Acting Terminology

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A long list of acting terminology, with brief explanation of each of the acting acting terms.

Analytical Rehearsal: A rehearsal approach where actors dissect and analyze the text, characters, and themes of a play or film.

Antagonist: The character or force that opposes the protagonist.

Arc of Tension: The rise and fall of emotional intensity throughout a scene or performance.

Aria: A solo song performed by an actor in an opera or musical.

Aside: When an actor speaks directly to the audience, as if breaking the fourth wall.

Aspect Ratio: The proportional relationship between the width and height of a film screen or image.

Backstage: The area behind the stage where actors prepare and wait for their cues.

Beat: A small unit of action or dialogue within a scene.

Blocking: The planned movement and positioning of actors on stage or in front of the camera.

Blocking Rehearsals: Rehearsals dedicated specifically to planning and practicing the movement and positioning of actors on stage.

Blocking Sheet: A diagram or script that outlines the movement and positioning of actors on stage or in a scene.

Breaking Character: When an actor momentarily loses focus and behaves as themselves instead of their character.

Breath Control: The ability to regulate and control one’s breathing while speaking or performing physically demanding tasks.

Callback: A second audition or interview that an actor is invited to after the initial audition.

Callback List: A list of actors who have been invited to a callback audition or interview.

Callback Sheet: A document used by casting directors to keep track of actors being considered for a role.

Character Arc: The transformation or change that a character undergoes throughout a play or film.

Cheating Out: Positioning oneself slightly towards the audience to ensure better visibility and communication with the audience.

Cold Reading: The skill of reading a script or text aloud without prior rehearsal or preparation.

Commedia dell’arte: A form of improvisational theater characterized by stock characters and exaggerated physicality.

Contrasting Monologues: Two monologues performed back to back that showcase different sides of an actor’s range.

Creative Dramatics: The use of dramatic activities, such as role-playing, to foster creativity and learning.

Cue: A specific line, action, or signal that indicates it’s time for an actor to speak or perform a certain action.

Cue Line: The line before a specific actor’s line, cueing them to begin speaking or performing a specific action.

Curtain Call: The final appearance of the cast on stage at the end of a performance to receive applause from the audience.

Diction: The clarity and pronunciation of an actor’s speech.

Downstage: The area of the stage closest to the audience.

Downstage Center: The central area of the stage closest to the audience.

Dress Rehearsal: The final rehearsal before a performance where actors wear their full costumes and the show is run as it will be presented to the audience.

Emotional Availability: An actor’s openness and willingness to express and access a wide range of emotions.

Emotional Intelligence: An actor’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions and those of their characters.

Emotional Memory: The technique of recalling personal emotions and memories to portray genuine emotion in a scene.

Emotional Preparation: The process an actor goes through to tap into their emotions and prepare for an emotionally demanding scene.

Emotional Recall: A method where an actor recalls real emotions from their own life to portray a character’s emotions truthfully.

Emotional Range: The ability of an actor to portray a wide variety of emotions convincingly.

Emotional Release: The process an actor goes through to let go of pent-up emotions after an intense performance.

Emotional Truth: The authenticity and honesty an actor brings to a character’s emotional state and portrayal.

Ensemble Cast: A group of actors who share equal importance and screen time in a film or television show.

Environmental Rehearsal: Practice sessions where actors interact with the set, props, and other physical elements to get familiar with the performance space.

Exposition: The part of a story or script that provides background information and context to the audience.

Ensemble: A group of actors who work together as a cohesive unit, often in a theatrical production.

Ensemble Acting: A collaborative approach to acting where all actors work together to create a cohesive performance.

Focus: The ability to concentrate and stay fully present while acting, despite distractions or external factors.

Foil: A character who contrasts and highlights the qualities of another character.

Fourth Wall: The imaginary “wall” that separates actors from the audience, representing a realistic setting.

Gestural Language: Non-verbal communication using gestures and body language to express ideas or emotions.

Gesture: A physical movement or action used by actors to express emotion or convey meaning in a scene.

Impression: An imitation or impersonation of a famous person by an actor.

Improvisation: Spontaneous acting without a script, often used to develop character or create new scenes.

Laban Movement Analysis: A technique that observes and analyzes an actor’s movement and physical expression.

Mark: A specific spot or position on the stage where an actor must stand or move to for blocking purposes.

Method Acting: A technique where an actor uses their personal experiences and emotions to portray a character realistically.

Methodical: An adjective used to describe an actor who meticulously follows a systematic approach.

Methodology: The approach or system used by an actor to understand and portray a character.

Monologue: A solo performance where an actor delivers a speech or series of lines, often showcasing their dramatic skills.

Motivation: The reasons or objectives that drive a character’s actions and choices.

Motivated Action: Actions performed by an actor’s character that are driven by clear and believable intentions.

Motive: The reason behind a character’s actions or choices.

Objective: An actor’s character’s overall goal or intention in a scene or production.

Objective-Obstacle Relationship: The dynamic between an actor’s character’s goals and the challenges or obstacles they face.

Objectives and Strategies: The specific goals an actor’s character has and the tactics they use to achieve them.

Off Book: The state of having memorized one’s lines and no longer needing to refer to the script.

Offstage: The areas of the stage that are not visible to the audience.

Pantomime: A performance style that uses actions, gestures, and facial expressions to convey meaning without words.

Physicality: The bodily movements, gestures, and expressions that an actor uses to portray a character physically.

Playwright: The author of a play.

Project: To speak or act in a way that allows your voice and presence to be clearly heard and seen by the audience.

Projection: The volume and clarity of an actor’s voice to ensure it is audible to the audience.

Projection Screen: A screen used in stage productions or presentations to display images or videos to the audience.

Prompt Book: A script with all the cues, blocking, notes, and technical details necessary for a production.

Props: Objects or items used by actors during a performance to enhance the realism of a scene.

Proscenium Stage: A type of theater stage where the audience only views the action from the front.

Protagonist: The main character or hero of a play or film.

Repertory: A company of actors who perform a repertoire of plays, often rotating between productions.

Repetition: A rehearsal technique where actors practice a specific scene or line multiple times to improve their performance.

Resonance: The quality of sound and voice that resonates through an actor’s body.

Sightlines: The lines of vision from the audience perspective, which directors and actors consider when positioning themselves on stage.

Stage Combat: Choreographed fight sequences performed by actors using various techniques to ensure safety.

Stage Direction: Instructions provided by the playwright on how actors should move, behave, or deliver their lines.

Stage Fright: Anxiety or nervousness experienced by actors before or during a performance.

Stage Left: The left side of the stage from the actor’s perspective while facing the audience.

Stage Manager: The person responsible for the backstage organization and running of a production.

Stage Presence: The ability of an actor to command attention and engage the audience when on stage.

Stage Right: The right side of the stage from the actor’s perspective while facing the audience.

Stanislavski System: An acting technique developed by Konstantin Stanislavski that focuses on the emotional truth and authenticity of a character.

Subplot: A secondary storyline that runs parallel to the main plot of a play or film.

Substitution: The act of replacing a personal emotion or memory with one that fits a character’s circumstances.

Substitution Exercise: A technique where an actor replaces a fictional object or person with something real to help connect with the character’s emotions.

Subtext: The underlying meaning or emotion behind a character’s words or actions that may not be explicitly stated.

Suspension of Disbelief: The audience’s acceptance and willingness to believe in the fictional world created by the actors and the story.

Tech Rehearsal: The rehearsal before the final dress rehearsal where the show is run so lighting, sound and props can be perfected.

Theater in the Round: A performance setup where the audience surrounds the stage on all sides.

Upstage: The area of the stage farthest from the audience.

Upstage Center: The central area of the stage farthest from the audience.

Verbal Gesture: A speech pattern or vocal mannerism used by actors to convey a specific character trait.

Vocal Placement: The technique of consciously directing one’s voice to resonate in specific parts of the body for better sound projection.

Vocal Range: The span between the highest and lowest notes an actor can comfortably sing or speak.

Vocal Tone: The quality, pitch, and timbre of an actor’s voice.

Vocal Warm-up: Exercises and techniques used to prepare an actor’s voice before a performance. Examples include tongue twisters.

Voiceover: When an actor’s voice is used to narrate or provide commentary in a film, television show, or advertisement.

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