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Mime over matter; Trent Arterberry brings `The Bigg Show' to Worcester's First Night.

Byline: Richard Duckett

For the first few First Night Worcester celebrations, mime artist Trent Arterberry could regularly be seen making all the right moves.

Then he moved from his Boston area home to Vancouver Island.

For the first time since First Night 1992, Arterberry will be back in Worcester on New Year's Eve as one of the performing participants of First Night Worcester 2008, the 26th First Night Worcester.

What led to the return journey?

"They called and asked me," he said during a telephone interview last week from his Vancouver Island home. "I thought, `what the heck, it's been a long time.'"

He wasn't being a wise-guy mischief-maker with that remark. That said, the mime does intend to have a good time, saying he's bringing his wife and 2-year-old son out East to visit friends while in the general neighborhood. Plus, "I really love First Night. The audiences are so enthused.''

Arterberry, 56, will be presenting his show "The Bigg Show" featuring storytelling and performance art as he becomes characters such as Roboman and Scuba Dude, interacts with a three-foot-tall human puppet character, Mr. Bigg, and dances to a medley of music from Rap to Russian folklore. The performances at 4 and 5 p.m. Dec. 31 in Wesley United Methodist Church Sanctuary are likely to include mischief-making that will amuse children and adults.

After all, a mime is a mime.

"I'm probably more self-conscious when I'm speaking than when I'm moving," Arterberry said.

"There's a certain protection in it. You're slightly removed from reality. You're almost given a license to misbehave. I'm a little bit of a wise guy and mischief-maker. I do a very physical show. To a certain degree I'm the class clown who found an appropriate outlet for his attention-seeking needs."

So it was perhaps somewhat unlikely that the young Trent Arterberry was going to go to medical school and become a doctor - even though he told everybody that's what he intended to do. Originally from California, he actually got as far as being a pre-med student at UCLA, but then dropped out.

"It was one of those identity crisis things," Arterberry said. "I told people growing up I was going to be a doctor."

After he dropped out he didn't know what he was going to be. Then one day he saw a mime artist performing. "I guess something just clicked," he said. "I just started doing it. I developed a children's show of my own."

Through various circumstances Arterberry found himself living in Boston - and that was where his career took off. He went from being a street performer on Harvard Square to opening shows for stars such as B.B. King, Spyro Gyra and the Kinks. He also opened Julio Iglesias' first North American tour, including four nights at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

A review in the Boston Globe said, "A proven crowd-pleaser, Arterberry is funny without being cute, and like a cartoonist his lines of gesture and movement are broad but precise and speedy as a whiplash."

In further developing his skills, he spent several "intense summer workshops" with mime legend Marcel Marceau. Artberry said that Marceau, who died in September, was "very talkative, ironically enough. He was very opinionated. Very French. He was a real genius for sure."

There was a golden age of mime, which is maybe symbolized by Marceau in his hey day and the rise of people such as Arterberry. But Arterberry does not delude himself about the popular progress of the art form he still intently practices.

"Marcel came over (Stateside). He was on `The Ed Sullivan Show.' In the '60s and '70s there were a lot of white-face mimes, of which I was one," Arterberry said. "Somewhere around the early '80s mime started losing popularity and comedians started making jokes about it. There was kind of a mime backlash. Mime hasn't really recovered from that. I think there are a lot of people who say they hate mime who have never seen mime."

Still, he ultimately sees things going full circle. "Oh absolutely it will. Over the centuries mime has done this. When, I don't know. I may not be here. It may take another generation and a genius like Marcel Marceau to reinvent it."

Through it all, however, Arterberry said he has been able to make a living out of being a mime. He was regularly seen locally when he lived in Boston.

He remembers the late, great Worcester mime Peter Abbott, who died 21 years ago at the untimely age of 32. "Peter Abbott. That's a name from the past, isn't it?" Arterberry said.

He has also toured the world as a performer. In the 1990s, after moving to Vancouver Island, he mixed mime and storytelling in the autobiographical "Mime Out Loud." The play debuted at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival and won a "Best Local Production" award.

More recently, he developed "The Bigg Show," taking it to schools and theaters across the U.S. and Canada.

So, "believe it or not, I have raised a family, bought a house, done all the middle class things," he said. Besides his 2-year-old son, he also has two adult children from his first marriage.

"My income fluctuates," he noted. "But I work very hard at it - 200 to 300 shows a year."

Then there are the days he works in his studio in front of a mirror developing new routines.

"Sometimes I get hit over the head with an idea, which is great. Sometimes it can be six months."

But he's still making his moves. He joked, when asked about his age (56), that he "doesn't feel over 55."

"I'm hanging in there pretty good," he added.


Trent Arterberry: The Bigg Show

When: 4 and 5 p.m. Dec. 31

Where: Wesley United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 114 Main St., Worcester.

How Much: Admission to all First Night Worcester 2008 events requires a First Night Button. Buttons are $10 through Monday; $12 Dec. Tuesday-Dec. 31; $15 at the door. Children 10 and under are free.



CUTLINE: Mime Trent Arterberry will perform in "The Bigg Show."
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 21, 2007
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