Imitation and Acting
Imitation and Acting
A performance stemming from coldness inside you will destroy you because it will trap you into the habit of automatic, mechanical action, without imagination. The most effective tool you can use to fan your ardor and excite you inwardly is an imaginary fiction.
A true artist is on fire with what he sees going on all around him; he is ardently interested in life. Life itself becomes the object of his study and his passions. He tries to record the impressions he receives from the outside and stamp them on his heart. As an artist, you can never afford to be emotionally or spiritually ‘cold.’ You have to possess a certain degree of inner warmth. Mind is a wonderful tool that can be set to work at any time. However, you must also have the passion and direct cooperation of your emotions, desires, and all the other elements of the inner creative state to take the advantage of mental prowess. When you learn to sense and feel life, you will realize that you can impart a kind of inner warmth and enthusiasm to your role. This can give a unique touch to your acting style.
Artistic enthusiasm is a motive power in creativity. When you are excited and fascinated about acting, it will encourage you to be a subtle critic, a keen inquirer, and the best guide into the depths of feeling that are unattainable to a conscious approach.
Acting is all about imitating the human states of minds. Typically, an actor can imitate:
The actor does the imitation and acting is his mode of imitation. In fact, acting is described as an imitation of situations. It is this imitation that helps the audience relate to the character.
Actor imitates character like Rama and communicates with the audience. This results in aesthetic experience or rasa in the mind of the beholder. In this way, the theory of imitation is involved. The origin of acting and martial art is related strongly to the concept of imitation or the recreation of a ritual combat. Probably, the first actors may even have been warriors or primitive fighters who while narrating their exploits around the campfire recreated their struggle and the overcoming of the person, human, or beast they encountered. They might even have communicated, through dance-like pantomime, a stylized re-creation of the event. The campfire audiences might have started enjoying the warriors’ skill as storytellers and dancers even more than their skill as hunters or warriors. It is possible that some people from the tribe who, although were not well versed with martial arts nor were they great warriors, were better dancers and effective performers. Owing to this talent, they were better able to record the heroic traditions of the tribe. Many people believe this must have been how the acting tradition was born.
Imitation is defined as acting under the influence of a model. In other words, imitation requires a reference point or an object. That is the reason that children imitate their parents’ walking, talking, and behavior. Teenagers find great power in imitation, sometimes out of ‘peer pressure.’ Whatever our age, it is true that most of the times, we consciously or subconsciously imitate others or act under someone’s influence.
All of the creative arts originate from imitation, and regular practice of this imitation turns the imitation into a performance. Even if people have the same teacher, same training, and time of practice, the depth of imitation may differ, and so will the performance. They may even be striving to reach the same standard in their performance or the so-called level of perfection, but there will be differences in their performances.
Thus, it can be inferred that you can imitate outward actions by being curious and practicing hard. However, you cannot really ‘copy’ anyone’s thoughts and feelings exactly. Therefore, it is impossible to replicate someone’s unique performance.
The art of imitation is subtle. When you practice imitating, you learn the differences and use contrasts to form relationships based on relative standards. While imitating you should guard against imitating people superficially, as there’s a danger of crossing a certain limit, for which you could be accused of ‘duplicating.’
The truth is that imitation is the starting point, but it is not enough to make a performance realistic. This is because an actor may successfully mime a character, but if he does not ‘feel’ like the character the performance will lack punch and make it hard for the audience to believe it as real.
A modern method actor might not like imitating and may believe that such a technique leads to superficial and mechanical performances. However, if he understands the art of imitating, he would realize that he does need to look up to nature or copy outside sources for the development of any role. When actors try to play a role purely from their personal experiences, it may not make their creations come to life. This is especially true when the character is beyond their physical capabilities and mental grasp i.e., it is beyond the world of their limited experiences. There are roles for which an actor cannot refer to any existing personal prototype within his or her inner resources. For instance, say a thirty-year-old actor needs to portray a character of an eighty-two-year-old priest. Obviously, the character’s age and his mental state are beyond the actor’s personal experience. This means that there is no way that he can fall back on his unconscious or on his experiences to create any images of the character. This leaves him with no option but imitation.
If an actor has to enact the character of a certain ‘Aunt Mary’ without either the actor or the audience knowing anything about the character, how will the actor proceed? With the help of imitation and imagination of course! The actor can observe some elderly Christian women of the locality and then add her bits to create the character of ‘Aunt Mary.’ With the help of intense study and her own imagination, the actor can portray Aunt Mary in a realistic way, and the audience will find her convincing. This is the kind of dramatic illusion that the actor needs to create.
In a nutshell, the skill for imitation is the foundation for the development of character. Many exercises will help you develop the art of imitation.
- Visit a zoo and observe animals like elephants, lions, monkeys, bears, or deer. Concentrate on the physical characteristic of these animals, their walking styles, eating habits, the way they move their limbs, and the way they express with their eyes. Now, imitate these animals and adopt these styles to your personality imagining that you are that animal.
- Visit some crowded places in the city, choose an interesting character in the crowd, observe him, and later imitate his physical traits.
- Imitate some historical characters like Hitler or Gandhi. Try to imitate their styles of walking, speech patterns, gestures, and postures.