Bowers started the presentation with the somewhat surprising information that mime and pantomime are two different things. Really??? Pantomime is the art of telling silent stories for which Marcel Marceau is known. The classic example is the person trapped in an invisible box. In mime, on the other hand, actors can incorporate sounds and words as they use their bodies to create a shape, an image or an idea. With this explanation, it was time for the students to show off what they had been working on all week.
Then the students were prompted to move their entire bodies as a single unit. This is called "Eiffeling" (yes, like the Tower -- Marceau was French after all). The students swayed to and fro as they reacted to a wind that the audience was unable to feel. The "story telling" then progressed to bicycling and climbing ladders and pulling on ropes. They ran in slow motion (with Bowers singing the theme from Chariots of Fire). With that warm up, we were on to some mime.
The students acted out forms of transportation as varied as a ski lift to a Prius to a hot air balloon. One of my favorites was their creation of a space shuttle (with one student singing "Ground control to Major Tom" and another mimicking the rocket booster as it detached after lift-off).
Next up was the personification of household items. The rendition of an old fashioned two bell alarm clock was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Trust me when I say that this was one snooze button you didn't want to hit.
|From the myth of Icarus|
When Bowers was asked about how the students would use their new skills, I anticipated that he would talk about the importance of body language and facial expressions in traditional theater. Instead, he talked about productions with minimal -- or no -- sets in which the actors are required to use mime to create a sense of place. One example he gave was Peter and the Starcatcher, a play that I saw in New York last year. Interestingly, when I looked back at my post about the show, I had mentioned that Steven Hogett received a credit for "movement" in the playbill and had commented that "cast members use a rope to define both space and mood throughout the play." Little did I realize that I was seeing mime in action -- and loving it! Bowers also mentioned that the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night has been made into a play that will open on Broadway next fall. Again, the actors will be called upon to create the set through their movement. I hope I get a chance to see the show.
The afternoon was great fun, and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to see these young actors working on their craft. I came away with both a better understanding of the art of mime and an appreciation of how powerful a tool it can be in an actor's arsenal. I'll be on the look-out in future Conservatory productions to see how the students put their new skills to work. I can't wait.