January 21, 2022

An actor or comedian (in the feminine actress or actress) is an artist who lends his physique or his voice to a fictional character in a play, in a film, on television, a video game or on the radio. The various collective agreements for live performance and audiovisual give different names to the same job: the interpretation of a role. If the designation of performer (or artist-performer) brings together dramatic, choreographic, lyrical, variety (music-hall) and circus artists as well as musicians (non-soloists) in the National Collective Agreement of artists engaged for television broadcasts, Radio France has retained the designation “Dramatic Artist” on pay slips for the interpretation of radio dramas and soap operas. Etymologically, the “comedian” is an actor more particularly specialized in comedy (κωμῳδία), just as the “tragedian” is more specialized in tragedy (τραγῳδία). The two major traditional dramatic genres are tragedy and comedy. The drama (from the Latin “drama”, borrowed from the ancient Greek “δρᾶμα / drâma”, which means “action (theatrical), action performed on stage, play”) etymologically designates any stage action. Over time, this distinction has faded in usage: the art of the actor is today designated in the French language under the name of “comedy”. “Acting” means performing a role, whether or not it is a comedic job, or simulating something, such as an illness. The cast is the term designating all the actors chosen (sometimes after an audition) to play the roles of a film or a play. The main medium of the actor is the text but he can also use mime, dance or song, depending on the needs of his role, especially in musicals.


Comes from the Latin word actor, (same meaning as in French) who interprets a character in the context of a staging "the one who does, the executor".


The first actor would be the Greek Thespis (or Thespus) who would have played in -534 at the Athens theater for the feasts of Dionysos, thus becoming the first to interpret words, separately from the chorus, in a play. Before him, stories were told with dances or songs, in the third person, but no trace of a story told in the first person has come down to us. This actor is originally unique and, as the only protagonist, he speaks with the chorus. The Greek playwright Aeschylus is the first to introduce a second character (the deuteragonist). Then Sophocles brings in a third: the tritagonist. The existence in antiquity of a tetragonist is discussed. In France, theatrical professions have long been reserved for men, giving rise to the excommunication of actors; it was not until 1603, during a theatrical tour of an Italian troupe, that a woman, Isabella Andreini, obtained the right to go on stage. The royal edict of April 16, 1641 of Louis XIII is the precursor of the statute of actor whose work “cannot be imputed to them to blame, nor prejudice to their reputation in the public trade”.

The actor and his character

The actor is the one who puts into action, the text written by the playwright, and the situations organized by the director. It is he who acts and gives life to the character. In some cases, such as improvisational shows (eg commedia dell'arte), he himself may be the sole creator of his role. There is a constant ambiguity between the personality of the role and that of its interpreter. This paradox was notably exposed by Did

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