eli/spd130et/acting.htm#rep. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  10. ^ Field, Mary. "What is the Theatre?" (rtf). Shared Learning Objects. Mid South Community College. http://learn.midsouthcc.edu/LearningObjects/Fine%20Arts%20Theatre/rtfs/whatisthetheatre.rtf. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  11. ^ Women Actors in Ancient Rome 27 December 2002, BBC
  12. ^ Neziroski, Lirim (2003). "narrative, lyric, drama". Theories of Media :: Keywords Glossary :: multimedia. University of Chicago. http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/narrativelyricdrama.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-14. "For example, until the late 1600s, audiences were opposed to seeing women on stage, because they believed it reduced them to the status of showgirls and prostitutes. Even Shakespeare's plays were performed by boys dressed in drag." 
  13. ^ Smallweed (23 July 2005). "Smallweed". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1534673,00.html. 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." 
  14. ^ "Women as actresses". Notes and Queries. The New York Times. 18 October 1885. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=980CEED7153FE533A2575BC1A9669D94649FD7CF. 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." 

Sources

  • Csapo, Eric, and William J. Slater. 1994. The Context of Ancient Drama. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P. ISBN 0472082752.
  • 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.

Further reading

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Acting article)

From Wikiquote

Quotes on Acting.

Arranged alphabetically by author.

Sourced

  • 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. 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. 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.
  • 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.

Unsourced

  • 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 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.

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