Acting And Mimicry:
Acting And Mimicry
What Is Mimicry?
Acting—opera And Stage
How To Study And Analyze A Part
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
Elements Of Mimicry - Part 3
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE TRUNK AND BREATHING ACTION
The trunk is of importance in the expression of many emotions. In fear, it instinctively contracts, as it also does in admiration. In love, it expands, as though inclining towards the object of love; in hate, it shrinks back. In pride, or arrogance, the whole body seems to swell so that it is not without reason that an arrogant man in some of his movements is compared to a peacock. From the manner of holding the trunk depends much of the plasticity of pose in different actions.
All of the trunk movements have an influence upon the breathing organs, resulting in accelerated breathing in moments of happiness and joy; irregular breathing in hate and anger ; and in near paralysis in moments of fear and terror, etc. The singer must find a way to unite the dramatic requirements with the vocal necessities.
It is strongly inadvisable to rest the body on both feet equally, for, besides creating uncomfortable positions, the actor will find difficulty when it is necessary to take a step forward, some-times to the extent of rendering himself ridiculous. But if the body is supported on one foot, he can readily place the other in position when the action so requires.
The feet are the principal factors in movements, such as walking, dancing, etc. They are also important in characteristic and instinctive gestures and are most important in posing. On the manner in which they are placed depends not only much of the grace, character and plasticity of pose, but also stability and facility in changing one's position.
Standing on both feet, with the heels pressed together, the pose of respect, esteem, consideration, respectful waiting, modesty, discretion, re-serve, bashfulness, timidity, humiliation, degradation, servility, slavery, etc.
Resting the body equally on both feet, which are, however, separated, the pose of seamen, horsemen, idlers, sluggards, persons of vulgar habits; also of men carrying heavy loads.
Same position, but with the knees bent, the pose of weariness, fatigue, lassitude, weakness, old age, intoxication; also of the fear of losing one's balance.
If the body rests on the foot away from the center of action, the pose is one of unconcern, or indifferent waiting. But if, on the contrary, the body rests on the foot nearest the point of action, the pose will be of mindfulness and attention.
Facing the public or partners, the body rests on the forward foot. This is the pose of rapture, desire, request, demand, command, begging, wish, conviction, promise, observation, persuading and nearly all expressions dictated by the will. By bending the knee which supports the body, the same expressions, but much more accentuated, will be obtained.
Facing the public or partners, with the body resting on the back of the foot, we shall obtain the poses of indecision, wavering, difficulty in solving a problem, ignorance, moral shaking, doubt, suspicion, hesitation, irresolution, melancholy, fear, caution, negation, refusal, denial, resentment, astonishment, surprise, horror, con-tempt, disdain, etc. Bending the knee of same foot (the one supporting the body) , we shall have the same expressions as before, but more accentuated. The foot advances in desire or courage; retires in aversion or fear; stamps in authority or anger; kneels in submission or prayer (Austin) .
The walk should be in sympathy with and governed by the character represented and, there-fore, should have as much purpose as any other action. It is very difficult for a beginner on the stage to master the art of walking. Care should be taken not to confuse the tricks seen on the vaudeville stage with the high requirements of the operatic stage, for, needless to say, the "al-lure" of the one is incompatible with the other. Although the walk should always be natural, easy, never stiff, there are well-defined differences between the walks to be used in comedy and in tragedy.
In comedy, the walk is lively, the steps are short, quick, swinging. In tragedy, the walk consists of well-measured, sustained steps, heavy, long and mysterious. The walk for solemn occasions also requires well-measured, sustained steps, as for instance, the stride of King or Ramfis in "Aida," or of Wotan and of nearly all the characters in the Wagnerian operas. To create an impression of discretion, silence, curiosity, mystery, the walk on tiptoe is employed, in instance of which we may cite Othello's entrance in the last act of "Othello." In spying, or in the effort to avoid attention, the manner of walking is similar to springing, as when the Duke enters Rigoletto's house.
Traits of character may be realistically depicted by the manner of walking. We are familiar with the walk of the happy man, which is full of vivacity and sureness of step. On the other hand, the sad man falls into a walk that is full of melancholy, characterized by uncertain, wavering, dragging steps. The angry man has a nervous, violent walk, with quick jerking steps, and staggers, in seeming hesitation, as does Al-vise in "Gioconda."
In contrast to the nervous step used by the angry man, the arrogant man is seen to walk firm-footedly, with hands in pockets. While the lazy man shuffles along with slovenly step, his arms swinging idly at his sides.
The walk of the drunkard is balanceless, swerving in degrees varying with the state of drunkenness. He walks as though on stiff, weak, or too tender feet, and often the feet cross each other, as those of Cassio in "Othello."
Young people walk more surely and graciously than do people of middle age. The latter, in turn, have more energetic steps than the old, who walk slowly, for, although their foot movement is very quick, their steps are short. In extreme old age, the feet are raised from the ground with difficulty, the limbs giving the impression of weakness, or even of paralysis.
Exercises for the Study of Walking.—The best and most practical advice that can be given on this subject is that the aspirant start with a few elementary dance exercises. The ones al-ready described are strongly recommended. Then let him, for a few minutes daily, imitate the walk of different characters, observing care-fully all their mannerisms. As turning corners is most difficult, it is advisable to practice walking from one end of a room to the other nay, even from one piece of furniture to another. (I say "from one piece of furniture to another" advisedly, because the space at our disposal may be limited, indeed.) It is well, then, to try to ac-quire all the ease possible when exercising our-selves in close quarters, especially at the "turning points."
Kneeling rapidly and at the same time on both feet is good only for comic effect. To kneel with grace, it is necessary to take one step forward and rest the body on the forward foot until the second knee touches the ground. When picking up an object from the ground, act in the same way.
MANNER OF BEING SEATED
The manner of taking one's seat has always been considered an indication of good or bad breeding, even from ancient times. A well-educated person will take his seat carefully, without crossing the feet. An intellectual man, in moments of deep thought and reflection, drops his head in his arms, which rest on his knee. A conventional business man sits with his feet on his desk. Students and vulgar men sit with their legs astride the chair. The lazy, the tired and sometimes the old, drop heavily into the chair, though, in general, the latter sit down with precaution, feeling for the seat first with their hands. An energetic man sits erect, some-times with interlocked hands. Modest people assume sidewise positions, holding the head down —in other words, they have an attitude full of respect, even humble; while a timid person gives the impression of being afraid to occupy the whole seat and therefore sits on the edge.
People salute each other in different ways. A haughty man will never bow first, and when answering he hardly touches his hat. A poor or modest man bows low. A beggar takes off his hat, full of timidity, extending his hand to receive the gift. A lazy man acts similarly to the haughty man. A good-natured person bows and expresses greetings. The soldier, always using his official manner, has a military bow, even before ladies. But all types, when entering a church, should hold the hat in the hand and have the head bent forward upon the breast.
In playing historical parts that require the wearing of great hats, it is necessary to take off the hat with the semicircular movement, so as not to cover the head. The stage manager, however, is obliged to teach this matter of ceremony.