Top 23 Slang For Acting – Meaning & Usage

Lights, camera, action! Ever found yourself lost in a conversation about the world of acting, unsure of what the latest slang means? Fear not, as we’ve got you covered. Our team has put together a definitive list of the hottest slang for acting that will have you speaking like a seasoned pro in no time. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to upgrade your acting vocabulary with us!

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1. Thespian

This term refers to a professional actor or actress who is dedicated to their craft. It originated from the Greek word “Thespis,” who was the first recorded actor in ancient Greece.

  • For example, “He has been a thespian for over 20 years and has won numerous awards for his performances.”
  • In a discussion about the theater industry, someone might say, “Many thespians dream of performing on Broadway.”
  • A theater critic might write, “The lead actress delivered a stunning performance, showcasing her skills as a true thespian.”

2. Thesping

This term refers to the act of performing or acting with great passion, enthusiasm, or intensity. It is often used to describe a theatrical performance that is full of energy and emotion.

  • For instance, “She was the highlight of the play, thesping her heart out in every scene.”
  • A theater director might instruct an actor, “I want you to really thesp it up in this scene.”
  • In a review of a film, a critic might comment, “The lead actor’s thesping was exceptional, bringing the character to life.”

3. Treading the boards

This phrase is used to describe the act of performing on a theater stage. It originated from the wooden boards that make up the stage floor.

  • For example, “She has spent years treading the boards in regional theaters before landing her first Broadway role.”
  • In a discussion about the challenges of live theater, someone might say, “Treading the boards requires a unique set of skills, as there are no second takes.”
  • A theater enthusiast might exclaim, “There’s nothing quite like the thrill of treading the boards and connecting with a live audience.”

4. Hamming it up

This phrase is used to describe the act of overacting or exaggerating one’s performance. It often refers to a comedic or theatrical performance that is intentionally exaggerated for comedic effect.

  • For instance, “He always hams it up in his comedic roles, bringing laughter to the audience.”
  • In a discussion about acting styles, someone might say, “Some actors prefer subtle performances, while others enjoy hamming it up.”
  • A theater critic might write, “The actor’s hamming it up added a delightful comedic element to the play.”

5. Chew the scenery

This phrase is used to describe the act of overacting or dominating a scene. It refers to an actor who is excessively dramatic and steals the attention from other performers or the overall story.

  • For example, “She always chews the scenery in every play she’s in, making it difficult for others to shine.”
  • In a discussion about acting techniques, someone might say, “Chewing the scenery can be entertaining, but it can also distract from the overall story.”
  • A theater director might give feedback to an actor, “Try not to chew the scenery in this scene and focus on the emotional truth of the character.”

6. Break a leg

This is a common phrase used to wish someone good luck in a performance or audition. It is believed to have originated in the theater, where saying “good luck” is considered bad luck. Instead, actors say “break a leg” as a way to wish each other success.

  • For example, before going on stage, someone might say, “Break a leg!”
  • A director might encourage the cast by saying, “Break a leg, everyone! You’re going to be amazing.”
  • An actor might thank their fellow cast members by saying, “I couldn’t have done it without you. Break a leg!”

7. Method acting

Method acting is a technique used by actors to fully immerse themselves in their character. It involves using personal experiences and emotions to create a more authentic and believable performance.

  • For instance, an actor might say, “I’m really diving deep into method acting for this role.”
  • A director might ask an actor, “Have you tried using method acting to connect with your character?”
  • Another actor might say, “Method acting helps me bring a sense of truth to my performances.”

8. Upstage

In theater, “upstage” refers to the area of the stage that is farthest away from the audience. However, it is also used as a slang term to describe someone who is trying to steal attention or focus from another actor.

  • For example, if one actor is delivering an important monologue, another actor might intentionally upstage them by making exaggerated movements.
  • A director might give the note, “Don’t upstage your scene partner. It’s important to share the focus.”
  • An actor might say, “I didn’t mean to upstage you. I was just trying to stay engaged in the scene.”

9. Downstage

In theater, “downstage” refers to the area of the stage that is closest to the audience. It is often used as a slang term to describe being in the spotlight or the center of attention.

  • For instance, an actor might say, “I love being downstage. It’s where I feel most connected to the audience.”
  • A director might give the note, “When you deliver that line, step downstage to really command the stage.”
  • Another actor might say, “I was downstage for the entire opening number. It was exhilarating!”

10. Blocking

Blocking refers to the planned movement and positioning of actors on stage. It includes where actors stand, walk, and interact with each other and the set.

  • For example, a director might say, “Let’s work on the blocking for this scene. I want the actors to move more fluidly.”
  • An actor might ask, “What’s my blocking for the big dance number?”
  • Another actor might say, “I’m having trouble remembering my blocking. Can we go over it again?”

11. Cue

A cue is a signal or prompt given to an actor to perform a specific action or deliver a specific line. It is used to indicate when an actor should begin speaking or performing a specific action.

  • For example, the stage manager might give the cue, “Lights up!” to indicate that the lights should come on.
  • In a play, an actor might receive the cue, “Enter stage left,” to indicate when they should enter the stage from the left side.
  • During a rehearsal, the director might give the cue, “Start the music,” to indicate when the music should begin playing.
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12. Curtain call

A curtain call is the final appearance of the actors on stage at the end of a performance. It is a tradition for the actors to come out and take a bow in front of the audience as a way to acknowledge their applause and show gratitude.

  • For instance, after a successful play, the cast would come out for a curtain call and receive a standing ovation from the audience.
  • In a musical, the actors might perform a final song or dance number during the curtain call.
  • During a curtain call, the lead actor might take a solo bow, followed by the rest of the cast joining them on stage.

13. Improv

Improv is a form of acting where the actors create and perform scenes or characters in the moment, without a script or pre-planning. It requires quick thinking, creativity, and the ability to react and adapt to unexpected situations.

  • For example, in an improv comedy show, the actors might ask the audience for suggestions and then create a scene based on those suggestions.
  • During an improv exercise, the actors might be given a scenario and have to act it out without any prior preparation.
  • Improv can also be used as a tool for actors to develop their skills and become more comfortable with spontaneity on stage.

14. Monologue

A monologue is a speech or performance by a single actor. It is usually delivered to an audience or another character and can be a way for the actor to express their thoughts, emotions, or tell a story.

  • For instance, in a Shakespearean play, there are often monologues where a character speaks directly to the audience.
  • During an audition, an actor might be asked to perform a monologue to showcase their acting abilities.
  • In a dramatic play, a character might deliver a monologue to express their innermost thoughts and feelings.
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15. Soliloquy

A soliloquy is a type of monologue where a character speaks their thoughts out loud, usually when they are alone on stage. It is a way for the character to reveal their innermost feelings, motivations, or intentions to the audience.

  • For example, in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the famous soliloquy begins with the line, “To be or not to be.”
  • During a soliloquy, the character might reflect on their actions, contemplate a decision, or share their fears and doubts with the audience.
  • Soliloquies are often used to provide insight into a character’s psyche and help the audience understand their perspective.

16. thesp

This term refers to a person who is involved in acting or the theater. It is often used to describe someone who is passionate and dedicated to their craft.

  • For example, a theater director might say, “We have a talented group of thespians in this production.”
  • In a conversation about famous actors, someone might mention, “He’s a true thespian, known for his versatility and commitment to each role.”
  • A theater critic might write, “The lead actress delivered a captivating performance, showcasing her skills as a thespian.”

17. ham

To “ham it up” means to overact or exaggerate one’s performance. It is often used to describe actors who are overly dramatic or theatrical in their portrayal of a character.

  • For instance, a reviewer might say, “The actor’s performance was entertaining, but at times he tended to ham it up.”
  • In a discussion about comedic acting, someone might mention, “Physical comedy often requires actors to ham it up for comedic effect.”
  • A theater teacher might instruct their students, “Remember to find a balance between naturalism and hamming it up in your performance.”

18. cold reading

Cold reading refers to the act of performing a script or text without any prior preparation or rehearsal. It is often used in auditions or acting classes to test an actor’s ability to quickly interpret and deliver a scene.

  • For example, a casting director might ask an actor to do a cold reading of a scene to see how they handle the material.
  • In a theater workshop, participants might be given a cold reading exercise to improve their improvisational skills.
  • An acting coach might say, “Cold reading is a valuable skill for actors to develop, as it allows them to adapt to new material on the spot.”

19. the show must go on

This phrase is often used in the theater to convey the idea that regardless of any difficulties or setbacks, the performance must continue. It emphasizes the importance of professionalism and dedication to the craft of acting.

  • For instance, if an actor gets injured during a performance, they might be encouraged to continue with the show, as “the show must go on.”
  • In a discussion about the challenges of live theater, someone might say, “Actors have to be prepared for anything and remember that the show must go on.”
  • A theater director might remind their cast, “No matter what happens, remember that the show must go on. Stay focused and give it your all.”

20. flop

In the context of acting, a flop refers to a play, movie, or performance that is unsuccessful or poorly received by audiences and critics. It is often used to describe a production that fails to meet expectations or achieve commercial success.

  • For example, a theater reviewer might write, “The new play was a flop, with weak writing and lackluster performances.”
  • In a conversation about box office results, someone might say, “The movie was a flop, despite having a big-name cast.”
  • A theater producer might reflect on a failed production, saying, “Sometimes even the most promising projects can turn out to be a flop.”

21. take a bow

This phrase is used to describe the action of an actor or performer acknowledging applause from the audience at the end of a performance. It is a way of showing gratitude and appreciation for the audience’s response.

  • For example, after a successful play, the lead actor might step forward and take a bow.
  • In a musical, the entire cast might come forward and take a bow together.
  • A director might instruct the actors, “Remember to take a bow at the end of the show.”

22. break character

When an actor “breaks character,” it means they stop portraying the role they are playing and revert to their real-life persona. This can happen intentionally or unintentionally and is often considered a mistake or a breach of professionalism.

  • For instance, if an actor forgets their lines and starts laughing on stage, they have broken character.
  • During a serious scene, if an actor accidentally says something out of character, they may need to quickly recover and get back into character.
  • A director might remind an actor, “Don’t break character during the emotional climax of the scene.”

23. showmance

A “showmance” is a term used to describe a romantic relationship that develops between two actors who are working together on a show or production. It is a combination of the words “show” and “romance” and is often used to describe on-set romances.

  • For example, if two actors who play love interests in a TV show start dating in real life, it could be called a showmance.
  • Tabloids often speculate about showmances between actors who have great on-screen chemistry.
  • A gossip magazine might write, “Are these co-stars in a showmance? Find out inside!”