This A-Z, to be taken with a healthy pinch of salt, is something I wrote in the early nineties and so if it now feels a little dated, that may well be why...
are only human too. You may not think so. They may not think so. God, if she exists, is likely to have serious doubts. But it's true.
is the area least favoured by actors, as it symbolises (and thus reminds of) the profession's most common condition: so near (the stage, the LIMELIGHT, the accolades) and yet so far (obscured by FLATS, SCENERY, and other, lesser but more famous, ACTORS).
are the people to whose face every actor is exceedingly friendly, whilst being unimaginably rude about them once their backs are turned.
Outside the acting fraternity this sort of behaviour may be considered borderline schizophrenic, but among actors it should be regarded as perfectly normal as it stems from the actor's all important survival INSTINCT.
Very occasionally an actor may be seen getting very drunk on free booze at an opening night party, talking loudly at a casting director, telling them to their face what an incompetent idiot they are. This is highly amusing for bystanders, excruciating for the actor's agent, and likely to set back the actor's career by a decade or two.
A no-go-zone for non-actors. Directors, especially, must desist from entering a dressing room after THE HALF. Admirers, relatives, friends and general hangers-on are not welcome at any time, even if actors frequently protest the opposite.
CASTING DIRECTORS might form an exception to this rule, but no self-respecting casting director would be seen dead in a dressing room: the drama that goes on outside is quite enough for them.
Flowers, gifts, bottles of champagne, good-luck cards and mascots are all extremely welcome in the dressing room (one might say they are expected), but should be left at the stage door with a note praising the actor's performance (if it has already taken place) or their overall good-eggedness (if it is yet to happen), irrespective of what it was, or they are, like.
are not actors as far as actors are concerned. As far as many extras are concerned, actors are self-important, arrogant snobs. For actors, extras hardly exist. Do not under any circumstances ever suggest to an actor that you may have seen him or her appearing as an extra in something or the other. You will be branded a liar and, if you do it in front of other professionals, a ruiner of careers, reputations and futures. Especially if what you're suggesting is true.
are flat objects stuck, stood or hung in strategic places on stage for actors to bump into. Often they are there to obscure actors who are not yet on or who have just come off and who are therefore hanging around in the WINGS doing childish things, such as grimacing to cameos on stage or dropping their breeches.
performances are a welcome opportunity for politicians, industrialists and general philanthropists to mix with assorted royalty and have a swell evening in full view of the MEDIA, normally in aid of The Prince's Trust. The cringe moment happens after the show or during the interval when actors, director and sundry production staff line up to shake the Royal's hand, smiling in a pained fashion, because they're dying for the loo and are desperate for a pint, normally in that order.
The watershed in an actor's day. Before it, he is an almost normal person; after it, he becomes Hamlet, Cyrano, Romeo or more likely Second Footman or Hind Legs of Horse, around Christmas time.
Helpfully, The Half [Hour Call] is given at 35 minutes before curtain up, much as the Beginner's Call is given 5 minutes before the show. This allows the actors to get from the dressing room to the stage on time, a tradition which is honoured even in venues where the dressing room is the corridor directly outside the pub's back room (which serves as the stage and auditorium) leading to the pub's only operative toilet.
An actor who is not in the theatre after The Half is Dead Meat.
is what an actor relies on much of the time, especially under inadequate direction or when severely hung over. More significant, it is the universal excuse for any anti-social behaviour or incompetent acting: 'My instinct is to move centre stage here...', 'instinctively I would cross downstage at this point...', 'well, I have to trust my instinct.' Paired with the actor's perennial need for survival (both literally and artistically), instinct easily becomes one of the profession's most lethal weapons.
does not, nay, in truth does not exist, not among actors, no. It doesn't.
along with Alexander Technique, low impact aerobics and binge-dieting, this is popular especially among younger actors as a way of keeping the 'instrument in tune'. By this is meant the 'body in shape'. Whatever you call it, it rarely works and never lasts.
A much outdated term made popular by Charlie Chaplin, originally describing quite accurately an early type of stage lamp. Much liked by the public for its romantic connotations when they mean 'media glare' or simply 'high profile', but not really used in the theatre nowadays.
Envied for their cash, loathed for their pretensions and mistrusted for their coverage, media people, especially and foremost reviewers, are treated with much the same contempt as CASTING DIRECTORS even though - or perhaps because - they are of course similarly indispensible for the industry to run at all.
is what actors do when not acting. It involves a great deal of calling up friends, acquaintances, agents, CASTING DIRECTORS and fellow artists at random and talking to them at length about other friends', acquaintances', agents', Casting Directors' and fellow artists' latest flops and failures. This is done partly in order to reassure oneself that one is not doing too badly, partly to find out whether anything is 'going', anywhere, and partly to fill the gaping hours of daytime that one feels one should rightfully be rehearsing, but finds oneself out of work.
Since actors are rarely in work, a lot of people have a lot of time to do a lot of networking which can be a nuisance for the agents and Casting Directors who might be trying to get on with their jobs. Still, as in every other sector, whatever openings there are tend to be filled over an informal chat at the bar, so attending dos and bashes does in fact rank among the most useful things an actor can do during their entire career.
is anathema to acting. Also, singers earn a great deal more than actors. That makes them highly suspect from the start. One adores the music, of course.
are broadly considered to fall into three categories: The Good, The Bad and Shakespeare.
Generally, The Good plays are by Chekov, Ibsen, Wilde, Miller and, in the subcategory 'Tremendous', the Ancient Greeks. The Bad plays are by anyone who's still alive. Some well-meaning theatres, like the Royal Court and The Bush, tirelessly produce The Bad plays with great gusto and enthusiasm, often resulting in a lot of coverage by the MEDIA, because they use the word 'fuck' in the title.
At some point in the 1990s, The Almeida took to stealing the LIMELIGHT from the other theatres by producing unknown and/or irrelevant plays but casting very famous film stars in them, preferably in the nude.
Regional theatres tend to concentrate on The Good plays, but rarely do them well. Shakespeare, meanwhile, (lovingly referred to as The Bard, Wills or Shakers) is beyond good or bad but simply 'Genius' and gets done by everybody, including some of the most dreadful fringe companies, which often makes for excellent and economical entertainment.
and otherwise politically correct theatre came to the fore during the late nineteen eighties and early nineties, giving a host of well-known actors the opportunity to come out in public. But very few actors are actually gay. Too few, one might say. Bisexuality, on the other hand, has at last come into vogue lately, which is good news for actors because they are meant to be curious by nature and eager to broaden their horizons.
Actors who are not working at any given time (the vast majority) are 'resting'; a condition which makes them vulnerable and potentially volatile. Unless they have something lined up or, as they will put it, 'in the pipeline', their self-esteem will be low and their loathing of people who are working high. Bitchiness is the most prominent side effect of medium to long term 'rest'. The term is therefore disliked now and you should avoid saying to an actor friend 'are you working darling, or are you "resting"', especially if you are inclined to mime your punctuation marks with two fingers either side of the word in the air. It winds actors up something chronic.
There used to be too much of it and still often is. Also known as The Set, actors like to use it much in the same way as FLATS (causing great hilarity in the WINGS), whilst for the audience it provides something to talk about on the way home. It is therefore to be welcomed, even if it does not fit the production. Which is the case more often than not.
is what it's all about. It's the Be All and End All, it's at the centre of it all, and so incredibly powerful. Accept that for The Actor, The Theatre possesses religious properties.
Which is just as well because he or she has probably made biblical sacrifices in order to get into it.
Contrary to popular belief, most actors are in fact ordinary folk (see also QUEER) who'd much rather have a garden. Many actors do have a garden. A lot of actors have pets and some even have children. How they manage is anyone's guess. But there are some actors in London who frequent Soho House, do coke recreationally and are at home on the chat and game show circuit. They are the (often very minor) celebs who do most of their work in television but rarely miss an opportunity to express that their first love is of course the theatre and that they're longing for a 'meaty' part to get their teeth into. (By this they are not referring to any of the sexual practices they might be experimenting with.) Offers of such acting parts are scarce though because they tend to require a residual level of talent.
The Royal Show notwithstanding, Variety should never be referred to in one breath with theatre. If circus is Hell, variety is Limbo.
are to the sides of the stage. See also FLATS. Unlike BACKSTAGE, which is well and truly out of sight, the Hinterland of the theatre, so to speak, the wings are your springboard onto the stage itself, and that causes a great deal of excitement for those waiting in them for their entrance. Whispering is not allowed, and neither is the unwrapping of boiled sweets. The breaking of wind, stretching, loosening of limbs, silent coughing, belching, big yawning, and memorising of lines, however, are permissible to the point of being encouraged. So is grimacing at cameos and dropping your breeches.
Actors are a generally tolerant, broad-minded bunch, towards other actors in the same genre and provided they don't clash with one's own casting type.
In Britain, foreign theatre, especially European, is not, however, taken as a serious threat, in fact it isn't taken seriously at all, and American theatre is looked upon with a benign indulgence, as long as they don't try to do Shakespeare. The Australian Actor, to the British, does not really exist: Australians are soap 'stars' who will almost invariably start annoying everybody by appearing on Top of the Pops at some point in their 'career' with an inane song that you simply won't get out of your head for weeks once you've heard it. This practice has since led to several disturbing copy-cat offences among their British counterparts.
Provides the opportunity for people who are well known but can't act to team up with people who can act but aren't well known, and do pantomimes. For regional theatres this means generating the box office that will pay the wages until June the following year and for the audiences it means getting to see what they really really love.
ZAP AND ZING
Like Oomph, Chutzpah, Pzzazz and Nnrrggy, these terms are frequently used by directors and actors alike to say what cannot be meaningfully expressed, such as in 'what this scene is misssing is some...', or 'I feel you need a bit more...', or 'can you do this now, putting some ... into it'. They are largely unnecessary since there is one Director's note that every actor does understand and will feel naturally disposed to comply with: 'Do it again, better.'