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Open AccessConcept Paper
Humanities 2017, 6(2), 43; doi:10.3390/h6020043

Proto-Acting as a New Concept: Personal Mimicry and the Origins of Role Playing

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada
Received: 4 May 2017 / Revised: 15 June 2017 / Accepted: 16 June 2017 / Published: 20 June 2017
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Abstract

Proto-acting is introduced here as a new concept that refers to a set of processes that are intermediate between everyday role playing (in the Erving Goffman sense) and dramatic acting. Its most characteristic process is the voluntary act of personal mimicry, which can occur in everyday contexts, such as quoting someone during conversation, or in performance contexts, such as impressionism. Proto-acting involves character portrayal, but on a much simpler and more transient scale than in dramatic acting, where a person may portray a character for an extended period of time during a stage performance. For example, this might involve impersonating the characters while reading a bedtime story to a child, or children themselves portraying characters while engaging in pretend play. Other key features of proto-acting are that it tends to be driven by gesture, have minimal scripting, and involve short bouts of alternation between the self and characters. Proto-acting, as based on personal mimicry, might provide a cognitive foundation for dramatic acting in human development. Moreover, proto-acting itself might be underlain evolutionarily by the process of pantomime, which often involves intentional mimicry of the actions of other people. Hence, the proto-acting concept is able to shed light on processes relevant to cognition, development, the performing arts, and human evolution. View Full-Text
Keywords: proto-acting; acting; role playing; pantomime; mimicry; language; theatre; gesture; imitation proto-acting; acting; role playing; pantomime; mimicry; language; theatre; gesture; imitation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Brown, S. Proto-Acting as a New Concept: Personal Mimicry and the Origins of Role Playing. Humanities 2017, 6, 43.

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