It’s a sad reality of many actor’s lives that amongst the diet of 2 minute noodles and the drawn out waiting for the role of a lifetime that takes two lifetimes to come, that like many artists, he or she will commonly fall into one of a few, stereotyped, incredibly generalised categories. Therefore, for the sake of clearing the air and perhaps citing the occasionally shallow, and slightly humorous assumptions of these categories, perhaps it’s time to put them under the microscope:
The Bearded Shakespearean
Yes, the beard is practically an essential requirement- we’re not picky here, but pretty much any kind of hair populated chin is a must if one is going to play those folks in Jester costumes and go marching around triumphantly with swords. A language so encapsulating it constantly warps the brain of the Bearded Shakespearean so that they can’t help but order pizza in iambic pentameter. In addition to this, while often garnering considerable praise from many sites, this kind of actor has made marked appearances in everything from school incursions to delightful dalliances in the Botanic Gardens. Despite this, the fate of the Bearded Shakespearean is often written in the books of time far before they even set one Elizabethan foot on the VCA stage. They either end up a) a Russian Spy (Kenneth Branagh in Jack Ryan) or they become Gandalf (Ian McKellen- Lord of The Rings). That said, both are admirable conclusions to a life lived by the rhyme. They are often the poster-boys of theatre, these are the people you call when you want a image of a man affectionately hugging a skull or prancing about madly muttering words deciphered by college grade intellects and attentive middle school students.
The Method Actor
The Method Actor is the kind of actor who is supposedly renowned for staying in character for up to years at a time. Naturally, this can cause some serious issues as taking on a role can mean complete lifestyle changes affecting every thing from what you eat in the morning to what brand of underwear you put on. To be fair it’s the full fledged commitment, preparing for Grease will most likely involve buying ten different pairs of leather jackets and trying each of them on for good measure while filling the bathroom with a vast away of 70s hair products. Or if a method actor got the job of playing Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors (the blood-thirsty plant) he may have to research gardening for a month.
The Prop Actor
The Prop Actor has one of the hardest jobs in the industry: When the production company can’t find a set, when no-one can find that necessary table, chair or wall, that’s when the Prop Actor is called to the scene. The Prop Actor takes the form of whatever object the director asks them to, whether it be a rock, a desk, a soiled old couch or even a decomposing corpse, the prop actor is a man or woman without words. A silent hero, they are in the constant shadow of the Bearded Shakespearean, and can only watch in awe as they bend over awkwardly in the shape of a bridge.
The Avant Guardian
The Avant Garde actor has practically seen and done it all- they’ve been in the silent plays, the desperate attempts to illustrate the ‘human condition,’ the contemporary odes to the ‘pitfalls’ of modern society; and everything else in between that will most likely completely freak anyone out who is new to theatre. The Avant Garde Actor knows what it’s like to perform a play backwards while hanging from the ceiling- they know what it’s like to perform a play that has no plot at all and next to no characters, and they know what it’s like to try and perform something that will most likely only ever be seen at a Fringe festival. While for some they are the butt of a joke regarding new intellectual thinking, for others they are the real innovators of a medium often forgotten by the mainstream.
The Struggling Actor (Also known as, ‘Every actor other than the ones mentioned above’)
Unlike the other categories, for some people, this one might have a slither of truth to it. The Hunger Actor is a little too familiar with how to make meals from less than one ingredient, and very well acquainted with the over-due electricity bill and the smell of bed bugs that attach to one’s jacket after sleeping on someone else’s couch for a week. In a constant search for any role, eventually obtaining one provides a euphoria like moment of divine inner peace despite the fact that it probably only comes with a two line interjection to the Bearded Shakespearean. Such is the life of the one who suffers, quite literally, for their art.
While there are most likely many more of these stereotypical categories that actors can slide under, there is one distinct advantage of all this categorising. And that is that it still allows for something special: it allows for someone to subvert what has been already presumed, to undercut predetermined moulds and provide something new to both those aware of and fresh to, theatre. But amongst all this, it’s perhaps important to keep in memory those aspiring actors who tried their hand at the art, but in the wake of their failure, now write about their stereotyping instead.