Our mission over the last 60 years
The mission of the San Francisco Mime Troupe is to create and produce theater that presents a working-class analysis of the events that shape our society, that exposes social and economic injustice, that demands revolutionary change on behalf of working people, and to present this analysis before the broadest possible audience with artistry and humor.
The collective of the San Francisco Mime Troupe exists not only to create this activist art but also to embody our ideals of combating the fragmentation of the working class: we are a democratically run, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-cultural, gender-balanced theater of social justice that by its very existence sustains a vision of community governance of, by, and for the people.
Frequently asked questions about us
Why do you call yourself a Mime Troupe if you talk and sing?
We use the term mime in its classical and original definition, "The exaggeration of daily life in story and song." It is a form of popular theater that is as old as the marketplace itself. From the ancient Greek and Roman farces to the Renaissance commedia dell'arte to modern Chinese Opera, using archetypes comically to illustrate people's issues is a time honored worldwide tradition. Our broadly drawn characters are instantly recognizable allowing the audience to immediately engage in the action. Our work is political satire and anything but silent.
Having said that, it should be noted that after studying with French mime master Etienne Decroux, R.G. Davis founded the Troupe in 1959 creating pieces, some silent, some with words, that were considered avant-garde. Today it would be called performance art. So, in fact, the first year of our long history we did perform pantomime, but our politics were too outspoken for that to last.
What's in a name?
Given the confusion about our name, many ask why we just don't change it. It's true that every one of us has spent far too much time explaining our use of mime (see above). Nevertheless, after 50 years, numerous awards, and many articles and theses written about us, it's hard to give up that name recognition. Still there are many who haven't seen a show that still think we "walk against the wind." It's a dilemma and in fact when we've discussed changing the name (about once a year), we just can't find one that quite fits. But we are proud of the San Francisco aspect of our name. Our city is also a state of mind, one that represents tolerance, celebrates diversity in a big way, and raises the bar for progressive thought.
The Troupe part also fits, we are much more itinerant than other companies. Our "home season" is performed in different public parks each week-end and the rest of our time we tour around the state, nation, and world. This fosters a camaraderie that again echoes the touring commedia troupes of the past. When it comes to the work load, we all do it all.
Who is your artistic director?
The San Francisco Mime Troupe is a worker-owned company, headed by a collective. The Collective is comprised of poly-talented people who steer the artistic direction of the company and also hire office staff. A collective member might be an actor who is also a costume designer and flute player, or a technician who is also a writer and building manager. The eclecticism of the collective is only limited by the eclecticism of each individual member.
How does one become a Collective member?
After the Collective works with an individual for a while, it becomes apparent that in addition to their talent(s), they have the right work ethic, one that puts the company ahead of the individual. A member will bring the person's name up as a candidate for membership and after discussion and interviews, the question will come to a vote. If voted in, the new Collective member must agree to commit two years to the Troupe. The balance of individual politics and different personalities is a delicate one so the Collective does not add members often. We often advise our potential candidates to weigh their decision carefully, because though we offer an artistic home, we require a strong commitment to creative development, political thought, and hard work for not much money.
How much are the tickets to your shows?
Every summer, we perform in San Francisco Bay Area parks, July 4th through Labor Day. After the performance the actors and musicians come out into the audience to pass the hat. We ask people to donate what they paid for their last movie. And, if they can, we ask them to pay for others who can't afford to donate or to just give what they can, thus making our accessible theatre truly accessible for everyone. Other times, we are booked by local organizations wherein they set the admission prices. These types of performances are usually indoors. For these shows we strive to keep our ticket prices affordable. As of 2008, our touring ticket prices were $20 plus or minus.
What does the red star mean on your logo?
We uphold socialist ideals. The red star and red flags have a long history of representing people's struggle, socialism and communism. This should not be read as support for totalitarian regimes. Just the opposite.
The dictionary defines "red flag" as follows:
1. A warning signal.
2. Something that demands attention or provokes an irritated reaction.
3. The emblem of socialist revolution.
In politics, a red flag is a symbol of Socialism, or Communism, or sometimes left-wing politics in general. It has been associated with left-wing politics since the French Revolution. Socialists adopted the symbol during the Revolutions of 1848 and it became a symbol of communism as a result of its use by the Paris Commune of 1871. The flags of several communist states, including China, Vietnam and the Soviet Union, are explicitly based on the original red flag. The red flag is also used as a symbol by some democratic socialists and social democrats, for example the Avami National Party (Pakistan), French Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. The Labour Party in Britain used it until the late 1980s. It was the inspiration for the socialist anthem, The Red Flag.