What Is Acting Anyways?

First I want to dig into the actual word “acting” because I strongly believe that words are intricate masterpieces. If one takes the time to study them they explain themselves. Let’s take our knowledge of the English language and find out what we can about acting from the word itself. If we dissect the word into syllables we see that it has two, act- and -ing. The first syllable, act-, tells us what kind of word it is. The second syllable, or suffix, -ing, tells us the tense. We can see here that this is a verb in the present tense. Verbs are action word, which means that they describe an action that has, is, or will take place. When I think of an action I usually picture someone doing something or moving in some way. It could be simple, like breathing, or complex, such as a summersault. The body is moving, muscles are contracting, and an action is taking place. So based on the previous text we can assume quite confidently that acting involves motion or movement.

Clearly what I just described is a very technical approach to the question, “What is acting?” however acting is not all technical, nor is it quite as simple as carrying out an action. It may also be emotional. The reasons behind the actions and the emotions being conveyed threw the actions are what make it acting. Sure there are different acting techniques, and yes there is often a script, but these are merely the building blocks actors use to create their characters and scenes.

Another extremely important part of acting is imagination. Acting is like one giant game of make-believe, and based on this definition no one acts more than children. A little girl might take on the role of a mother, changing her baby dolls diapers and cooking food on her play kitchen stove. When her mother comes in and attempts to address the situation as a childish game the girl might protest, “Quiet mommy, my baby is sleeping!” The mother, then understanding that her little girl is no longer a little girl but a mother herself, may ask, “May I hold your baby?” This simple act of playing along will nurture her daughter’s imagination and acting skills as she rocks the doll in her arms as carefully as she would a real baby.

The fact that actors are paid for spending hours on end playing make-believe is often one of the draws for adults looking into acting as a profession. However, once you have reached this point, it becomes a much more sophisticated game of make-believe. An actor will spend hours rehearsing a part so that they are sure to hit every note, remember every line, and not miss a single cue. They will also take time to strengthen their ability to empty themselves of their own thoughts, opinions and knowledge and allow the character to truly possess their entire being. Every action they make, every thought they have is based on the knowledge and mannerisms of the character they are portraying. Say you are cast as Belle by the Walt Disney Company. When you put on your costume and you walk on stage you are no longer yourself, you are Belle. You are in love with The Beast and you have a talking candlestick and clock for friends. You know nothing of the world outside of the classic fairy tale. You do not own a cell phone and you did not grow up with air conditioning, you deal with the heat and when you need to communicate with someone you do it in person or you write a letter. When someone asks you to take a selfie you cannot delve into your personal database of knowledge but must consider, does Belle know what a selfie is, and answer accordingly.

Of course, before an actor can get to the point of actually being cast they must first go through the audition process. How does an actor prepare for an audition? There are a few things an actor might do. They might read over the script for the show they are auditioning for, if it is available to them. If it is not they may at least look for a synopsis of the show so that they have a basic feel for what type of show it is. Is it a comedy, a drama, is their singing or dancing at any point? This will help those auditioning to pick appropriate musical pieces or monologs for their audition. They may also familiarize themselves with the casting director. If they know what his or her pet peeves are they can make an extra effort to avoid any during their audition.  Of course, practice is probably the most important thing an actor will be doing before an audition because, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

To sum it all up, acting is the professional form of playing make-believe. Some people play pretend and become the very thing they pretended to be as a child. A man may have spent his childhood running around with a plastic fireman’s hat on his head and a loaded squirt gun in his hand only to grow up to be a fireman. A little girl may have spent her afternoons in the kitchen cooking up new concoctions, pretending she was on a cooking show and that her mother was the judge, only to own her own restaurant later on in life. Actors don’t become what they pretended to be as other children do, rather they fall in love with the game itself and refuse to stop playing.

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