Friday, July 24, 2009

A Brief History of Mime

My MIME Performance on Horror Kung Fu Theater

(This was shot from backstage on a digital camera/this is not the TV footage)

I am a mime and I'm proud of that. I trained hard learning the art of mime. I really studied it seriously with an amazing and legendary teacher, Whitney Rydbeck, and have worked as a mime professionally on several occasions. I know it may seem weird and geeky or whatever, but I really love being a mime and I think it's very cool. It's a small passion of mine, and an incredibly fun one. Now for some fun and interesting facts about the art of mime.

Comic pantomime/mime performance was originally developed by Bathullos of Alexandria, and the first recorded mime (pantomime actor) was Telestēs in the play "Seven against Thebai" by Aiskhulos. These plays were created as important parts of the Greek Dionysian festivals. Tragic pantomime performance was developed by Puladēs of Kilikia, and although it was a very well respected art form, it never became quite as popular as the comedies. Centuries later the tragic mime character would finally catch on with the main-stream when French and Italian clowns were combined with dramatic, tragic, and romantic operas and ballets.
Some of the different Roman Emperors had conflicting opinions and beliefs about mimes.
**It is interesting to note here that the Roman Emperors who showed any serious interest/belief/or opinion concerning mimes, are the very same Roman Emperors whose sanity is most questioned by our modern history/medical scholars and physicians**.
Traiānus banished mimes from Rome, Caligula adored them, Aurelius made them priests of Apollōn, and the Emperor Nero himself acted as a mime. Mimes were also some of the most popular figures in the masquerades. Some mimes wore make-up, and others wore masks. In Venice many masquerade masks were based on popular characters from the Italian improv, Commedia Del Arte’ (comedy of errors).
Masquerading is very popular at carnivals, festivals, and balls. Wearing a mask/make-up or other disguise is very liberating. It allows you to reinvent yourself and adopt a new/different/or secret personality.
The tradition of the masquerade dates back to ancient Greek drama festivals that were thrown to honor Dionysus, the god of wine, sex, fertility, and the theater. The practice of wearing masks/make-up and costumes was shared among both the performers/actors/acrobats/musicians and guests of the festival, and was passed from Greece to Rome, and from Rome to Venice. Physical comedy evolved out of mime, and the early film comedy actors, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Stan Laurel were all very talented mimes. Today mime is being performed by me, here in Los Angeles. :-)

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