Actors and Acting
This wikispace was organized by:
Chris Coelho
Charlie Durkin

Pre- theater time
  • Before theaters such as the Globe and the Swan were made acting was done in the courtyards of inns and was generally open to the public.
  • The courtyard would be filled with the many spectators either on the ground or on benchs, and the actors would generally present on a raised platform. Due the fact that theaters had not yet been constructed and developed the actors traveled from inn to inn
  • The Inn Keepers generally made a lot of profit off of allowing the actors to preform in their inn.
  • Theaters started being built around the year 1576, the very first one being called The Theatre. Soon after more theaters arose, some including the Swann, The Curtain, and the most famous of all Elizabethan Theaters, The Globe.
  • In theaters such as the globe there was once again standing room, refered to as the pit, and upper levels where people could be seated to watch the entertainment.
  • The actors had a lot more stage room to present which helped the plays to flow better. The actors also no longer had to travel from inn to inn across cities, but could stay in one city, such as London and things could be more rutine.
For more information on Elizabethan Era Theaters go to: Britannica: Elizabethan age theater

Background Information

  • Actors were a skilled group of people during the Elizabethan Era
  • Actors need amazing memories, an average play would include 800 lines for a lead actor to memorize
  • Actors usually knew 30 different plays per year
  • This meant that an actor playing lead roles usually new about 2,400 lines at any given time
  • Some of the qualities actors needed included amazing memories, clear voices, good at fencing, singing, and dancing, and acrobatic
Actor's Costumes
  • The law prohibited anyone of lower status from wearing wealthy clothing- Actors were exemt from this
  • Costumes were very expensive, very lavish, with lots of colors
  • There was no scenery, so costumes told alot about what was happening; Every color signified the status of the person wearing it. This told alot about what the part that the actor was playing.
Orginazation of Actors
In the Elizabethan Era of Acting there were three parts to acting companies: The Sharers, the actors and the apprentices.
The Sharers
  • This group of people had anywhere from 4+ people in in but it usually was less then 15.
  • The sharers basically held the shares of the company simply put. They owned the props, the playbooks or plays, and they controlled the money earned, usually paying the actors who worked in the company in addition to themselves and taking care of the props.
  • The Sharers were the ones who owned the charter allowing them to present and thus hire other actors.
  • This group of people not only held the best actors in the company but also held the people who could bring something to the group, be it superior acting, stage directing, money, or the ability to write the plays preformed; such as Shakespeare did.
The Actors/Hired People
  • These people were the men and apprentices taken on to portray the roles in a play. They were most always men never women- the womens parts were played by apprentices whose voices were unchanged- this was common practice so as to preserve a womens virtue.
  • Anyone associated with the company could be called on to act...musicans might be told to play on stage as part of the scene, fee collectors could be given a minor role.
  • the only part women had with a company was the potential to be a fee collector at the entrence.
  • scripts would be given to an actor with just their parts and cues- partially because there was no cheap way to mass reproduce the scripts.
  • These people had no shares, they were paid a weekly salary.
The Apprentices
  • there were no guilds in place to regulate the acting world so there were no real standards that were fufiflled.
  • The Apprentices could be apprenticed to either the hired actors or even the shareres, again there was no real standard.
  • Not too much is known about the requirements apprentices completed, or what was exchanged in the apprentice - master bond other then standard food and living quaters and being trained in the profession, once again because there were no guild records kept. The acting world was very independent and didnt become a centrally based system.
Others Around the Stage
  • Along with the actors, quite a few helped to set the stage of Elizabethan Acting. These included;
  • The Scrivener, who was in charge of copying parts for the actors
  • The Stagekeepers, who would be associated most with today's stage crew, mostly moving props
  • The Tiermen, who were in charge of the costumes the actors wore
  • The Musicians, who played a large part in performing for the arriving crowd before the play started, and setting the scene for plays
Famous Actors
  • Some of the more famous actors of the time included Edward Alleyn, Robert Armin, Christopher beeston, Richard Burbage (son of James Burbage), Willaim Kempe, and Richard Tarlton

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