One of the hardest tasks for an actor to complete every night on stage is realistic crying with tears and snotting and red eyes and pomegranate nose. The mark of the young and ineffectual actor — 99% of them — is trying to cry by faking. I call those fakers “Dry Criers” and they’re easy to mark both on stage and in real life.

The first indicator of Dry Crying is a lack of tears! True emotion requires a bodily response and few people are capable of producing tears unless they are really sad and really crying.

Fake Criers pretend to cry by employing these universal human semiotics:

  1. Hiding their eyes behind their hands
  2. Sniffling without having any snot to curry back into the sinuses
  3. Dropping the head
  4. Sobbing sounds
  5. Whimpering response cries
  6. Poking knuckles into eyes to foment the “look” of crying

Dry Crying can be a powerful act to perform in real life away from the stage because most people are not trained to notice the difference between real crying and Dry Crying.

Real crying gets sympathy and tenderness in return while Dry Crying deserves to only be ignored. The real danger, however, is calling out a Dry Crier by saying — “Why are you fake crying?” — because that can lead the Dry Crier into an emotional response of anger or embarrassment that will result in real crying and then you’re in real trouble.

The trick behind The Semiotics of Dry Crying is to learn to recognize it in real time when it happens, but not act on it in any way.

File away the observation that you are being played by someone to evoke a false sympathy for a greater end that doesn’t serve your best interest. Have you ever faked crying? If so, why? Have you noticed someone trying to provoke you with Dry Crying? If so, how did you react?


  1. Hi David,
    I have read it somewhere that actors are generally asked to “cry naturally” in front of a camera – because it is one of the hardest things to do.
    If an actor is equally comfortable in crying and invoking laughter (think of “God Must be Crazy”) – half the battle is over.
    Very hard thing to do – no doubt.

  2. That’s a fine comment, Katha, and you’re right. The True Actor can call up any emotion at will and make it physically believable. It should not take effort or expect applause because it was organically created and not falsely propagated.

  3. Hi David. It’s interesting that, in your article of Dry Crying, you use the picture of Ashley, the girl who was seen crying on American Idol, especially when Sanjaya was performing. Are you saying that Ashley faked it in order to get on TV?

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