A stage name, or a screen name, is a pseudonym used by performers and entertainers (such as actors, comedians, musicians, clowns, and professional wrestlers.
Performers take stage names for many reasons, often because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing, or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has either been used by another notable individual or projects the wrong image. Sometimes a performer wishes to adopt a name that is unusual (sometimes even outlandish), memorable or that complements his/her performing persona, or because he/she wishes to remain anonymous in relation to another sphere of work.
Some individuals who are related to an already famous person who have taken a different last name so that they are not perceived to have received undue benefit from their family connection. Examples of these include Nicolas Cage (nephew of Francis Ford Coppola) and Mike McGear (brother of Paul McCartney).
In an attempt to make a career on his own, Emilio Estevez chose not to take his father's stage name "Sheen," and uses his birth name "Estevez."
Actors' professional associations
Guilds and associations that represent actors, such as the Screen Actors Guild in the United States and British Actors' Equity Association in the United Kingdom, stipulate that no two members may have identical working names. An actor whose name has already been taken must choose a new name. Notable examples include Nathan Lane, whose birth name, Joseph Lane, was already in use, Stewart Granger, whose birth name was James Stewart, and Michael Keaton, born as Michael Douglas. The latter chose the last name Keaton simply because he was an admirer of actress Diane Keaton.
Rarely, an actor may change his name if he shares it with a namesake in another field. Albert Brooks, originally Albert Einstein, changed his name so as not to be confused with the renowned physicist.
In the past, a stage name was often used when a performer's real name was considered to denote a specific ethnicity that faced potential discrimination. One of the most famous examples of this type of name change involved Freddie Mercury of Queen, who was born Farrokh Bulsara to Parsi parents; his name change was partly intended to conceal his heritage. Historically, Jews in Hollywood were encouraged to anglicize their names to avoid possible discrimination. This still happens to a degree (Jon Stewart, for instance), but the growing acceptance of ethnic performers in the performing arts has made this occurrence less frequent.
Ease of use
Another consideration in choosing a stage name is ease of use. The Actors' Equity Association (AEA) advises performers to select a name that is easy for others to pronounce, spell and remember. Some performers while paying great attention to their skills and abilities give little thought to the difference that a well thought out name can make to their career. Often it is only after the realization that a poorly chosen name results in an undesired impression that a person or group decides on a different name. A survey of the three US regional heads of AEA reveals that a performer whose name is difficult to pronounce, spell, or remember is less likely to be hired than other performers.
Actor Michael Caine was born Maurice Micklewhite and chose the name Michael because he preferred the sound of it to the less glamorous-sounding "Maurice". He chose the name Caine reputedly because at the precise instant he needed to decide upon his new stage name, he saw a cinema marquee for the then-current movie The Caine Mutiny and thought that it would make a good last name in conjunction with Michael.
Some types of music are more associated with stage names than others. For example hip hop musicians almost always use stage names, whereas 'classical' composers and performers virtually never do. Some Algerian raï musicians use Cheb (for men) or Chaba (Chebba) for women. Both Arabic words mean "young" (e.g. as in Cheb Khaled, or "Young Khaled").
Multiple stage names
Some performers take a series of different stage names. The British pop singer successful in the 1970s as Alvin Stardust, previously went by the stage name of Shane Fenton in the 1960s. He had been born as Bernard William Jewry.
Legitimised stage names
Many performers refer to their stage name as their "professional name." In some cases performers subsequently adopt their stage name as their legal name. For instance, the former Robert Zimmerman's legal name has been Robert Dylan (Bob Dylan), since he changed it at the Supreme Court building in New York City in August 1962. Elton John was born Reginald Dwight but changed his name by deed poll and subsequently took that name as his real name. When he was knighted, he became Sir Elton John rather than Sir Reginald Dwight. Names so adopted are technically no longer "stage names," but are often perceived as such by the public (and for that reason stage names that come into that category are included in the following list).
The equivalent concept among writers is called a nom de plume or pen-name.
- More information on this topic is available at [ Wikipedia:Stage_name ]