Why are actors called thespians

Actor - Actor

Person who plays in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theater or radio

A actor is a person who represents a character in a performance (also actress ; see below ). The actor appears "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of theater or in modern media such as film, radio and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής ( hupokritḗs ), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of a role - the art of acting - depends on the role being played, whether it is a real person or a fictional character. This can also be thought of as the "role of the actor" which was so named due to the use of scrolls in the theaters. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing himself", as is the case with some forms of experimental performance art.

Formerly, in ancient Greece and Rome, the medieval world, and the time of William Shakespeare, only men could become actors, and female roles were generally played by men or boys. While ancient Rome allowed female stage performers, only a small minority of them received speaking parts. The Commedia dell'arte of Italy, however, allowed professional women to perform early: Lucrezia Di Siena, whose name is on a contract of actors dated October 10, 1564, was named the first Italian actress known by name, with Vincenza Armani and Barbara Flaminia the first Prima donnas and first well-documented actresses in Italy (and in Europe). After the English Restoration of 1660, women performed on the stage in England. In modern times, particularly in pantomime and some operas, women occasionally play the role of boys or young men.


The first recorded case of a performing actor occurred in 534 BC. (Although changes in the calendar over the years make it difficult to pinpoint) than the Greek performer Thespis im Theater Dionysus the Entered the stage and being the first known person to speak words as a character in a play or story. Before Thespis' plot, Greek stories were only expressed in songs, dances, and narrations by third parties. In honor of Thespis, actors are commonly referred to as Thespis disciples called . The all-male actors in the theater of ancient Greece starred in three types of dramas: tragedy, comedy, and satyr play. Western theater developed and expanded considerably under the Romans. The theater of ancient Rome was a thriving and diverse art form, ranging from festival performances of street theater, nude dancing and acrobatics, to staging of situation comedies, to high-style, verbally elaborate tragedies.

When the Western Roman Empire fell into decline in the 4th and 5th centuries, the seat of Roman power shifted to Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. Records show that pantomime, pantomime, scenes or recitations from tragedies and comedies, dances and other entertainments were very popular. From the 5th century onwards, Western Europe found itself in a time of general disorder. Small nomadic groups of actors traveled throughout Europe throughout the period and performed where they could find an audience. There is no evidence that they produced anything but gross scenes. Traditionally, the actors did not have a high status. Therefore, in the early Middle Ages traveling actors were often viewed with suspicion. Early medieval actors were denounced in the dark by the church for being viewed as dangerous, immoral, and pagan. In many parts of Europe, traditional beliefs of the region and the time meant that 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, the liturgical drama had spread from Russia via Scandinavia to Italy. The festival of fools encouraged the development of comedy. In the late Middle Ages, plays were produced in 127 cities. These native mystery games often included comedies in which actors played devils, villains, and clowns. The majority of the actors in these plays were from the local community. Amateur actors in England were all male, but in other countries there were female actors.

Several secular pieces were performed in the Middle Ages, the earliest of which was the Game of the Grünwald by Adam de la Halle in 1276. It contains satirical scenes and folk material such as fairies and other supernatural events. Farces also became dramatically more popular after the 13th century. At the end of the late Middle Ages, professional actors appeared in England and Europe. Richard III and Henry VII both had small companies of professional actors. From the mid-16th century onwards, Commedia dell'arte troops performed lively improvisational games across Europe for centuries. Commedia dell'arte was an actor-centered theater that required few sets and very few props. The plays were loose frameworks that provided the situations, complications, and results of the action around which the actors improvised. Standard characters were used in the games. A troop typically consisted of 13 to 14 members. Most actors received a share of the play's winnings roughly the size of their roles.

Renaissance theater derived from several medieval theatrical traditions such as the mystery plays, "moral plays" and the "university drama" which attempted to recreate the Athenian tragedy. The Italian tradition of commedia dell'arte and the elaborate masks that are often presented at court also contributed to the design of the public theater. Since before the reign of Elizabeth I, gamblers' businesses were tied to the households of leading aristocrats and performed seasonally in different locations. This became the basis for the professional players who performed on the Elizabethan stage.

The development of theater and the possibilities of acting ceased when the Puritan opposition to the stage banned all plays from being performed in London. Puritans viewed the theater as immoral. The reopening of the theaters in 1660 signaled a renaissance in English drama. English comedies written and performed during the Restoration Period from 1660 to 1710 are collectively referred to as "Restoration Comedy". The recovery comedy is known for its sexual expressiveness. At that time, women were allowed to appear exclusively in female roles on the English stage for the first time. During this time, the first professional actresses were introduced and the first prominent actors rose.

19th century

In the 19th century, actors' negative reputations were largely reversed and acting became a respected, popular profession and art. The actor's rise as a celebrity made the transition as the audience flocked to his favorite "stars". A new role emerged for the actor managers who started their own businesses and controlled the actors, productions and funding. When they were successful, they built a steady clientele who flocked to their productions. They could expand their audiences by touring the country and performing a repertoire of well-known plays such as Shakespeare's. There was lively debates in the newspapers, private clubs, pubs and cafes evaluating the relative merits of the stars and the productions. Henry Irving (1838-1905) was the most successful British actor-manager. Irving was known for his Shakespearean roles and for innovations like turning off house lights so that attention could be focused more on the stage and less on the audience. His company toured the UK, Europe and the US to demonstrate the power of star actors and celebrate roles to attract an enthusiastic audience. His knighthood in 1895 showed full acceptance in the higher circles of British society.

20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, the economy of large-scale productions replaced the actor-manager model. It was too difficult to find people who combined a genius in acting and management, which is why the specialization split the roles as stage manager and later theater director. Financially, it took much more capital to operate from a big city. The solution was owned by theater chains such as the Theatrical Syndicate, Edward Laurillard, and in particular The Shubert Organization. Due to the catering of tourists preferred theaters in large cities, increasingly long editions of very popular plays, especially musicals. Big name stars became even more important.


  • Classical action is a philosophy of action that integrates the expression of body, voice, imagination, personalization, improvisation, external stimuli, and script analysis. It is based on the theories and systems of selected classical actors and directors, including Konstantin Stanislavski and Michel Saint-Denis.
  • In Stanislavski's system, also known as the Stanislavski's method, actors rely on their own feelings and experiences to convey the "truth" of the character they are portraying. Actors put themselves in the character's mindset and find common ground to enable a more authentic portrayal of the character.
  • Method Acting is a set of techniques based on training actors to better characterize the characters they play, as formulated by Lee Strasberg. Strasberg's method is based on the idea that actors should use their own experiences to personally identify with their characters in order to develop an emotional and cognitive understanding of their roles. It is based on aspects of the Stanislavski 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 to be "methodical acts".
  • The Meisner Technique requires the actor to focus completely on the other actor as if he or she were real and they only exist in that moment. This is a method by which the actors in the scene appear more authentic to the audience. It is based on the principle that action is expressed in people's reaction to other people and circumstances. Is it based on Stanislavski's system?

Than the opposite sex

In the past, only men could become actors in some societies. In ancient Greece and Rome, as well as in the medieval world, it was considered a shame for a woman to go on stage. Still, women performed in ancient Rome and reappeared in the 16th century in the Commedia dell'arte in Italy, where Lucrezia Di Siena became perhaps the first professional actress since ancient Rome. France and Spain also had female actors in the 16th century. However, in William Shakespeare's England, women's roles were generally played by men or boys.

When an eighteen year Puritan ban lifted drama after the English Restoration of 1660, women began to appear on the stage in England. Margaret Hughes is often referred to as the first professional actress on the English stage. Previously, Angelica Martinelli, a member of an Italian commedia dell'arte company, appeared in England as early as 1578, but such foreign guest appearances were rare exceptions and there were no professional English actresses in England. That ban ended under Charles II. In part because he enjoyed seeing actresses on stage. In particular, Charles II granted a patent to Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant, granting them the monopoly right to form two London theater groups to perform "serious" drama, and the patent was reissued in 1662 with revisions allowing actresses to perform for the first time.

According to the OED, this was the first appearance of the term actress in 1608 and is attributed to Middleton. In the 19th century, many women viewed acting negatively as actresses were often courtesans and associated with promiscuity. Despite these prejudices, there were also the first female "stars" in the 19th century, especially Sarah Bernhardt.

In Japan were Onnagata or men who took on female roles in the Kabuki Theater used when women were banned from performing on stage during the Edo Period. This convention continues. In some forms of Chinese drama, such as Peking Opera, men traditionally played all roles, including female roles, while in Shaoxing Opera, women often played all roles, including male ones.

In modern times, women occasionally played the role of boys or young men. For example, the stage role of Peter Pan is traditionally played by a woman, as is most of the main boys in British pantomime. Opera has several "breeches roles" traditionally sung by women, usually mezzo-sopranos. Examples are Hansel in Hansel and Gretel , Cherubino in the wedding of Figaro and Octavian in The Rosenkavalier .

Women playing male roles are uncommon in the film, with notable exceptions. In 1982 Stina Ekblad played the mysterious Ismael Retzinsky in Fanny and Alexander , and Linda Hunt won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for starring Billy Kwan Year of dangerous life played . In 2007, Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for starring Jude Quinn, a fictional role played by Bob Dylan in the 1960s I'm Not There .

In the 2000s, women who play men in live theater are particularly likely to be seen in presentations of older plays, such as Shakespeare works with a large number of male characters in roles where gender is not an issue.

Having an actor dress as the opposite sex for the comic effect also has a long tradition in comic theater and film. Most Shakespeare's comedies include examples of open cross-dressing, like Francis Flute in A midsummer night's dream . The film a funny thing happened on the way to the forum Stars Jack Gilford dresses as a young bride. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon posed in the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot than women to escape gangsters. Cross-dressing for comic book effects has been used extensively in most of the carry-on films. Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams have each appeared in a hit comedy film ( Tootsie or. Mrs. Doubtfire ) participated in which they played most of the scenes dressed as women.

Occasionally the problem is made even more complicated, for example by a woman playing a woman who appears as a man - who then pretends to be a woman, like Julie Andrews in Victor / Victoria or Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love . In It's Pat: The Movie Film viewers never learn the gender of the androgynous main characters Pat and Chris (played by Julia Sweeney and Dave Foley). Similarly, in the example of the Marriage of Figaro mentioned above, there is a scene in which Cherubino (a male figure represented by a woman) dresses up and acts like 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.

Some modern roles are played by a member of the opposite sex to emphasize the gender fluidity of the role. Edna Turnblad in Hairspray was played by Divine in the original 1988 film, Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway musical, and John Travolta in the 2007 film musical. Eddie Redmayne was nominated for an Oscar for playing Lili Elbe (a trans woman) in The Danish Girl 2015 nominated .

The term actress

Unlike the ancient Greek theater, the ancient Roman theater allowed female performers. While the majority of them were rarely engaged in speaking roles but in dancing, there were a minority of actresses in Rome who were engaged in speaking roles, and also those who gained wealth, fame, and recognition for their art, such as Eucharis, Dionysia, Galeria Copiola and Fabia Arete, and they also formed their own drama guild, the Sociae Mimae who was obviously quite rich. The profession seemed to have died out in late antiquity.

While women did not appear on stage in England until the second half of the 17th century, they began appearing in Italy, Spain and France from the late 16th century. Lucrezia Di Siena, whose name is in an acting contract in Rome from October 10, 1564, was named the first Italian actress known by name, Vincenza Armani and Barbara Flaminia as the first prima donna and the first well-documented actresses in Italy (and Europe).

After 1660 in England, when women first started appearing on the stage, the terms are actor or actress were initially used interchangeably for actresses, but later influenced by the French actrice , actress became the term often used for women in theater and film. The etymology is a simple derivation from Actor With -ess added. When reference is made to groups of performers of both sexes, will actor prefers.

Within the profession, the resumption of neutral tenure dates back to the postwar period of the 1950s and 1960s when women's contributions to cultural life in general were reviewed. As The Observer and The Guardian 2010 their new joint Style guide It said, "Use ['actor'] for both male and female actors. Do not use an actress except in the name of the award, such as Oscar for Best Actress." The guide's authors stated that "Actress falls into the same category as writer, comedian, manager, 'doctor', 'nurse' and similar obsolete terms that date from a time when jobs were largely one-gender (usually men) . . " (Please refer Man as the norm .) "As Whoopi Goldberg put it in an interview with the newspaper: 'An actress can only play one woman. I am an actor - I can play anything.'" The British artists' union Equity has no guidelines on the use of 'actor' or "Actress". A spokesman for Equity said the union does not believe there is consensus on the matter, stating that "... subject separates profession". In 2009 the Los Angeles Times indicates that "actress" remains the common term for important acting awards for female recipients (e.g., Oscar for best actress).

With regard to United States cinema, the gender-neutral term "player" was common in film during the silent era and the early days of the film production code, but was generally considered archaic in the film context by the 2000s. However, "player" continues to be used in theater and is often included in the name of a theater group or group such as the American players, the East-West players, and so on. Actors in improvisational theater can also be called "players".

Pay equity

Reported in 2015 Forbes that "... only 21 of the 100 highest-grossing films of 2014 had a female lead or co-lead role, while only 28.1% of the characters in 100 highest-grossing films were female ...". "In the US there is an" industry-wide [gap] in salaries of all sizes. On average, white women make 78 cents for every dollar a white man makes, while Hispanic women make 56 cents for a white man's dollar, black women 64 cents, and Native American women only 59 cents for it. " Forbes' Analysis of US salaries in 2013 found that the "... men on Forbes' list of highest paid actors for that year made 2.2 1/2 times as much money as the highest paid actresses. That means that Hollywood's highest paid actresses only 40 cents made for every dollar made by the best paid men. "


Actors who work in theater, film, television, and radio need to learn certain skills. Techniques that work well in one type of acting may not work well in another type of acting.

In the theatre

In order to act on the stage, the actors have to learn the stage directions such as "stage left" and "stage right" shown in the script. These instructions are based on the actor's point of view when he or she is on stage facing the audience. The actors must also learn the meanings of the stage directions "Upstage" (away from the audience) and "Downstage" (towards the audience). Theater actors have to learn to block, ie "... where and how an actor moves on the stage during a play". Most scripts indicate a blocking. The director also gives instructions on how to block, e.g. B. to cross the stage or to pick up and use a prop.

Some theater actors need to learn stage combat, which is simulated fights on stage. Actors may need to simulate hand-to-hand combat or sword fighting. Actors are trained by combat directors who help them learn the choreographed sequence of combat actions.

In the movie

Silent films

From 1894 to the late 1920s, films were silent films. Silent film actors emphasized body language and facial expressions so the audience could better understand what an actor was feeling and performing on screen. Much silent film acting can be perceived by modern audiences as simple or bellicose. The melodramatic acting style was in some cases a habit that actors had inherited from their previous stage experience. The vaudeville theater was a particularly popular origin for many American silent film actors. The ubiquitous presence of stage actors in film was what caused director Marshall Neilan's outburst in 1917: "The sooner the stage people who came in pictures come out, the better for the pictures." In other cases, directors such as John Griffith Wray required their actors to provide larger-than-life expressions for emphasis. As early as 1914, American viewers began to make their preference for more naturalness on the screen known.

At the beginning of the 1910s, pioneering film directors in Europe and the USA recognized the different restrictions and freedoms of the media stage and screen. Silent films became less Vaudevillian in the mid-1910s when the differences between stage and screen became apparent. Due to the work of directors like DW Griffith, cinematography became less stage-like, and the then revolutionary close-up enabled subtle and naturalistic action. In America, DW Griffith's company Biograph Studios was known for its innovative directing and acting that were more suited to the cinema than the stage. Griffith realized that acting didn't look good in film and required his actors and actresses to undergo weeks of training as film actors.

Lillian Gish has been dubbed the film's "first real actress" for her work during this period as she pioneered new film techniques and recognized the critical differences between stage and film acting. Directors such as Albert Capellani and Maurice Tourneur insisted on naturalism in their films. By the mid-1920s, many American silent films had adopted a more naturalistic acting style, although not all actors and directors immediately accepted naturalistic, low-key acting. As late as 1927, films with expressionist acting styles like Metropolis released.

According to Anton Kaes, a University of Wisconsin silent film scholar, American silent cinema began to observe a shift in acting techniques between 1913 and 1921, influenced by the techniques of German silent film. This is mainly due to the influx of emigrants from the Weimar Republic, "including film directors, producers, cameramen, lighting and stage technicians as well as actors and actresses".

The advent of sound in film

Movie actors need to learn to get used to it and be comfortable with a camera in front of them. Film actors have to learn to find and maintain their "brand". This is a location on the floor marked with tape. In this position, light and camera focus are optimized. Movie actors must also learn to prepare well and run tests on the screen. Screen tests are a filmed audition of part of the script.

Unlike theater actors who develop characters for reruns, film actors lack continuity, forcing them to come to all scenes (sometimes in the reverse order in which they ultimately appear) with an already fully developed character.

"Since the film captures and enlarges even the smallest gesture ... the cinema demands a less extravagant and stylized physical performance from the actor than the theater." "The performance of emotions is the most difficult aspect of film acting: ... the film actor has to lift subtle ticks on the face, quivers, and tiny eyebrows to create a believable character." Some theater stars "... have made the transition from theater to cinema quite successful (Laurence Olivier, Glenn Close and Julie Andrews, for example), others have not ..."


"On a television set, there are usually several cameras angled on the device. Actors who are new to screen display cannot be sure which camera to look at." Television actors need to learn how to use Lav microphones (lavaliere microphones). Television actors need to understand the concept of "frame". "The term frame refers to the area that the camera's lens covers." Within the acting industry, there are four types of television roles that one could land on a show. Each type varies in popularity, frequency of occurrence, and payment. The first is as regular series known - the main cast on the show as part of the permanent cast. Actor in recurring Roles are under contract to appear in multiple episodes of a series. A Co-star Role is a small speaking role that usually only appears in one episode. A Guest star is a bigger role than one Co-star Role, and the character is often the focus of the episode or is an integral part of the plot.

On the radio

Radio play is a dramatized, purely acoustic performance that is broadcast on the radio or published on audio media such as a tape or CD. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener introduce the characters and story: "It's auditory in the physical dimension, but just as powerful as a visual force in the psychological dimension."

The radio play achieved widespread popularity within a decade of its first development in the 1920s. It was a leading international popular entertainment in the 1940s. However, with the advent of television in the 1950s, the radio play lost some of its popularity and has never regained large audiences in some countries. However, recordings from OTR (Old-Time Radio) are now preserved in the audio archives of collectors and museums, as well as on several online sites such as the Internet Archive.

As of 2011, the radio play is only minimally represented in terrestrial broadcasting in the USA. Much of the American radio play is limited to repetitions or podcasts of programs from earlier decades. However, other nations still have thriving radio drama traditions. In the UK, for example, the BBC produces and broadcasts hundreds of new radio plays every year on Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra. In addition to distributing vintage programs, podcasting also offers the possibility of creating new radio plays.

The terms "radio play" or "radio play" are sometimes used synonymously with "radio play", with one possible distinction: radio play or radio play do not necessarily have to be specifically intended for broadcast on the radio. Audio drama, whether newly produced or OTR classics, can be found on CDs, cassettes, podcasts, webcasts and conventional broadcasting.

Thanks to advances in digital recording and internet dissemination, the radio play is experiencing a revival.

See also



  • Csapo, Eric, and William J. Slater. 1994. The context of the old drama. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P. ISBN 0-472-08275-2.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The semiotics of theater and drama . New accents Ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-416-72060-9.
  • Weimann, Robert. 1978. Shakespeare and Folk Tradition in Theater: Studies on the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function. Ed. Robert Schwartz. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3506-2.

further reading

External links

  • Screen Actors Guild (SAG): a union that represents American film and television actors.
  • Actors' Equity Association (AEA): a union that represents US theater actors and stage managers.
  • American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA): a union that represents US television and radio actors and broadcasters (on-air journalists, etc.).
  • British Actors' Equity: A union that represents British artists, including actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theater directors and designers, variety and circus performers, television and radio presenters, walk-in and support artists, stunt performers and directors, and theater fight directors.
  • Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance: An Australian-New Zealand union that represents all representatives of the media, entertainment, sports and arts industries.