Actors bring characters to life onstage. They are independent artists who usually work on a per-show basis, although some theatres have acting companies (called ensembles, or repertory companies) comprised of actors who play roles in several productions each season. Actors spend a lot of time auditioning for roles. If they are cast, they sign a contract that outlines how much they will be paid. In a midsize or large professional theatre, actors are paid for rehearsal time in addition to performances. Many actors attend college to study their craft, and some choose to get advanced degrees in acting or theatre as well. Actors can specialize in areas like musical theatre, physical theatre or clowning, or classical theatre, and some schools offer specialized degrees in these areas.
About the Video: Oscar Camacho, Actor
Actor Oscar Camacho, who appeared in the Center Theatre Group 2017 revival of Zoot Suit, takes us behind the scenes. How does he define his profession?
An actor lives truthfully under imaginary circumstances, he explains, which takes courage, imagination, and the ability to bring a little bit of yourself to every role. Camacho talks about getting his MFA in acting at CalArts and going on to secure his big break in his first year out of graduate school: a part on the ABC TV series Wicked City. Plus, he offers his advice for anyone with a passion for acting who wants to pursue a career in the field.
Resources & More Information
- The Actors Fund is a national nonprofit with a helpful resource section for young people and parents.
- Actors' Equity Association (known as “Equity”) is the union that represents actors around the United States.
- Two fundamental books about the craft of acting are Sanford Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell, and An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski.
- Center Theatre Group is the Southern California home of the August Wilson Monologue Competition, which gives students an opportunity to audition with professionals, participate in acting workshops, and get an introduction to the work of an American playwriting legend. If you’re a current high school student in the region, check it out and register to participate.
If you’re curious about careers in theatre and wondering which ones might be right for you, we’ve created a quick quiz to help you think about the type of job you might want within the arts and what kind of lifestyle and education that career path requires.Take the Quiz