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None dare call it mime.

Mime is not a mass-market art, nor does it necessarily appeal to the masses. Do not be misled by the popular amusement-park and street-corner variety of so-called mime performers. Some may be gifted mimics or otherwise talented entertainers, but what they do rarely constitutes the true art of mime.

Examine what they do and you will find that one or more of the essential elements of the art of mime is missing. There may be no plot, for instance. Or there may be no illusion. Or there may be no real communication between performer and audience, no flow of ideas, thoughts, or feelings. Most often, however, what is missing is a theme, a substantial meaning to the presentation. Mime illusions performed outside of a theme-based framework are nothing more than technical exercises, without purpose and often without artistry.

In this kind of performance, there is no bottom line other than to entertain. I do not intend to demean the work of the amusement-park and street-corner performers; to entertain s a noble calling in its own right. But none are call it mime without first understanding he essential elements of the art.

Unfortunately, it is this type of quasi-mime performance that has imparted a rather derogatory connotation to the terms "mime" and "mime artist" for the general public. The mime that most people see, if they see any, is his backyard version - going for the easy laugh by mimicking passersby, making silly faces, annoying innocent patrons, taking pratfalls, and performing seemingly endless (and technically deficient) variations of "The Wall," "Blowing Up a Balloon," and "Walking against the Wind." This all too common conception of mime has undermined the public's understanding of the art. As a result, mime has most likely lost a considerable part of its potential audience. This is a challenge that every serious mime artist must understand and strive to overcome.

From Talking About Mime: An Illustrated Guide, by David Alberts, published by Heinemann. Alberts, who lives in La Mesa, California, has been performing and teaching mime for twenty-five years.

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Title Annotation:excerpt from 'Talking About Mime: An Illustrated Guide'
Author:Alberts, David
Publication:Harper's Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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