Acting Major

A program that prepares individuals to communicate dramatic information, ideas, moods, and feelings through the achievement of naturalistic and believable behavior in imaginary circumstances. Includes instruction in voice and acting speech, stage dialects, movement, improvisation, acting styles, theatre history, script interpretation, and actor coaching.

Actors are entertainers. They bring a writer's words to life by portraying characters on stage, screen and radio. Though the career can be glamorous, the road to success is often long and difficult. Most actors have to compete for parts through auditions. They need to be able to handle criticism and rejection. Once hired, actors spend hours memorizing lines and rehearsing. The workdays can be very long, especially on film shoots. In addition to reciting lines, actors need to be able to impersonate a real or fictional character, often right down to particular mannerisms…even regional accents. Stage productions usually require work in the evenings, on weekends and holidays. Besides roles in movies, TV programs, and on stage, actors are employed in commercials, theme parks, and even teaching. Some roles call for singing and dancing. No formal education is required, although training at a university or dramatic arts school can refine important skills such as diction and movement. Actors can get performing experience in school or community productions, as well as in summer stock shows. Many actors struggle for years to make a living. Often they need to find other part-time work to supplement their acting income. It can be helpful to have an agent. Working on commission, talent agents promote their clients to directors and producers and may have an edge in getting an actor auditions. Although few actors ever achieve stardom, this can certainly be an exciting and financially rewarding career …what Shakespeare called the "passion to play."

A program that prepares individuals to communicate dramatic information, ideas, moods, and feelings through the achievement of naturalistic and believable behavior in imaginary circumstances. Includes instruction in voice and acting speech, stage dialects, movement, improvisation, acting styles, theater history, script interpretation, and actor coaching.

Actors bring stories to life for an audience.

It seems like actors are always on our radar - how could they not be, when their presence defines so much of the media we consume? Actors play characters, taking on lives that are not their own and embodying them for entertainment purposes. Their performances evoke strong emotional responses which vary according to the direction and script. Generally speaking, there are screen actors and stage actors, though many cross over from medium to another. Screen actors perform in front of cameras, which record their actions from different angles called shots in iterations called takes. Stage actors perform in real time in front of a large audience without stopping. Voice acting is another kind of work an actor may do, which doesn't involve being seen at all - only recorded. Without going into acting techniques, there are many ways an actor can approach their craft, and most see each role as a valuable experience in and of itself.

A great deal of people who have never acted consider it to be a rather easy and glamorous career. Any actor will tell you otherwise; acting takes skill, discipline, and a willingness to work through a variety of unpredictable circumstances. Once an actor is cast, they are often at the mercy of a scene. If a director decides a scene will look more romantic in the rain, an actor is going to get wet. If a scene calls for a sword fight, an actor will be expected to spend long hours with a fight coach to learn how to make it look convincing. And so on - actors may be called upon to work in any imaginable environment, real or constructed (even theater actors aren't safe from the whims of staging!) and repeat scenes over and over until they begin to ring true. Even so, it can be incredibly fulfilling for an actor to know that they delivered a knockout performance, and a standing ovation or positive review is often enough to make up for any temporary stress.

Work as an actor may include...

  • Learning lines, expressions, and movement blocking
  • Working with a director on character and delivery
  • Rehearsing scenes and memorizing dialogue
  • Performing on camera or before a live audience
  • Preparing for and attending auditions

Almost all actors work on a contractual basis, one production at a time; during this period, they are bound to the production schedule, which may call for rehearsals or performances at irregular hours. Some actors work part time at other jobs with flexible schedules that they can adjust around call times if necessary, which can also be a financial relief when work is hard to find. At a certain point in an actor's career, they may elect to sign on with an agency, which can make the process of getting roles a little bit easier. Most actors start out in small productions and audition for bigger roles over time until they land a part that gets them noticed by the right people. Though this does happen, it doesn't usually bring instant mega success; actors who wait to be discovered have a slimmer chance at making it big than actors who pace themselves and give their all to each role.

There are different approaches to becoming an actor. Some start training as children or teens, appearing on TV or in local stage plays. High schoolers may take drama classes where they have opportunities for scene studies and auditions. At the college level, some students go to performing arts schools or acting conservatory programs, where they spend the next several years doing intensive character work, monologues, and sometimes build upon other skills, like stage combat or singing. Theater and film students in university settings are often called upon to star in student films, which can be a great introduction to screen acting and make for a decent starter portfolio. Some aspiring actors skip formal training entirely, figuring they have the stuff; sometimes they get lucky at a casting call and wind up as an extra on a big film project, which can be a great gig for those looking to network and learn. No matter what route an actor takes, acting is a powerful art form they must learn to use wisely and well.

If you're a gifted performer with a strong work ethic, you might have an incredible career in acting ahead of you.

SAG-AFTRA is a labor union that  works to secure the strongest possible protections for media artists.

The Actors' Equity Association is the labor union representing American actors and stage managers in the theater.

Actor career description with resources.