Friday, August 24, 2012

MATERIALS: John Dolman, Jr.

PURPOSE:  To give students some basic concept to refer to and discuss.
SOURCE:  “The Art of Acting” by John Dolman, Jr  (1949)

“There is hardly anyone who does not at some time in his life feel the impulse to project himself imaginatively into another character; to mimic some other person, real or imaginary or to masquerade as somebody or something that he is not.”
“There is nothing new or transitory about this impulse.  It is as old as the human race and is even more obvious in children and savages [sic] than in civilized adults.  It does not make everybody a good actor in the artistic sense; yet it must have some significance in relation to the nature of good acting, and to the nature of that universal appeal which good acting and good drama are known to have.”
“Our modern civilization and cutlure are after all relatively new in human history, and decidedly external and objective; that subjectively and emotionally we are much the same as our ancestors, and that the soundest art today is that which, beneath its apparent refinement, makes the most honest and most basic appeal to the real human beings.”

“Certainly (this) is ancient and universal, for it is observable not only in the youngest children and the most primitive man, but in other animals as well.”
“Biologically, imitation is an extremely important element in selective evaluation, for individuals possessing an imitative instinct naturally imitate their surviving elders -- whose traits are presumably conducive to survival, else they would not have survived -- so increase their own chances of survival.”
“To understand its significance as a motive in primitive acting, however, we must think of it not alone but in association with other motives.”

“It is commonly accepted that the origins of drama are to be found in religious observance.”
“The essential element in the religious motive is the supernatural, the transcendent, the otherworldly -- in short, the magic.”
“The function of acting in its religious association has always been . . to inspire, to elevate, to point to the gods.”
“Because the mimetic is the most vivid way of expressing thought or feeling it, was inevitably the way chosen to express primitive man’s most vivid thoughts and feelings, including his religious ones.  and because the vivid expression of the most vivid thoughts and feelings is the essence of drama, it is not surprising that drama has again and again grown out of religious mimetics in many ages and in many parts of the world.”

“The mimetic impulse is very early and very fundamentally associated with the impulse to inform, to convey messages and ideas, report facts, and perpetuate memories.

“The impulse to instruct and educate grows naturally out of the impulse to communicate or inform.”
“One of the most highly developed forms of mimicry among primitive peoples is that which has for its purpose the instruction of the young initiate in the religions, traditions, and social customs of his tribe.”

“Fantastic adornment involving totemic imitation, and especially in the form of masks, could hardly have existed very long before the idea of terrorization  become involved, to play a most important part in the development of the drama.”
“It served very effectively to solemnize the initiation ritual.”
“A second use . . . appeared in savage warfare.”
“. . . directed against enemy gods and evil spirits, who might b supporting human enemies by threatening in their own right.”

“. . .Through emotional intoxication -- sometimes assisted, perhaps, by intoxication of another sort.  By dressing in his war harness, and mimicking the actions of fighting, dancing, shouting, and boasting, the savage got himself into such a state of emotional fervor that he felt much braver and stronger than he really was; and in that state of illusion he went into battle.”

“Possibly more human beings, past and present, have employed mimicry for the fun of it than for any other reason.”
“Yet it is a curious fact that entertainment seems always to have been a second rather than a primary motive, arrived at more or less by accident.”
“The play impulse arose from two things: leisure time and freedom from the pressure of fear and necessity.”
“Two elements deserve special mention. . . the first of these is the element of release . . .the element. . . at the rest of the festive or holiday spirit everywhere . . . The second element is that of vicarious experience.”

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