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San Francisco Mime Troupe makes a clamorous anti-war statement
Karen D'Souza, San Jose Mercry News

The year is 2008. The terror alert is on ultraviolet (so high you can't even see it!). The United States once again is on the brink of war. The White House, already having "liberated" every country from Iraq to France, has turned its eyes to that enemy from the north -- Canada. Only one woman stands in the way of an all-out war with the Canadians, and it's "Veronique of the Mounties."

If that plot sounds a bit subversive, rest assured that the San Francisco Mime Troupe more than lives up to its reputation for rabble-rousing with this anti-war satire. Actress Velina Brown, who plays the title role, recently took a few minutes to talk about how the Mime Troupe works and what it's like to combine politics and art onstage.

PROFILE: Velina Brown

Q What's your favorite part of being in the Mime Troupe?

A I really like having my work congruent with how I feel about life and the world in general. I get to do art that is important to me. It's so fulfilling. I love doing this.

We have this really intense conversation with our audience. They are all really looking forward to what the Mime Troupe has to say. People come up to me and say the show helped them realize that they are not crazy, that what they've been thinking and feeling is valid.

Q Was it difficult to choose a topic this year?

A It really was a challenge. There is so much going on. We could talk about the war. We could talk about oil. We could talk about the press. What to focus on is never easy. You never know when some new bizarre thing will happen and wipe everything else off the screen.

We want something that's in the news, something that speaks to our perspectives. Because we all do agree enough politically, but our experiences in the world are not the same.

Q Do you feel like you have a different take on this show than some of the others?

A I really was interested in looking at the war from the perspective of the soldiers, and a lot of people weren't really there. But see, my dad was a career Army officer. He spent 22 years in the Army, and we moved around a lot, and he went to Vietnam. I know what it's like to say goodbye to a parent and not know if you'll see them again. Or if you see them, they might be in pieces.

To see more and more of these families on TV making that sacrifice for something bogus was really getting to me. That was really choking me up.

Q Did your childhood experiences shape your politics?

A I don't know. I do remember asking why, even at the age of 6. Why does he have to go away? And I remember my mom saying that was his job.

But you know, I asked her about the administration's idea that if you say something against the war that you're somehow against the troops. And she said no, she never felt that. She knew the protesters in the Vietnam era were protesting the war and not my dad.

Q Where did the idea of going to war with Canada come from?

A Canada has been a long-term ally and has never done anything to us so it's kind of a far-fetched choice, but at the same time, we have been starting to build up some negativity about Canada because they really did not agree with us on the war.

Also, we want their timber and we want their water, so there is enough stuff happening in real life that this may not be such a farce after all.

Q Which of the roles you play in the show is the most interesting to perform -- Veronique the brave Mountie, or Condoleeza Rice?

A I get to play the heroine and the villain, So that's what's really fun for me.

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