The San Francisco Mime Troupe creates and produces socially relevant theater of the highest professional quality and performs it before the broadest possible audience.We do plays that make sense out of the headlines by identifying the forces that shape our lives and dramatizing the operation of these giant forces in small, close-up stories that make our audiences feel the impact of political events on personal life. To make this work accessible the Mime Troupe performs its shows in local parks at a price everyone can afford: FREE.
The San Francisco Mime Troupe does not do silent pantomime. We mean 'mime' in the ancient sense: to mimic. We talk, we sing, we make a lot of noise. We are satirists, seeking to make you laugh at the absurdities of contemporary life and at the same time, see their causes. We've done shows about most of the burning issues of our time, generally shows that debunked the official story. We perform everywhere from public parks to palaces of culture, aiming to reach the broadest possible audience.
Our artistic history has been a series of experiments with popular theater forms. Founding director RGDavis began in 1959 with avant-garde performance events in lofts and basements. When he discovered Commedia dell’Arte (Italian Renaissance marketplace comedy) he began tradition of free shows in the parks that still thrives today, over 50 years later. Since becoming a collective in l970, we have done melodramas, spy thrillers, musical comedies, epic histories, sitcoms, cartoon epics. Our trademark style draws from all these genres and is based on their common elements: strong story line, avowed point of view, larger-than-life characters, fantasy, live music.
These are the universal elements of popular theater, understood by everyone from academics gathered on a Midwestern U.S. campus, to a captive audience of prisoners or high school students, to a crowd of working women on a plaza in Bogota. The SFMT delights in savaging the norms of mainstream American theater, with its naturalistic values, its emphasis on personal (or at most family) psychology, its settings confined to living rooms and patios. We admire the depths reached by 20th-century realism, but we also think it sanctions social inaction. Our characters are individuals but they are also members of social classes: conscious or unconscious participants in the unending wars over land and power and wealth which drive human history.
Before the word "multicultural" entered the language, the SFMT was a multiracial company. We made this choice and maintain it to reflect the complexity of America's present reality, and to state our hope for a multicultural future. Many of our shows are cross-cultural collaborations, created on the principle of "Seeing Double" (title of our Obie-winning 1989 show about Israel and Palestine): showing people on each side of a cultural divide what the world looks like from the other. We’ve applied the same idea on international projects: in the Mideast, Canada, Latin America and Asia.
In the l970's and l980's, we toured the U.S. twice a year and Europe every other year. In the 1990's, as touring subsidies disappeared under the Right Wing attack on the National Endowment for the Arts, we replaced one touring season with an annual Youth Theater Project: helping at-risk youth create and perform shows about their lives. Our youth work goes hand-in-hand with an affirmative action policy which has made us multi-generational. We seek out young performers; middle-aged writers and composers collaborate with artists in their twenties to reflect the very different experiences of the 70's and the 00's generations. In 2009, we were able to add to our educational programming when we inherited the Young California Writers' Project from the Magic Theatre. This in-school program gives high school students the opportunity to write their own short plays, then see them brought to life on stage by professional adult actors and directors at a local theatre.
In l987, the nation's theater critics honored the SFMT with a special Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater. Our other most cherished honor is the San Francisco Bay Area Media Allliance Golden Gadfly Award. We intend to go on bringing joy and energy to audiences, and annoying the powerful, well into the 21st century.