Politics get funny treatment
Troupe brings humorous musical to inform audiences of the state of world and U.S. government affairs
Samantha Stess, Staff Writer
October 22, 2003
Its name implies that its members should be standing on a street corner with their faces painted white, wearing black and white striped shirts and pretending they are trapped in invisible boxes.
But The San Francisco Mime Troupe has never incorporated miming in any of its satirical and political musicals, which it has been performing for 44 years.
It uses the word mime in the title because the troupe mimics contemporary American life in a humorous and informative way that makes it easier for audiences to grasp.
The troupe is currently touring around Oregon and California performing its latest political comedy, "Veronique of the Mounties," and will be stopping at Chico State for a one-shot performance in Laxson Auditorium on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"I hope that the audience walks away with an increased urgency to do something about what's happening with the world and the government," said Velina Brown, who plays Veronique. "The show deals with the meaning of patriotism. You don't have to be pro-war to be a patriot."
Making the musical started at the beginning of the year when the cast and crew met to discuss the current burning issues that would later be melted together into the show's satirical topics and characters.
"We want people to know about true American values and beliefs, instead of hijacked, narrow, government values," Brown said.
Set in the near future, the plot follows Veronique, a Canadian who hates Americans.
She's on a quest to America to retrieve the magical petrified maple leaf that's missing from Canada.
Brown, a new mother touring with her 8-month-old boy, said that the two characters she plays are polar opposites of each other.
Veronique's a foreigner who is against Americans and is constantly blowing her cover when she retaliates against American ideals.
Brown also plays Condoleezza Rice who pairs up with Dick Cheney, who is played by Ed Holmes, to make big plans for the country and their leadership.
"The play is appealing to smart people who like good music and care about the world," Brown said.
Founded in 1959 by R.G. Davis, the troupe has come a long way from performing in basements and lofts.
It has covered almost every spectrum of theater by performing melodramas, spy-thrillers, comedies and cartoon and history epics.
The troupe prides itself on being multicultural because it wants to show a realistic view of America and its hope for cultural diversity in the future.
"We deal with the citizens of the world community instead of imperialism and domination, which costs us in destroyed healthcare and education in pursuit of oil," Brown said.
The troupe has been awarded for its activist work in the theater with a Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater in 1987, as well as being honored with a San Francisco Bay Area Media Alliance Golden Gadfly Award.
Holmes, who also portrays a homeless veteran in the play, is passionate about what he sees as the government's ill doing and takes part in protesting against its choices through his involvement with the troupe.
"I hope the audience walks away from the show inspired to overthrow the government," Holmes said. "There is comic reality behind the government policies sending this country down the tubes."
Although the audience members may leave Laxson Auditorium not wanting to overthrow the government, the crowd will most likely have gained a better understanding of the group's stance on political issues and the world.
None of the original members of the left-winged theater troupe are still active in the musical productions, although many of the current players have been involved in the company for 15 to 30 years.
"We deal with my kind of politics," Holmes said. "I spent seven years in Vietnam and this is my way of rationalizing. It's my way to express."
In Holmes' 17 years as an troupe member, he's participated in many musicals that have similar styles, each taken from the timely messages from the world.
"Students will enjoy this play because it is a seldom seen spectacle of political satire," Holmes said.