Terminology[ edit ] After 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 theater and film. The etymology is a simple derivation from actor with -ess added.
Within the profession, the re-adoption of the neutral term dates to the post-war period of the and '60s, when the contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed. Oscar for best actress. I'm an actor — I can play anything. An Equity spokesperson said that the union does not believe that there is a consensus on the matter and stated that the " With regard to the cinema of the United States , the gender-neutral term "player" was common in film in the silent film era and the early days of the Motion Picture Production Code , but in the s in a film context, it is 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 , etc. Also, actors in improvisational theatre may be referred to as "players". 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. The exclusively male actors in the theatre of ancient Greece performed in three types of drama: The theatre of ancient Rome was a thriving and diverse art form, ranging from festival performances of street theatre , nude dancing, and acrobatics, to the staging of situation comedies , to high-style , verbally elaborate tragedies.
As the Western Roman Empire fell into decay through the 4th and 5th centuries, the seat of Roman power shifted to Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. Records show that mime , pantomime , scenes or recitations from tragedies and comedies , dances , and other entertainments were very popular.
From the 5th century, Western Europe was plunged into a period of general disorder. Small nomadic bands of actors traveled around Europe throughout the period, performing wherever they could find an audience; there is no evidence that they produced anything but crude scenes.
Early Middle Ages actors were denounced by the Church during the Dark Ages , as they were viewed as dangerous, immoral, and pagan. In many parts of Europe, traditional beliefs of the region and time period meant actors could not receive a Christian burial.
In the Early Middle Ages , churches in Europe began staging dramatized versions of biblical events. By the middle of the 11th century, liturgical drama had spread from Russia to Scandinavia to Italy. The Feast of Fools encouraged the development of comedy.
In the Late Middle Ages , plays were produced in towns. These vernacular Mystery plays often contained comedy , with actors playing devils , villains , and clowns.
Amateur performers in England were exclusively male, but other countries had female performers. There were a number of secular plays staged in the Middle Ages, the earliest of which is The Play of the Greenwood by Adam de la Halle in It contains satirical scenes and folk material such as faeries and other supernatural occurrences.
Farces also rose dramatically in popularity after the 13th century. Beginning in the midth century, Commedia dell'arte troupes performed lively improvisational playlets across Europe for centuries. Commedia dell'arte was an actor-centred theatre, requiring little scenery and very few props. Plays were loose frameworks that provided situations, complications, and outcome of the action, around which the actors improvised. The plays utilised stock characters. A troupe typically consisted of 13 to 14 members.
Most actors were paid a share of the play's profits roughly equivalent to the sizes of their roles. A sketch of a performance in progress on the thrust stage of The Swan , a typical Elizabethan open-roof playhouse. Renaissance theatre derived from several medieval theatre traditions, such as the mystery plays , " morality plays ", and the "university drama" that attempted to recreate Athenian tragedy. The Italian tradition of Commedia dell'arte , as well as the elaborate masques frequently presented at court, also contributed to the shaping of public theatre.
Since before the reign of Elizabeth I, companies of players were attached to households of leading aristocrats and performed seasonally in various locations. These became the foundation for the professional players that performed on the Elizabethan stage.
The development of the theatre and opportunities for acting ceased when Puritan opposition to the stage banned the performance of all plays within London. Puritans viewed the theatre as immoral. The re-opening of the theatres in signaled a renaissance of English drama. English comedies written and performed in the Restoration period from to are collectively called "Restoration comedy".
Restoration comedy is notorious for its sexual explicitness. At this point, women were allowed for the first time to appear on the English stage, exclusively in female roles. This period saw the introduction of the first professional actresses and the rise of the first celebrity actors.
Henry Irving in The Bells , In the 19th century, the negative reputation of actors was largely reversed, and acting became an honored, popular profession and art.
They could enlarge their audience by going on tour across the country, performing a repertoire of well-known plays, such as those by Shakespeare.
The newspapers, private clubs, pubs, and coffee shops rang with lively debates evaluating the relative merits of the stars and the productions. Henry Irving was the most successful of the British actor-managers. His company toured across Britain, as well as Europe and the United States, demonstrating the power of star actors and celebrated roles to attract enthusiastic audiences.
His knighthood in indicated full acceptance into the higher circles of British society. It was too hard to find people who combined a genius at acting as well as management, so specialization divided the roles as stage managers and later theatre directors emerged. Financially, much larger capital was required to operate out of a major city.
The solution was corporate ownership of chains of theatres, such as by the Theatrical Syndicate , Edward Laurillard , and especially The Shubert Organization.
By catering to tourists, theaters in large cities increasingly favored long runs of highly popular plays, especially musicals. Big name stars became even more essential. List of acting techniques 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 portray. Actors puts themselves in the mindset of the character, finding things in common 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 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 on Stanislavski's ideas, such as those of Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner , but these are not considered "method acting".
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. In ancient Greece and ancient Rome  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. Margaret Hughes is oft credited as the first professional actress on the English stage. 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 saw the first female acting "stars", most notably Sarah Bernhardt.
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.
Women playing male roles are uncommon in film, with notable exceptions. In the s, 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.
Cross-dressing for comic effect was a frequently used device in most of the Carry On films. Doubtfire , respectively in which they played most scenes dressed as a woman. 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 original film , Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway musical , and John Travolta in the movie musical.
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  Theatre actors need to learn blocking, which is " Most scripts specify some blocking.
The Director also gives instructions on blocking, such as crossing the stage or picking up and using a prop. Actors may have to simulate hand-to-hand [fighting] or sword[-fighting]. Actors are coached by fight directors , who help them learn the choreographed sequence of fight actions. Silent film actors emphasized body language and facial expression , so that the audience could better understand what an actor was feeling and portraying on screen.
Much silent film acting is apt to strike modern-day audiences as simplistic or campy. The melodramatic acting style was in some cases a habit actors transferred from their former stage experience.