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Words on Mime

I began my study of mime in 1977 at the college of Marin. I studied in Los Angeles with Richmond Shepard and in Utah and Ohio with Gregg Goldston. Within those teachers' courses and intensives, I also had the opportunity to study mime with Mitchell Young-Evans, Hayward Coleman, Leonard Pitt, Nick Johnson and others. Mitchell Young-Evans was an extroardinary mime artist and entertainer and I wonder what works he's doing today. He did a piece on rock music that included recognizable snap-to poses of every famous rock star, Chuck Berry, Peter Townsend, Bob Dylan, etc. I should also mention the work of a friend and comrade, David McCharren, which was outstanding. He diversified into acting, improv and voice-over work and is quite successful, deservedly so.

Richmond Shepard moved back to New York where he's involved in theatre. Goldston is also in NY where he teaches mime, physical comedy, acting and writing and continues to perform to outstanding reviews. Hayward Coleman is in Hawaii, teaching yoga. It's hard to remain a mime no matter how much you love it. Of that distinguished and talented group of mime performers and instructors, Gregg Goldston and Nick Johnson alone are still dedicated mimes. Marceau, get this, comes to Goldston's summer intensive to teach. Goldston has also been a "sign holder" for Marceau on tour, a coveted gig in the theatrical world.

Richmond Shepard wrote the definitive and arguably the best book on mime technique. If you're interested in studying mime, it's required work. To find a copy, which thanks to the net, is not so hard to do anymore, click this link: Richmond Shepard Mime Technique Book. If you want to study mime seriously, you'll be well started in physical technique if you read and practice with this book before you show up to the first session.

I continued performing until 1984. I worked in Los Angeles with a permit from the parks department at historic Olivera Street and in theatrical shows and festivals throughout the city and county of L.A. I also did street performances in New York, Park City, Utah, several venues in Northern California.

Sometimes, my son, Marin, a trained mime himself, helped me out, often becoming the star of the vignette. We had this routine where I'd turn into a statue and then fall stiffly backwards and he, at the age of eight, would catch me by the shoulders and push me back upright. That was a real crowd pleaser. There is this point of balance in a fall where the body is almost weightless and Marin learned it perfectly, never dropped his mom. He studied movement all his life and even taught movement theater for a while after he graduated Cum Laude from Humbolt State with a degree in Theatre. Catch his current act at Marin Sander-Holzman website.

I really love mime as a discipline and a performance art. The isolations and combinations defined by Decroux and his successors are the basis and distillation of all expressive movement work and this sojourn into mime informed my corporeal awareness immensely. This ended up saving my life more than once.

I started mime after a crisis with writing. I wanted to get beyond the word, both written and spoken. I needed to explore the world of silence and the meaning of gesture. I needed to lose all connection with everything I was accustomed to so I could find it again. All my life I'd been so verbose and literary and though my early rewards for these talents were considerable, I had a deep need to move out of my mind and into my body. I was fortunate to find master teachers and I was fortunate to benefit from their patience and love of the art.

Mime has a bad rep, which is unfortunate. Truly fine mime is as inspiring, transformative and elegant as any other performance art. Marceau calls it a spectacular art. Mime demands more of the audience, but, delivered with skill, it rewards an attentive audience profusely.

I quit mime because it came to my attention that a director of the foundation through which my primary teacher was working was bad mouthing my work for personal reasons while pretending to be my big best friend. Everyone hates mime anyway and it wasn't worth malevolence from within the mime community itself. I don't mean to sound resentful, I am really grateful that it happened when it did. It brought me to the realization that I truly was ready to move on. You can't be a part time mime, it takes too much practice and singularity of mind. There's no career path as a mime unless you teach and I didn't study it to teach it. I'd learned what I needed to take forward and I stood on the edge of an illusory pier, arced into my best seagull and flew away. No regrets. I'm a better poet for it. The mime mind is like the poetic mind: everything is an exquisite edge of itself. Gregg Goldston taught me that mime was all about writing, anyway, so there you have it. Full circle. One of many.

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