Monday, January 16, 2012

A Brief History of Acting

You know the old cliche, you won't know where you're going until you know where you've been.  Well, it's the same for acting.  Of course, like anything, when you talk about history, it's always a little fuzzy.  It's been passed down through history and in many theater classrooms that the first actor was Thespis of Icaria.  Thespis was a part of a dithyrambic chorus that sang in honor of Dionysus, a Greek god of wine and
fertility.  It was thought that he stepped outside of the chorus and spoke as if he was Dionysus.  This is where we get the term, thespian, to describe a person of the theater.

Here comes the fuzzy part.  It is also passed down that some of the first actors were neanderthal's or people of the Paleolithic period; what we commonly refer to as "cavemen".  After arriving back from a hunt, the men would describe or "act" out to their families of the large animals they encountered and, possibly, near death experiences.

Of course, over the years we have advanced far beyond these first actors; most of us.  There are several methods of acting that people have adapted or have sworn by.  For the sake of time and attention spans as short as mine, I will only mention two of those schools of thought.  I'm not going to get too deep into either, because I will discuss them in a later post.  The first and most popular style is derived from the Russian actor and director of most of the 19th century, Constantin Stanislavski.  Stanislavski developed the "system" of acting widely known as "method acting".  Basically, his concepts focused more on the internal or psycho-logical thought of the actor; a more natural style of acting.  The second school of thought is the style of the 20th century, Polish director, Jersey Grotowski.  This style, unlike Stanislavski’s “system,” focused on the physical rather than the internal state of the actor.  He thought that the actor should tap into the character through hand gestures and vocal intonations.    

Now-a-days, of course depending on the style of theater, most people kind of take the middle ground approach.  Honestly, with theater acting, as opposed to film acting, it’s kind of hard to be too realistic.  Because of the distance of the audience from the stage, actors have to project their voices and exaggerate their gestures a little more than they would if they were acting for film.

As I said before, I will go more in-depth on the different styles of acting on a later post.  I really just wanted to give a brief history of acting for the theater.  I hope that wasn’t too long or too brief.  If you have any questions or would like me to go more in-depth on a particular put please leave a comment.  Thank you for reading.

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  1. Great blog! I enjoyed it Dawn. I shall patiently await the next one.

    1. Thank you Anitra. Thank you for your patience...LOL.