Strike A Melodramatic Pose

When working on Audio Chimera podcast Episode #67 “My Job’s Not Better Than Yours,” I found myself describing a pose I’ve often seen by those who consider themselves upper class; the elbow is raised and the arm is held at a 90 degree angle to the body while holding a drinking glass. Here’s a photo of me emulating it.

This also reminds me of an incident that led me to include some interesting illustrations of poses in one of my Intro to Theatre lectures. As a theatre director, I am of course interested in finding ways to communicate ideas and emotions through movement and gestures. An Art History colleague was rehearsing a conference presentation for an audience on our campus. When one of the slides appeared, I must have jerked visibly—it echoed what I always taught in Intro. So I asked for copies of two of the illustrations to be included in future lectures on melodramatic acting.

These are from a Medieval codex depicting two modes of prayer: the sixth mode of prayer, Imploring divine power (standing, arms outstretched), and the seventh mode of prayer: ecstasy (standing, arms held directly overhead).

I then followed these illustrations with a screenshot from Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. Big Jim makes a lucky strike of that precious metal, and, well, here’s the photo.

I’m sure you can see the similarity. After mixing in other expressive gestures from Francois Delsarte, a 19th century actor who sought to depict emotion strictly through gestures, and some clips of early 20th century silent films, notably by George Melies, I think I did a fair job of presenting meaning from movement in melodrama.

Published by stephenschrum

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts; interested in virtual worlds, playwrighting, and filmmaking. Now creating a podcast called "Audio Chimera."

One thought on “Strike A Melodramatic Pose

  1. I enjoy Mr. Ballen’s story telling for his animated, or “melodramatic” expressions. Check him out on FB. I fall asleep to his stories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: