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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: To be an actor or not to be an actress
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1193  Friday, 9 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Tim Perfect <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 06:33:17 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

[2]     From:   Susan Medina <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 09:47:00 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

[3]     From:   Bill Gordon <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 10:09:31 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

[4]     From:   Fran Teague <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 11:15:28 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

[5]     From:   Carl Fortunato <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 13:42:48 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

[6]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Jun 2000 12:36:40 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

[7]     From:   Marcia Tarbis Tofteland <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 21:48:11 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tim Perfect <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 06:33:17 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

>Why is so very PC to call oneself an actor if one is
>a woman?

For me, its not really an issue of PC, but of convenience.  An actor is
an actor. You don't call a female doctor a "doctress" or a postal
carrier a "postwoman".  The term actor across the board I think serves
very well.  I am not opposed to using the term "actress", but I prefer
"actor".  Of course, I am a man, so that's what I'm used to.  My good
friend Tonya Beckman, also a member of this list, has a great signature
on her emails:

"I'm an actor.  An actress is someone who wears a feather boa."
--Sigourney Weaver

The term I am REALLY getting sick of is "PC".

Peace,
Tim Perfect
Shakespeare & Company (MN)
http://www.shakespeare-company.org/

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan Medina <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 09:47:00 EDT
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

The stigma associated with the gender distinction is not an issue
restricted to the theatre world, but rather the gender distinction made
in theatre that is not made in other professions.  We do not call a
female painter a paintress, an author an authoress, a doctor a doctress,
a teacher a teachress.  On the spur of the moment, I cannot think of
another profession that makes a gender distinction as theatre does. This
is a situation to which some female actors take exception and see as an
underhanded method of putting women in a subordinate position.  While I,
a sometimes actress myself, might like to be called an actor if it is
for the purpose of conveying that equality and respect, I do not make an
issue of it, and I do not think it is a big enough issue to belabor.  I
have only discussed it in this much detail to offer a female viewpoint
on the subject. I hope this helps to shed some light on the reasons why
some women may be adamant about it.

Susan Medina

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Gordon <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 10:09:31 EDT
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

A female actor friend of mine once put this issue in perspective in a
most amusing way.  A resident of New York, she was called to serve on
Jury duty.  As she was in the middle of a film shoot, she informed the
Judge that she was an actor, and asked to be excused. She explained that
she needed to complete the shoot in order to satisfy union requirements
for health insurance.  The Judge looked at her a bit funny and asked her
whether she had meant to say "actress?"  Without missing a beat, she
responded by asking "What do you call a female Judge?"  She was
immediately excused and allowed to return to her shoot.

Bill Gordon

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Fran Teague <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 11:15:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

SAM SMALL comments that "I *like* the word *actress*. It is not a
put-down.  To be called a great actress is a great compliment." Does he
consider Emily Dickenson a great poetess? Golda Meir a great Jewess?
People like me who are suspicious of the -ess suffix think that it
suggests gender is more important than accomplishment.

Fran Teague <http://www.arches.uga.edu/~fteague>

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 13:42:48 EDT
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

>  Why is so very PC to call oneself an actor if one is a woman? It seems
>  to be the done thing to drop the word *actress* as if it a derogatory
>  term.  It is as if the male dressing room was the whole world and the
>  females occupied little more than the stage boom cupboard.  Perhaps by
>  calling oneself an actor whilst being female, the world would think more
>  of one.  It is a fact that a woman would almost never be asked to play a
>  male part in film television or stage.  So why this curious fashion?

The feminine and masculine forms of words is disappearing in many
different areas, and it's just a normal linguistic development, nothing
insidious about.  Women are seldom called "comedienne" at all anymore,
and I suspect that most people don't even KNOW the distinction between
"blond" and "blonde."   The gender distinction is disappearing because
it serves no real purpose.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Jun 2000 12:36:40 -0400
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

I assume that you are asking me, as a representative of those conforming
to this strange new usage, to explain why I do so.  I don't use it
consistently, myself.  I attempt to call others by the title they
prefer. I would have no objection to being called "a great actress" if I
were one. Alas, I am not. I'm a dumpy, lumpy person of the female sort:
I fear that only Shakespearean roles open to me are of the "dame"
variety, possibly taken originally by an aging Clown.  I have played
mostly "character" roles since elementary school (except for a brief
hormonal bloom in my early twenties, during which I was twice cast as
Olivia) and, even in those long ago days when cross-gendering was not
the custom, was sometimes assigned the parts of clownish old men. I can
sing second tenor, and, properly made up and in period wig and costume,
can pass as the sort of Chorus Boy who never gets the girl.  The title
"actress" has a sort of dark glamour, because for much of stage history
females who went into the profession had to have good looks and low
morals.  The young and inexperienced were not paid a living wage, and
perforce must supplement their incomes to survive and learn the craft.
Their stage appearance advertised that they were for sale or rent.
(Daughters born into Managing families and apprenticed as babes in arms
might be able to count on basic support, and view supplementation as
optional)  I suppose that some women who act prefer to be "actor" rather
than "actress" because they consider their morals superior to the -ess'
historical connotations.    The mental image conjured up by "actress" is
sexier than the rather workaday "actor" or "performer".  If you doubt
this, check with some of the younger performers who have posted their
resumes on the web, and found that "actress" attracted more offers of
modeling and porn videos than legitimate casting opportunities. But it's
the glamour rather than the darkness that makes me uncomfortable.  If
what you have in mind when you see "actress" is somebody who can play
Juliet or Cleopatra (much as I'd love to!) I belong on a different
list.  The principle attraction of the term "actor" is that a single
alphabetized list can contain all of us, humble and great, just as a
list of poets and painters and doctors and plumbers does.

  Sam Small asks

> Why is so very PC to call oneself an actor if one is a woman? It seems
> to be the done thing to drop the word *actress* as if it a derogatory
> term.   Be as it
> may, male and female are not interchangeable

No two people are interchangable.  But there are many people who can
impersonate genders-and ages and ethnicities-other than the ones they
were born into.

Classic single-gender theatres as well as avant garde identity benders
have exploited and explored this possibility.

SS >I *like* the word *actress*. It is not a put-down.
To be
> called a great actress is a great compliment.

Really?  In every circumstance? Would you consider it a compliment if
applied to YOU?

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcia Tarbis Tofteland <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 21:48:11 EDT
Subject: 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1189 To be an actor or not to be an actress

To be a writer or not to be a writetress

To be a Doctor or not to be a Doctress

To be President or not to be Presidentress

To be called a "great" anything is a wonderful compliment.  The job of
actor and actress are exactly the same.  The differentiation probably
came from the era when it was highly immoral (even more immoral) for a
woman to be on the wicked-wicked stage.

Regards,
Marcia Tarbis Tofteland
 

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