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Acting And Mimicry:
 Acting And Mimicry

 What Is Mimicry?

 Acting—opera And Stage

 How To Study And Analyze A Part

 General Rules

 Exercises For Elasticity

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 1

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 2

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 3

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 3

 Read More Articles About: Acting And Mimicry


( Originally Published Early 1900's )

While special sciences were early developed to aid in the analysis of facial expression, the interest in and actual study of physiognomy, antedates all written treatises on the subject. Man has ever sought to find, in the face of his brother, indications of his thought and traces of the primitive emotions, love, hate, joy, pain, etc. So mimicry, born of the eager attempt to read in the outward look signs of the inner state, is as old as life itself. It is also interesting to note that the mimicking tendency exists not only in the sphere of man, but among the creatures of the animal kingdom as well.

That our ancestors understood the importance of mimicry in daily life is attested by the fact that Plato, Cicero, and other great men of the ancient world embodied its study in the education of the youth of the day. For these early teachers noticed that, coincident with the growth and development of the child body, is the unfolding of the child character. This dual growth affects the features, and gives expression to the previously unmarked countenance. Later it is responsible for the "changing look," that indefinable impress of the formative period always to be observed with the child's passing years. Del Sarte tells us that, from the first smile, which is the earliest conscious expression of the child, there is a wonderful scale in the development of its intelligence which leaves a permanent imprint on its face.

Mimicry, like make-up, took an important place in the theater only when the masks worn by the actors of the classical stage were abolished. As there are certain indisputably fundamental causes for our attitudes and facial movements, the study of mimicry must be based upon physiological and psychological principles which reveal to the student the reasons for the rules governing the above attitudes and expressions. It is to be regretted, however, that, although the world's literature abounds in scientific works upon the matter, those furnishing an exposition of these principles and rules as applied to the art of the theater are few and of doubtful value.

The works of Piderit, Kowalewski, Engel, Keller and others can be considered only timid essays, feeling their way into the vast field of the relationship between mimicry and the art of the stage. Yet they approach the nearest to being "a complete work guide" to the dramatic and vocal art. For it must be borne in mind that the difference between the speaking stage and the singing stage is insignificant, because the operatic singer has to pay just as much attention to his dramatic expression and acting as does the actor.

We live in an age of the complete development of theatrical art and, along with this progress in the machinery of the modern theater, the operatic composer's art has advanced; he who will conceive a mighty operatic theme tries to be true to nature. Therefore, the sincere interpretation of an opera demands that mimicry and acting be considered as important as the quality and exercise of the performer's voice; in fact, these two, dramatic expression and voice, form a vital unit. In the singing of an opera, gesture and vocal art must be as truly related as the parts of a symphony; to have voice and gesture unrelated is like playing in different keys the result is inevitable discord. For an awkward action, or one which is unsuited to the passions and words produces an inharmonious ensemble as painful to the eye as is discord to the ear. But when these two media of expression voice and mimicry work in harmony, the result is perfect and gratifying success.

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