• (6th century BC) Greek poet, playwright, and chorus leader whois traditionally considered the founder of Western acting. According to legend, he was the first performer to separate himself from the chorus, thereby introducing an element of dialogue to the choric lyric (see alsoBacchus). A native of Icaria in Attica, Thespis won the prize atthe first contest for tragedies at the Dionysia in 534 BC.None of his works is extant.

    The term thespian, used as both an adjective and a noun, cameinto use in the early 19th century to refer to actors and the actingprofession. Amateur companies often used the word in their titles, and aVictorian journal of the theater was called Theatrical Times, a WeeklyMagazine of Thespian Biography. The term, which is sometimes abbreviatedto thesp, is now mainly used facetiously.