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For the legal meaning, see Acting (law). For the military sense, see Acting (rank).

French stage and early film actressSarah Bernhardt as Hamlet

Actors in samurai and ronin costume at the Kyoto Eigamura film set
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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 (Greek: , hypokrisis) discuss
it as part of rhetoric.[1]


1 Definition and history

2 Professional actors

3 Training/Acting Systems

4 Amateur actors

5 Improvisation

6 Semiotics of Acting

7 See also

8 References

9 Sources

10 External links

Definition and history[edit]

One of the first actors is believed to be an ancient Greek called Thespis of Icaria.
An apocryphal story says that Thespis stepped out of the dithyrambic chorus and spoke to them as a
separate character. Before Thespis, the chorus narrated (for example, "Dionysus did this, Dionysus
said that"). When Thespis stepped out from the chorus (year 12 BC), he spoke as if he was the
character (for example, "I am Dionysus. I did this"). From Thespis' name derives the word thespian.
Acting requires a wide range of skills, including vocal projection, clarity of speech, physical
expressivity, emotional facility, a well-developedimagination, and the ability to interpret drama. Acting
also often demands an ability to employ dialects, accents and body language,improvisation,
observation and emulation, mime, and stage combat. Many actors train at length in special programs
or colleges to develop these skills, and today the vast majority of professional actors have
undergone extensive training. Even though one actor may have years of training, they always strive
for more lessons; the cinematic and theatrical world is always changing and because of this, the
actor must stay as up to date as possible. Actors and actresses will often have many instructors and
teachers for a full range of training involving, but not limited to, singing, scene-work, monologue
techniques, audition techniques, and partner work.

Professional actors[edit]
Further information: Actor
A professional actor is someone who gets paid for acting. Not all people working as actors
in film, television or theater are professionally trained. For example, Bob Hoskins did not have any
training before taking up acting.

Training/Acting Systems[edit]
Further information: Drama school

Conservatories typically offer two- to four-year training on all aspects of acting. Universities will offer
three- to four-year programs, where a student is often able to choose to focus on drama, while still
learning about other aspects of theatre. Schools will vary in their approach, but in North America the
most popular method taught derives from the "system" of Constantin Stanislavski, which was
developed and popularised in America by Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and others. The ambiguously
termed method acting came about through iterations of Stanislavski's system by Strasberg. Part of
this style of training includes actors memorizing lines to be able to work off-book, a term that means
being able to work without a script. Other approaches may include a more physical approach,
following the teachings of Jerzy Grotowski and others, or may be based on the training developed by
other theatre practitioners including Sanford Meisner. Other classes may include mask work,
improvisation, and acting for the camera. Regardless of a school's approach, students should expect
intensive training in textual interpretation, voice and movement. Although there are some teachers
who will encourage the improvisation as technique in order to free the actor of limitations in
rehearsal. Harold Guskin's approach or "taking it off the page" as he calls it is steeped in this
philosophy. 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 may also start at a very young age. Acting classes and professional schools targeted at the
under-18 crowd are offered in many locations. These classes introduce young actors to different
aspects of acting and theatre, including scene study.

Amateur actors[edit]
Amateur actors are actors who do not require payment for performances. Although there are some
paid professional actors who do amateur work for multiple reasons. Some may be for educational
purposes or even charity events.

Improvisation was created by Viola Spolin after working with Neva Boyd at a Hull House in
Chicago, Illinois. She was Boyds student from 1924 to 1927. Improv was created on the realization
that adults do not play games. Spolin felt that playing games were good exercises and can benefit in
future acting. With improv, people can find true expressive freedom since they don't ever know how
the situation is going to turn out. When one continues to operate with an open mind they will have a
real sense of spontaneity rather than pre-planning a response. You perform a character of your own
making, and with that character and the others working with you, you create a new and spontaneous
piece. Improv is also used to cover up if an actor or actress makes a mistake.

Semiotics of Acting[edit]
Semiotics of Acting is the actors ability to transform into a convincing character in front of
the audience. The audience no longer sees the actor as a performer, but sees acharacter as a
completely different being. Once this shift occurs, the actor becomes a semiotic device
communicating a set of signs to the audience. A characters signification can represent a multitude of
different meanings to the audience. This may or may not be intended by the actor, who has limited
control over how the audience will read the character. For example, if the actor is playing a
character diagnosed with cancer, the audience may not just see a cancer patient, but may instead
see a character similar to other cancer victims or survivors they have known. The actors
performance, like any text, must be read by the audience.[2]
However, the actor is judged by giving a convincing and believable performance. The actors
performance is mediated by particular semiotic signs including facial expression,emotion,
and vocabulary. All these examples are known as performance signs. Performance signs are simple
codes that the audience must decode during the actor's performance. It is the actors job to deliver

those codes effectively to the audience. If the audience does not find the character believable, then
the actor has failed in their performance. Like other forms of communication, non-verbal or visual
clues are tremendously important. Acting teacher Sanford Meisner once said, An ounce of emotion
is worth a pound of words.[3] Great actors master performance signs in order to win over an
Acting involves two forms of communication: intrascenic (communication between characters) and
extrascenic (communication between the characters and the audience). Both intrascenic and
extrascenic communication must work in order for the audience to read the semiotic signs of the
actors performance. The characters must have intrascenic skills good chemistry in a scene in
order for the audience to understand the performance. [5]
The actor represents the text of the script as performance signs. Actors bring the text to life through
performance and through the personal qualities they may contribute to the narrative of script. Actors
represent the ideas of the text, but also create a new visually dimensioned reality through their
Becoming an actor representing semiotic signs can be a very difficult process. One must understand
the performance signs, the audience, and human emotion.

See also[edit]

Stanislavski's system

Method acting

Constantin Stanislavski

National Michael Chekhov Association

Lee Strasberg

Sanford Meisner

Ion Cojar

Ivana Chubbuck


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


Jump up^ Radul, Judy. "Excerpt on sign and frame from Umberto Eco, Semiotics of
Theatrical Performance". The MIT Press Stable. Retrieved May 6, 2013.


Jump up^ Meisner, Sanford (1987). Sanford Meisner on Acting. Random House Inc.


Jump up^ Marvin, Carlson (1993). Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey
from the Greeks to the present. Cornell University Press. pp. 500, 502.


Jump up^ Yotov, Nayden. "The actor as a semiotic narrator". New Bulgarian University.
Retrieved May 6, 2013.


Boleslavsky, Richard (1987) [1933]. Acting: The First Six Lessons. New York: Theatre Arts. ISBN 087830-000-7.

Brustein, Robert (2005). Letters to a Young Actor. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00806-2.

Csapo, Eric; Slater, William J. (1994). The Context of Ancient Drama. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of
Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08275-2.

Darius, Adam (1998). Acting: A Psychological and Technical Approach. Helsinki: Kolesnik Production
OY. ISBN 952-90-9146-X.

Hagen, Uta (1973). Respect for Acting. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-547390-5.

Hodge, Alison, ed. (2000). Twentieth Century Actor Training. London and New York:
Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19452-0.

Marston, Merlin, ed. (1987). Sanford Meisner on Acting. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-39475059-4.

O'Brien, Nick (2010). Stanislavski In Practise. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415568432.

Spolin, Viola (1999). Improvisation for the Theater (3rd ed.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University
Press. ISBN 978-0-810-14008-0.

Stanislavski, Konstantin (2008). An Actor's Work: A Student's Diary. Trans. and ed. Jean Benedetti;
intro. Declan Donnellan. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-42223-9.

Thomson, David (2015). Why Acting Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-30019578-1.

Zarrilli, Phillip B. (2002). Acting (Re)Considered: A Theoretical and Practical Guide (2nd ed.). London
and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26300-X.