S.F. Mime Troupe's Theater for Communities
In the Philippines, India and other countries of the Third and Second worlds, theater is widely used as a tool for community empowerment. Theater professionals work with grassroots groups in urban and rural areas to create short plays about community issues. Participants experience the fulfillment of creative expression and collective problem solving. Community members then perform the plays at meetings and rallies, inspiring people to organize and speak out against injustice in their societies.
The Mime Troupe is famous for creating political satire with music. We do not do pantomime. We do mime in the ancient sense of "to imitate, to mimic." Our work is grounded in the American Melodrama and Commedia dell'Arte traditions. We use larger the life characters, fantasy, and a strong story line with an avowed point of view. The goal of the Mime Troupe workshop is to teach the tools and put the power of creation into the hands of the participants.
Our instructors use theater and improvisation games and team-building exercises to break down barriers, encourage collaboration, and facilitate trust and comfort. Then the stock characters and contemporary archetypes are introduced. We move from there into ensemble methods of play creation and burning issue discussions. Time permitting, we then form small groups that create, rehearse, and perform a short play, using five frames to make a scene and essentialize the story.
Lecture/Demonstration for up to 300 participants
In 1 - 3 hours, the Mime Troupe can present the history of the company. A Collective Member will explain the origins of the company and its evolution as a key part of the Counter Culture, Anti-War Movement, and the International Popular Theatre Community. We will use slides and/or videotape selections to help the audience visualize the work. We usually bring audience members up to try several physical games and character exercises as part of teaching the outdoor style that has made the company famous.
Three-Hour Workshop for 10 to 30 participants
In this format, company members will take participants through the basic skill and physical training required to play in the larger-than-life style that drives our comedies. We begin with a physical warm-up, then a series of games designed to mold participants into an ensemble. This leads into a survey of contemporary archetypes or Commedia dell'Arte characters. We use improvisation exercises to work on character building with dynamic, whole body techniques. We begin to use these skills to turn political ideas into theater.
One Day Workshop for 10 to 20 participants (six hours with an hour break)
In this all day form, we take participants into a much more detailed understanding of our work. The same physical approach and ensemble building games form a group that is ready to create. We teach the Commedia dell'Arte or the American Melodrama character families. After the break, we begin the key exercise: tableau making, telling a story in pictures. From tableaus, we move on to a "silent movie." We then add words, and eventually musical accompaniment. By the end of the day we have passed through a silent movie version of the short plays and finish with an attempt at dialogue. This session has often produced works that continue after the Mime Troupe is gone. We have found that six hours is ideal. This can happen in a one-day session, which includes an hour-long break or in two three-hour sessions over two days.
One or Two-Week Master Class for 10 to 20 participants
The promise of a whole week together transforms the group into a special experience. Time allows the company members to slow the pace so that the students get to repeat exercises and master the skill and deepen their understanding of why we approach the work this way. We parallel the form of the six-hour class but each hour is expanded to fill an entire day. At the end of the week we often have a public performance.
THE LECTURE DEMONSTRATION requires an auditorium with a stage that is at least 12' deep by 15' wide. Without this space the demonstration aspect will be limited. It is best if this small stage is raised so that the audience can easily see the feet of the presenter and the audience members who join in exercises. We will need a slide screen and a Kodak Ectographic projector with remote cable and appropriate lens for the projection distance. To show video and DVD, we will need either a large screen monitor and player or a video beam projector and a movie screen. In large or difficult acoustic halls we will need a microphone on stand with enough cable that the presenter can roam the stage. Lighting should be bright and cover the stage area. House lights will be left on during the lecture except for the slide and video presentation. The sponsor will provide operators for sound and light as well as house management.
THE ENSEMBLE STYLE WORKSHOPS (three hour through one week), need a large open room like a dance studio approximately 30' x 40' with lights and heat or cooling to make the space comfortable and safe. The ceiling should be 12' to 15' high. In general the space should be cleared of all fragile or unnecessary objects. The approach is active and physical, and with a group of thirty students we need room for them to work together and in teams of four or five. No sound or theatrical lights are necessary.
STUDENTS SHOULD WEAR loose, flexible attire suitable for dance workout and body contact exercises. In longer sessions it is good if students bring kneepads and elbow pads to work pratfalls and basic stunts. Each person knows what his or her special physical condition is and must take responsibility for communicating these to the workshop instructor. In the one-week class we ask students to bring costume pieces, hats or any bag of tricks, props or other devices that may help make the short plays more exciting.
For more information please contact:
The office - info[at]sfmt.org