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Acting And Mimicry:
 Expressions - Part 1

 Expressions - Part 2

 The Smile—the Laugh

 Love In Its Different States And Expressions

 Intellectual And Other Expressions

 General Expressions

 Effects Of Pathological States On The Expressions

 Read More Articles About: Acting And Mimicry

The Smile—the Laugh

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The smile seems to be one of the first conscious expressions of the human being. The smile is one of the chief expressions of the mouth, and, like the look in the eye, it varies with the character of the person. It is the fundamental expression in cheerful, benevolent characters. The smile, then the laugh ! According to Darwin, there is a gradation from the smile to the hearty laugh, and these degrees should be carefully observed by the artist.

The mimicry of laughter consists in the following movements : the mouth opens, showing the teeth. The upper lip is raised, together with the cheek, which produces a quantity of small wrinkles under the eyes, which are brilliant, and the eyebrows are raised. In a paroxysm of laughter and its prolonged duration, tears appear in the eyes. The laugh, like the cry, involves the vocal machinery and these vowels give a special character to the laugh:

So, Ah, ha, ha,—open laugh.

Eh, hey, hey,—intelligence, approving, teasing.

Eeh, hee, hee,—diffidence, irony.

Oh, ho, ho,—surprise.

Ooh, hoo, hoo,—marveling.

In comedies, laughing can be produced by tickling.

Joy, happiness and good humor are strongly and permanently marked on the face by a smile. If this permanent mark takes on a cynical, malicious expression, it is a sign of a cruel, sinister character. Such should be the smile of Mephisto in "Faust," and of Rigoletto in certain moments at the beginning of the opera "Rigoletto." So we see, that the laugh is not always the sign of good humor or joy, for there is the cynical, the malicious, the false, the sardonic, and the satanic laugh, all of which are expressions of hate and other bad sentiments.

In opera, laughter can be rhythmical or unrhythmical. The best specimens of rhythmical laughter is that of Bonci in "Ballo Maschera" in the aria "E Scherzo ed e follia," of the female quartet in "Falstaff," of Mephisto in "Faust," and of Mephisto in "Mephisto," etc. The unrhythmical laugh depends, for its efficiency, upon the interpretive talent of the singer himself.

A cynical smile often accompanies a plan for murder or revenge, though, sometimes, the same smile shows satisfaction at a committed crime or Crying expresses emotion contrary to that of laughing. In crying, it is also necessary to observe the crescendo and diminuendo, so as to avoid possible monotony. Usually, the crying begins with a slight tremolo in the voice, then gasping, then a loud breath between one word and another. The voice grows stronger and the weeping begins, cutting every word with the breath, sometimes repeating the syllables. Then only comes the outburst of weeping, which is no longer restrained or controlled.

Throughout this process, the eyes are half closed, the eyebrows and the forehead wrinkled, the mouth open and the corners of the mouth drooping. The whole body is in a weak, relaxed condition. Often the bare hands alone, or aided by a handkerchief, cover the face.

The cry can be an imploring one (Rigoletto in Act III), or one of repentance, like that of Kundry in "Parsifal;" or it can be false or simulated. When it is sincere, it is the best expression of moral or physical pain, especially in a woman. In hysterics, often there is an excess of anger which finally expresses itself in a paroxysm of weeping, as if relief were thus sought.

There are many kinds of crying, so that, to be convincing, the artist must give careful study and analysis to the requirements of a rôle calling for this expression of sorrow and pain. Young people, for instance, cry unrestrainedly; older people are more moderate in their crying; while, in the very old, the cry is similar to a lament.

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