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Job overview
Actors perform on stage in front of an audience in live theatre, or in front of microphones and/or movie cameras for transmission via radio, cinema and television.

The main purpose of their acting is to entertain, but their skills are also used for conveying information to people and educating them.

What do people do in this job?
Acting is, above all, a form of communication and usually involves presenting to an audience, in a convincing way, the thoughts of someone else who has written a script.

There is a vast and infinite variety of scripts, ranging from world famous plays, such as those of William Shakespeare, written hundreds of years ago, to a contemporary, five-minute, soon-to-be-forgotten sketch for breakfast television. Whatever the script, actors need to read and understand it thoroughly if they are to interpret it convincingly to their audience.

Rehearsals, under the guidance of a director with knowledge and experience of acting, design and stage management, take up a great deal of actors time.

In addition to becoming word perfect in their part, actors have to practise modulating their voice as required by the script, mastering movements and gestures, pausing at the appropriate moment, adopting the right facial expressions etc. Achieving this to the satisfaction of the director can be trying and tiring for the inexperienced actor.

To come across effectively, actors on the live stage have to make greater use of exaggerated movements and voice-projection than film actors who employ more subtle body movements and facial expressions, while on radio voice modulation and intonation are all-important.

What kinds of people are suitable for this career?
Some actors find live theatre rewarding, while others prefer acting in front of a camera. Physical appearance, quality of voice and personality may determine the type of role actors play. Some are born as comedians, while others may be more suited to serious dramatic roles. However, versatility - the ability to take both serious and comic parts- creates more employment opportunities.

The acting profession is by no means an easy one. It requires intelligence, hard work, sensitivity, good memory and self-discipline.

Most actors work on a freelance basis, usually through agents and many organisations appoint people only temporarily, for the duration of a production. This means that good health is essential, since actors cannot afford to become ill during rehearsals or performance times. There is no sick leave.

What qualifications are needed?
There is no single, direct route to becoming an actor. Most big cities have one or more drama schools, of which a few, like RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London) - are world famous. But graduation from a drama school, or even from a university degree course in drama, is in no way a guarantee of a role in a stage or studio production.

Some famous actors started their careers in amateur dramatics at universities, or in their neighbourhood theatre. Much depends on the ability of a young person somehow to bring his or her talent to the notice of a theatre or film director.

Acting is a chancy profession, but a highly rewarding one for those who make it to the top.

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