People of the theater are actors, either amateur of professional. An amateur or non-professional actor receives little or no pay for his or her performance. A professional actor may make his/her living or part of it by acting. Amateur acting is as old as man. Thousands of years ago the first actors danced and sang in religious ceremonies and the spoken words came later. Today amateur actors appear in school and church plays and in community-theater productions. Professional actors became established during the sixteenth century. In Italy and in France women did not take part in plays until near the end of the sixteenth century, and it was almost one hundred years later before actresses performed in England. Before that time men and boys acted women’s parts. For a long time the profession of acting was not considered to be a respectable one.
Today most professional actors attend schools and study what they need to know as actors before they begin work in the theater. The actors study voice, speech and characterization, also body movement and dance so that they will know how to move on stage. Anyone interested in becoming an actor should realize that acting is a disciplined craft demanding hard work. Learning to act can be a lifetime job.
There are several other people connected with the theater. Among them are playwrights, also called dramatists, directors, producers, scenic designers, lighting designers, costume designers, stage managers, and the backstage crew.
The playwright writes the plays, stories or a book which contains the dialogue and action. Through characters the playwright directs his comments and/or draws pictures of the people and their lives at the time in which the play is set. The director is a very important person because the director stages the play, choosing the cast of actors, guides them during rehearsals, and helps to interpret what the playwright has written. The director coordinates the tasks of all of the people working in the production, including the designers of the scenery and costumes. The director has become more and more important in the theater.
The producer presents the play after he selects the director and the people who will work on the production. The producer rents the theater, pays the salaries and bills, and takes in the money from the sale of the tickets. In amateur theater the producer often directs and takes on the other duties as well. The set designer plans, designs and oversees the construction of the scenery or setting for the play. Lighting on stage consists of much more that just brightening the stage area so that the audience can see what is happening. It also helps to create a certain mood or set a particular atmosphere for the play. The costume designer designs the clothes the actors will wear on stage. They must be familiar with the principles of art, the period, and how to use color, light and line. The backstage crew includes the stagehands, who carry scenery and furniture on and off the stage and who will operate the curtain and the electricity.