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What does "passion-tearing" mean in the following context?

My parents were at the summer theater singing a first matinee performance of "You Can't Take It With You". In summer stock productions they were two very irritable, passion-tearing, perspiring players, and my younger brothers and I rarely went to see them. My mother was especially poor in summer stock. Watching her, even on a cool evening, Kenneth used to cringe in his seat till he was almost on the floor.

It doesn't sound like a good thing, but I cannot figure out what it actually means.

The story is written somewhere around 1947 and full context is available here.

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    It's a particularly strong form of voluntearing. – John Lawler Jan 26 '14 at 16:24
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    I must admit I've never heard it before. I think it might mean "tearing up in passion" which from the sense of the rest of the context could mean "overacting". As you no doubt noticed, a Google search for the phrase comes up pretty dry, so I wonder if this is a neologism. – jbeldock Jan 26 '14 at 16:25
  • Or it might be a particularly passionate episode of ripping something up. There are two verbs spelled tear, and by far the more common is pronounced /ter/, not /tir/. – John Lawler Jan 26 '14 at 16:27
  • @JohnLawler "voluntearing" sounds very reasonable, but the story wa written around 1945-1947 and "voluntearing" sounds fairly new (1983) compared to that. I'll also add that detail to the question. – some user Jan 26 '14 at 16:53
  • It looks to me like a nonce word (or phrase). – Mitch Jan 26 '14 at 18:09
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I found the following passages in Emotional Excess on the Shakespearean Stage: Passion's Slaves

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More here (without explanation) from The Knickerbocker: Or, New-York Monthly Magazine, Volume 11

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  • I wonder if there is synonym to it. Since "passion-tearing" doesn't seem so popular, there should be some other word/phrase that means more or less the same... – some user Jan 26 '14 at 17:24
  • I wondered the same. Never heard of this before... – mplungjan Jan 26 '14 at 21:35

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