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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

Elements Of Mimicry - Part 3

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


The conventional theatrical make-up kiss has nothing to do with the emotions that prompt it in life. On the stage a kiss is not a kiss, and there have been cases where a too temperamental actor has been sternly reprimanded by his woman companion. The kiss should be prepared and analyzed as any other gesture and exchanged when both performers have a perfect understanding of the meaning of the kiss.

There are kisses given only, others received only, and some mutually given and received.

There is a great difference between a sensual and a pure kiss; between a friendly and a false kiss; and between a lover's kiss and that of a mother. Some kisses are given on the lips, and some on the cheeks.


Inasmuch as the ear is of great importance in the analysis of a character, in theatrical mimicry it is of little service to the actor. It is one of the least expressive parts of the body, rarely movable. Therefore, all the actor should know about the ears is in the part of make-up.


(See part on make-up)


The shoulder, the forearm, and the hand, with its fingers, are the contributors to the so-called hand gesture.

This gesture gives great worry to the young operatic aspirant. The hand gesture never should be stiff, artificial nor try to express that which belongs purely to facial mimicry. The arms should not be considered wings of a windmill their movements must always have a purpose. Classic opera or aria requires a great reserve of hand gestures. It would be difficult and too complicated to try to describe all the arm and hand gestures, or give rules for their use, but these few principles given here below will serve to indicate their chief purpose.

The arm is projected in movements of authority or command.

In admiration, the arms are spread and ex-tended.

In imploring help, the arms are held forward.

A disappointment at a bit of news, causes the arms to drop heavily.

In tired states, melancholy, moral distress, the arms are held weakly.

In anger, the closed fists are projected toward the sky or the object of anger or hatred.

In extreme anger, the fingers are sometimes bitten.

In distress or in thoughtfulness, the hand is on the head.

In sorrow or shame, the hands cover the eyes or the face.

In joy, satisfaction, the hand waves.

A hand on the breast, is used in appeals to con-science or intimate desire.

In blessing, the hands are held over the person. A finger on the lips implores silence.

In affliction, the hands are clasped or wrung (shaking).

In friendship, they are extended and held forward.

In prayer, they are held supine, clasped.

The fists on a level with the chest show readiness to fight; stretched and pressed together, then open, palms up, they indicate offense, contempt, disdain, scorn, insult, scandal, affront, outrage.

Pendant wrists, alternately opening and closing, show wasting of strength., and beginning of irritation.

The same movement, more strongly accentuated, shows irritation, the state of being provoked, desire for revenge.

The open wrist, palm down, with the fingers well separated, directed toward another's body and then suddenly closed, means, "I take," "I seize," "I take possession o f."

The same movement but with the wrist closed from the beginning means "I wish," "I hold,"

"I dominate," "I rule"; more strongly accentuated and dropped, means "I am crushing, suppressing, breaking."

A similar motion, but done mysteriously, with the wrist at first open, then, with the fingers gradually closing, means theft

The Hand Shake.—An egotist, a cold man, shakes your hand without showing any feeling. A haughty man shakes your hand as though he were doing you a favor by extending his hand. A vulgar, passionate man takes your hand as though he were going to bite you. An aristocrat, especially in comic parts, extends only two fingers. A timid person gives the hand with uncertainty. A kind, generous friend shakes the hand with easy, noticeable cordiality, often, even taking both your hands. The spontaneity of this movement, however, depends completely upon the feeling animating one person towards an-other. But hypocrites often shake hands the same way.

Hand and finger gestures serve to indicate many different meanings, which the accompanying illustrations describe in detailed order.

1 indicates you, him, they, this, down, up, etc.

2 points to the chest "I."

3 the hand at the chest means mine, all my entity. (Both hands may be used for stronger accentuations.)

4 shows "only one" or that which is unique.

5 indicates "one."

6 indicates "two."

7 indicates "five."

8 indicates "half."

9 indicates "nothing.

10 indicates "little."

11 means "small."

12 shows "big, tall."

13 signifies possession.

14 indicates that which is sharp, pointed.

15 the wrist moving slightly outward from the following parts of the body, denote:

From the head—a greeting, a welcome.

From the mouth—a kiss.

From the heart—loveliness, sweetness, adoration or worship.

The motion in which the wrist moves several times inward in the direction of the body means "approach, come." The same movement performed with both hands has a much stronger meaning; done with one finger, it shows rather more familiarity.

16 says "everybody come"—this motion is towards the body;

done with both hands, the meaning is more accentuated.

17 expresses: "Move aside, separate, disperse the crowd, give a

passage" (this is the opposite of the preceding movement).

18 pictures avarice, stinginess, desire to get rich.

19 extends the hands, saying "let's be friends," "let's make peace," "forgive me."

20 shows aversion, dislike, repugnance, repulsion, fear, fright.

21 says "give me"; asks for help, charity.

22 gives the meaning "I take under my protection." The hand in this same position, but slightly moving means "the first word"; or "be quiet," "I shall arrange this," "I shall fix you."

23 implores "have pity," "forgive me."

24 the hands denote prayer, invocation.

25 is the gesture of some one receiving things with both hands.

26 "I have nothing to say," "I do not know."

27 is used in swearing an oath.

28 is the motion of the finger being shaken vertically (toward the face), and means warning.

29 indicates that which is impossible, or a denial (the motion is lateral).

Quick, appropriate movement of the hands will also describe that which is flat, round, square, large, etc. All of these gestures are too well known, however, to need describing.

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