Acting And Mimicry:
Expressions - Part 1
Expressions - Part 2
The Smile—the Laugh
Love In Its Different States And Expressions
Intellectual And Other Expressions
Effects Of Pathological States On The Expressions
Read More Articles About: Acting And Mimicry
Effects Of Pathological States On The Expressions
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Madness is a sickness of the brain which, like any other sickness, varies in kind and degree with different manifestations for different periods. It is often the direct result of great mental and moral anguish, such as the death of dear ones or disappointment in love (Lucia in "Lucia" or Lothario in "Mignon") .
The walk and attitude of insane persons are to be studied. The insane man walks without guidance or direction, being, for the most part, self-centered and governed by his sick thoughts, and can be compared to an automobile with the steering gear broken. He passes rapidly, as does a child, from one emotion to another, for instance, love to hate. The permanent expression on the face of a lunatic depends, of course, upon the character of his malady, so we have the furious, the melancholic, the quiet, etc., types Of great importance in the portraiture of insanity is the part the eye plays. It has a look that is at once penetrating, cutting, lively, yet unnatural.
In playing the parts of lunatics, the artist must avoid all theatrical acrobatism, for any exaggeration will mar the success of his portraiture.
Pathological states and their manifestations are often studied by artists from life in the hospital and sanitariums themselves. This is advisable, providing the artist can endure the nerve strain occasioned by these harrowing scenes.
Nervousness is manifested by ,!special and repeated movements of the hands, ft et, eyes, and other parts of the body. Some ne: vous people bite the nails, or open and close th the hand without apparent reason. Others have a certain dancing swing to their walk ; again others move the neck continuously. There are those who, when they talk with you, must touch your clothes or pull at your buttons, as if in desire to impress you more and so convince you; and again those who are continuously adjusting the hair, whiskers or beard, or worse, those who cant keep from touching the nose; those who serate i the body or head unceasingly ; and the ones w io yawn distressingly. The observation of all these types will be of great assistance to the artist when he is preparing scenes depicting impatience.
Trembling may be another form of nervousness, or occasionally a manifestation of cold (first act of "Bohême"), or it may be the result of old age. In the latter case, the gesture is developed with the increased trembling of the entire body, or of the certain parts in agitation. And so the hand of a very old man when he picks up a glass to drink will tremble slightly at the moment of taking up the glass but will tremble more and more as his hand nears his mouth so that, when he should touch the glass to his lips, the liquid is thrown out. In very old age the head, in approval, trembles vertically; in denial, later-ally.
Again, it is interesting to make use of the well-known fact that low characters tremble when in danger of their lives.
Drunkenness.—From a slight degree of intoxication to total drunkenness, there is a graduated scale of increase, thereby calling for a varied expression of these different stages. The "tipsy" man is characterized by a slight lack of balance in walking, good humor and a certain. half-senseless eloquence. The drunken man staggers along; his feet are either stiff or weak; his eyes, sleep-laden, so that it is with effort that he keeps then open just enough to see where he is going (Cassio in "Othello," Act I.)
Some drunken men, however, are conscious of their condition and try to hide it. Their efforts to keep and walk straight, their forced raising of the head, offer unlimited observation and study to the actor. And it must not be for gotten that the ordinary character, temperament and habits reveal themselves unconsciously in t re drunken state, so that a well-educated man, eve ri under the influence of liquor, will act differently from a vulgar, uneducated man.
As the degree of drunkenness increases, the feet waver, the hands fall, the eyes close, for the drunken man has no more strength t) keep them open. The whole body relaxes and he hair and clothes fall into complete disorder.
Death.—The manner of portraying death depends upon the cause of the death. Death following tuberculosis can come gradually, like the pale flickering of a lamp in which the oil is slowly burning out (Mimi in "Bohême"). This form will be characterized by a weakening of gestures, mimicry and voice in keeping with ti e decreasing of the vital forces. But in a death like that of Violetta in "Traviata," the sick per >on seems at first to regain all his strength, then lose it, then regain it, several times, perhaps, before the end which, when it comes, comes suddenly and consumes the body quickly, as if in a fiery furnace. In other cases, death may come after a more or less long illness. The agony of suffering is then long and drawn out so that it leaves special marks upon the face and body. It goes without saying, of course, that, besides the mimicry, the make-up in these cases must be adapted to the situation at hand. The actor should be pale, even ghastly, the eyes and cheeks sunken. The look must ex-press the feelings that animate the dying person.
Again, death may be inflicted by the knife, as that of Ernani, or it may be the result of a duel with swords, as that of Valentine in "Faust." In cases like this, a short agony follows the fatal wounding and the actor, falling to the floor, has often to sing as he lies there awaiting the end. The act of falling is very difficult for it must not appear painful, but natural, "in tone" with the scene, and aesthetic. Before the fall occurs, if time permits, it is well to make a few balanceless steps to give the impression of trying to find some kind of support for the body. When actually falling, after the wound has been received, I should advise rising slightly on the tips of the fingers and then falling down again, face towards the audience. The feet must bend, nearly crossing, and the body must be let "roll" down, as it were, while one is on bended knee. In doing this it is helpful to use the hands for support when nearing the floor.
Another form of death in the fina, scenes of operas is death by poison like Fedora o Leonora.
In intelligent preparation of the I part where this form of dying occurs, the effects of poison on the body should be carefully studied from scientific works, as the subject is vas vast and does not admit of adequate treatment in a study of this sort.
Death from paralysis (a shock) is Instantaneous and its portraiture on the stage consists of showing a hardening of the muscles b T shocks.
Life in Prison, Moral Death, ca i easily be compared to agony of life. It taxes ;he subtlest art of the actor. Here he may have to depict the despairing apathy of the life-prisoner in his cell, or the prolonged sufferings of an agony-branded soul. He must show by a convincing art as well as by skillful artifice, such as emaciated body, dull, sunken eyes and projecting cheek bones, that such feverish psychology can and does consume the body as if by slow fire.