It’s a popular depiction that an actor is a type of performer; after all, many would agree that “performing” is the main verb used to describe what actors do. However, there are subtle differences between what it means to be an actor and a performer – and if you study acting, then you’ll want to distance yourself as being referred to as a performer.
I’m not trying to downplay what performers do, or how hard they have to work at their crafts. But it is important to note that there are distinct differences between what the two do. It might sound like a matter of semantics, but these differences can make a great deal of difference in determining what direction you want your career to take.
So what are the main differences between actors and performers? Take a look:
Awareness of Audience: If you’ve ever been to see a stand-up comedian or a singer, then you know that these entertainers are highly committed and invested in their audience reactions. They feed off of a great audience energy, and will often incorporate them into their acts. An actor, however, isn’t aware of the audience; instead, he or she is more focused on the materials, scene, or monologue that he or she is doing.
Now, I’m not saying that actors have no awareness; but it’s not crucial to the outcomes of their performance. A comedian needs to impress an audience – an actor only needs to connect with the scene.
Education: I know a lot of people disagree with me about this, but I believe education plays a key role in separating actors from performers. Performers go to specialized schools, institutions, and other specialized venues, while actors may take their classes at universities and colleges. I’m not the biggest fan of this difference, as I think many academic establishments aren’t fully equipped to help train actors to experience and convey the range of emotions that’s necessary for becoming a success.
Clarity: When you say that you’re an actor, people immediately know what you do; but the same doesn’t always work when you say you’re a performer, as it could encompass many definitions. That’s why it’s important to say you’re an actor, not a performer. It may seem minor, but it can help you define your career, purpose, and goals in more ways than one.