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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

General Rules

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

1. We will first take up action and counter action.

Motion on the stage consists of the actor's actions as they have to do with the playing of his own part, and counter action consists of these actions as they have to do with, or bear upon, the parts played by his fellow actors. So, listening or observing will be a counter action, but a prayer or a command will be a direct action. Singing an aria is an action, but a duet consists of action and counter action, as does any rôle in which more than one person is engaged.

2. On the singing stage, the mimicry completes and accompanies the emotions and feelings expressed by the voice. Naturally, then, synchronism in these two actions must exist, as must also perfect harmony between the tone of the voice, the gesture, the poise, and the mimicry. In opera, the gesture may often anticipate the word sung, but it never should spring out after the note or word is started. In such case, it is better to remain passive, with no attempt at gesture, than to apply one which may be contrary in meaning to the word sung.

3. The countenance, mimicry, gesture, pose, voice, should have their share of expression; monotony must be avoided. In laughing or crying, in anger or in admiration, there is a continual development of, or a decline in, emotion which influences the mimicry. It may be called the crescendo and diminuendo of expression and should be carefully studied.

4. Gestures, in order to be effective, must not be too frequent. They should never be made unless impelled by the emotions, which must guide the gesture.

5. The musical pauses must be as expressive as the words sung. An inexpressive pause may sometimes ruin the whole dramatic effect.

6. The gesture, in an operatic phrase, finishes at the musical end of the phrase; or, more often, it should finish at the very moment that the expression which was animating the phrase is finished. Remember that acting in comedy (comic opera) must be full of activity, spontaneity and agility; in tragedy and drama (grand opera) , full of dignity, etc.

7. From his entrance on the stage until the moment he leaves it, the actor must live his part. He must be in every respect that which he is representing. When his own action finishes, then begins the counter action.

8. A singer or actor should never speak on the stage unless the action requires it. By doing so he shows lack of respect towards the audience and lack of artistic conscience.

9. Never, during counter action, where one's attention should be concentrated on the acting of others and an interest shown in what they do or say, should a singer look around the scene. This destroys the whole effect.

10. In the past it was considered bad form for an actor to turn his back to the audience. Observance of this custom often injures the general effect and such prejudice no longer hampers an actor. A singer, however, should not forget that his voice must always be thrown out towards the audience, and from this point of view he should avoid as much as possible, singing with his back to the public.

11. Vary positions and poses with nice discrimination. Thus you will avoid monotony.

12. Except for colloquial purposes, do not stand squarely with both shoulders straight out towards the audience; a pose a little sideways is more effective.

13. When facing the audience, stand with the body slightly inclined to the right to make the gestures with the left hand, and vice versa. This will insure the plasticity of the pose and take away all danger of the singer's covering his head with his hands.

14. In kneeling, the knee touching the floor should be nearest the audience.

15. Avoid all exaggeration. By overdoing your part, you lose naturalness. However, you should avoid rigidity on the stage.

16. When singing an aria which finishes with a high note, like the Jewel song in "Faust," do not bow to the audience when finishing. It looks like a bid for applause and often obtains just the contrary result. When a bow is called for, make it by inclining a little to the side.

17. Never put off details of acting and mimicry till the time of performance. Try them all out at rehearsals everything from the exercising of the voice to the smallest movement of hand or foot, or the least detail of facial expression. Only in this way can an actor, and especially one at the beginning of his career, hope to give a finished performance.

18. Individuality in acting is of the same importance as in singing. Imitating will give poor results. Prepare your part from life's studies and create accordingly. It may be difficult at first, but in the end the singer must be successful.

19. A sure way to make poor gestures is to think too much about them. The gesture must come from within and be commanded by the emotion which permeates the part. Only then will it be spontaneous, and, consequently, natural.

20. In intellectual expressions, gesture should be limited. Here the mimicry of the face is the most important.

21. The attitude of a concert singer must be as natural as possible when on the platform. Any stiffness or lifelessness in the appearance must be avoided, as they are a great handicap to the singer. The body should be held erect, resting easily in its position; the limbs must not show any heaviness, but must give evidence of power, allowing the body to rest on one foot.

The best attitude for the hands is to hold a rolled sheet of music in them, but as a singer should always memorize his selections, he should avoid looking at it. Hand gestures in concert singing are not permitted, but the face and the voice must be very expressive.

Enter the concert platform with a gracious, easy walk. A man should bow with cordiality and dignity. A lady should bow more freely.

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