Monday, Mar 27th 2023

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3. Archetypal Movement

Theatrical activity is a necessity for a community. It is the responsibility of the artist or performer to keep that necessity alive. In storytelling, the mind of the audience must be kept right there, expectant, hanging on to every word. Stop the sentence in the middle, and the audience fills in the blank. When an audience feels that, minds can't wander. This same feeling must be transformed into performing mime. The audience must be part of the performance. It must be transfixed, eagerly awaiting the next gesture.

Every mime piece has a skeleton, flesh, and skin. The skeleton is abstract. The flesh is concrete. The skeleton is the story line. The flesh is the movement, and the skin is the quality of the execution. How can we get that quality of execution that makes an audience actually live the experience of watching the performance?

There are many kinds of matter. Each has an essence. Each has an archetype. By holding the image of the substance clearly in mind, we can let our bodies become the essence of the matter physically.

When a mime drinks a cup of water, it is the cup of the cup of the cup. It is the archetype of cup or container. It should be the original cup of water that the first human being drank. That cup is a blend of the specific and the general. One must sift through lots of specifics to find the general. In mime, you reach the cause, the essence of a situation. You must be neither too specific nor too abstract.

A mime never sips 1963 French Pinot Noir from a blue crystal champagne glass. There is no label on the bottle of a mime. He sips wine from a glass. He show us the essence of wine by its effect on his nose, tongue, and equilibrium. He shows us the archetype of the wine glass by its delicacy, shape, and fragility. The mime must also seek essence in situations. He is not the Lone Ranger riding Silver, but a cowboy on a horse. If a mime piece is to be understood immediately anywhere in the world it must not be cultural, but archetypical in all respects.

For instance, how can the body be wood? How can the whole body absorb the thought of wood and express it without acting it? Wood has definite characteristics. It has rigidity and a certain texture. But what is the archetype? Take the pure image of wood and let the body wear it like a cloak. Suppose the wood thinks. How would it walk? Don't think just with the foot or just with the leg. Think with the whole body. The body itself must become wooden.

There are many kinds of matter: stone, wire, water, melting wax, freezing icicles, clay, feathers, vegetables, rubber, mercury. Each has an essence. Each has an archetype. By holding the image of the substance clearly in mind, we can let our bodies become the essence of the matter physically. Be clay. Melt like a burning candle. Be sincere with the image. After the body learns the essence of a substance, it can apply it to a character. Become a "wooden" person, a "rubbery" man, a "watery" woman or a "wiry" cat burglar. Each has its own integrity of movement. No matter what events befall the character, the essence is retained.

The same technique of "wearing the image like a cloak" can be applied to situations. For example, visualize walking on nails. When the image of this painful situation is visualized clearly, you find yourself living and moving in a wholly different medium. The medium is dictated by pain in the feet. You find yourself walking gingerly, trying to apply even pressure on all parts of both feet so the nails won't hurt any one part too much. The rest of the body reveals the pain. You must carry the image while you express it. Don't act it, but allow it to act on you.

Discover different media by visualizing walking through cold running water, over hot coals, through honey, and through glue that sticks to anything it touches. Visualize wet soap. No matter what part of the body touches the soap, it slips. Imagine a wall, a door marked "unknown," a tiger about to eat you. Swim into each image. Imagine being ten times taller than you are! Spend time with each new medium. Explore it and play with it. The freshness of an image is important. Don't interfere with the natural way the body is going to do it.

One must bring the image from that sphere of "no form" to "form." Once the body is trained to react and the image is visualized clearly, the body will reflect it faithfully. You must see the picture, be the picture, and allow the picture to be seen. In each case ask the question, "Do I have the image or am I the image?" Think movement!

When you use this technique to create a mime piece, the result is fantastic. There are six steps to doing a piece, and both archetypes and visualization can be used in each. First, know the material. This means know everything about the characters: why they are doing what they are doing, what sex they are, how old, where they live. Second, find the "how." Find the overall pattern, placement, and position of the pieces and internalize rhythms for the characters. Third, work the meaning, developing all the different levels inherent in the mate rial. Fourth, develop the relationships between the characters and the sequences. Fifth, find the dramatic elements and the dramatic movements that will express them. Lastly, after all this is known, forget it and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. When the piece is finally performed, do it as though it were being done for the first time.

A mime piece can be boring, interesting, or dramatic. If you know what you are doing, you don't waste any movement. If you are not yourself, the audience can't see itself. The audience can look at you, but it can't focus on you. Then, it gets bored. It be comes restless. If it is interested, it will remain calm. You must be a focus for the audience.

There must be continuity in thought and action. When you know the steps intuitively, then improvisation happens, not before. In that sphere of performance, you will burn to ashes if you are not pure.

When the totality of expression is understood, the mime performance becomes a focal point, a reflection that is active and centered. It communicates the multi-dimensional aspects of the self, soaring from abstract to concrete, from invisible to visible. That which is labeled by our three-dimensional limitations as "unknown" now becomes known.

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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Le Centre Du Silence
P.O. Box 745
Lafayette, CO 80026

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About LCDS

LCDS is an independent school for self-discovery through the human Arts.  The school offers seminars and workshops teaching the concepts of Theater, Mime, and Movement.