Actor, player, performer, mummer, mime, mimic, thespian, impersonator and trouper all denote in common one who, for the entertainment or edification of an audience, takes part in an exhibition simulating happenings in real life.
An actor makes a profession of taking part in such exhibitions (as in the theater or on television).
- an ambition to be an actor
A player acts in a stage play either as a professional or as an amateur.
- all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players
Performer is a wider term than the others of this group. It emphasizes actual participation in an exhibition before an audience and may denote not only an actor or player but any public entertainer (as a dancer or musician)
- in theatrical speaking, if the performer is not exactly proper and graceful, he is utterly ridiculous
Mummer, mime, and mimic may all denote a performer who projects a character by means of body movements, expression, and gesture usually without the use of speech.
Mummer is used more particularly of comic and amateurish performers or maskers, usually at some festival or holiday celebration.
- here and there the beat of drums . . . the antics and grimaces of mummers held the crowd for a moment before some fantastic festival car
—A. M. Bacon
When used of the professional actor its connotation is often derogatory.
- dubbing, that mummer’s trick with the mouth which has . . . been responsible for an endless succession of vaudeville acts
Mime is used of both the performer and the performance and is especially applicable to the stylized gestural language of narrative dance (as ballet).
- mime and mimicry are confused in the public mind . . . Chaplin is a mime, but those who imitate him are mimics. A mime does not copy . . . but invents characters who have their own life . . . quite apart from their creator
- was a great mime and did not follow the then traditional ballet-mime (pantomime), but… in ballet gave first-class dramatic performances
Mimic more particularly stresses imitation and often comic exaggeration of qualities.
- had accents so grotesque that not even Molly, an able mimic, could copy them
- mimic . . . Entertains by presenting exaggerated imitations
—Diet, of Occupational Titles
Thespian is equivalent in meaning to actor but in connotation is often mock-heroic.
- the gossip columns, where a well-known Silk might yet be observed in solemn conclave with a distinguished Thespian
An impersonator is a performer who assumes the character of another (as a public figure, a class of persons, an animal) whom he imitates by makeup and in speech and action.
- a female impersonator
- a noted impersonator of Abraham Lincoln
A trouper is a member of a group and especially a traveling group of actors staging a play or repertory of plays. The term often connotes the seasoning or the sense of obligation to audience and fellow actors that characterizes an experienced actor.
- no real trouper while conscious will ever confess himself too sick to go on