An Overview of Mimes and The Importance of Silence

I got my first computer around 1994. It arrived in a classic Gateway box. Said an astute friend of mine:
“Don’t go carting that box off to the curb or you’ll tip off thieves you’ve got a new computer. Rob me, you may as well say.”
I don’t know why they used a cow theme:


It was a clunky off-white desktop with a heavy box like monitor, a tall upright tower, keyboard, mouse and a floppy disk drive. It really is floppy-an inflexible little floppy disk in all actuality, if you take off the hard protective case…
So I started seeing the word MIME online which in computer speak means  Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions. This MIME is a formatter of sorts, it supports multiple attachments in a single message; it supports layouts, fonts and colors as rich text. It works behind the scenes in communication in emails for attachments which may contain executables, audio, images and video files, unlimited message length, etc. BLAH BLAH BLAH.
But mimes, as in the performance artists, this type of mime is far more interesting.


Marcel Marceau

I really loved animals when I was little – my friend and I had an imaginary vet’s office; we would mime doing surgery on animals. We treated more injuries than illnesses – fixing a baby bear with a broken leg, removing a tumor. Of course, our surgeries would take about five seconds; that’s how good we were.“–Hannah Murray (me too hannah!)

I don’t profess to have music as my big wheel and there are a number of other things as important to me apart from music. Theatre and mime, for instance.“–David Bowie

Mummers and Dumbshows

No one speaks of mummers anymore unless you count the annual Mummer’s Parade in Pennsylvania. Shame because I like the word. But the word dumb I can do without as it applies to mimes. In Medieval Europe ‘mummer plays’ and  ‘dumbshows’ were popular entertainments. It’s interesting how the word dumb came to be synonymous with silent, or mute.

From an early age I’ve been drawn to mimes. When I think of early mimists I think of the people who originated the artform: the Mime Jocks (or Jacques), namely: Jacques Copeau,  Jacques Lecoq, and  Jacques Tati. Jacques must have been a popular name then.

Normally, I suppose a person doesn’t think much about pantomime unless they’ve got a swollen mouth full of novocaine or laryngitis and need to communicate in a means other than audible speech. Maybe, a person with selective mutism thinks about pantomime more than most.

Miming is an artform..


The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

I remember when I first made a mental checkmark on mimes. I was 13 and a Freshman. We’d just filed into the gymnasium and sat in chairs before the stage, awaiting some kind of an assembly which I figured was going to be a “pep rally” or Christmas play. I was wrong. Mimes in full make-up and costume took the stage and I sat up straighter. Mimes pulled an invisible rope, threaded a nonexistent needle, walked against the wind, tried to feel their ways out of invisible boxes. I was hooked!

You can click open an email and be oblivious to all of the behind the scenes MIME formatting.  It’s sort of like that with the art of miming. That which is behind the scenes gets expressed. The silent actor conveys feelings or scenes using only facial expressions and body language.

To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man.“–

Marcel Marceauunnamed (2)unnamed (1)

A melancholy vagabond named simply Bip,

Bip had a profound effect on the history of mime! Marcel Marceau is a person I studied extensively when I got interested in miming in earnest in the mid 2000s.

His character “Bip,” the clown (based on the 19th-century French Pierrot) in his battered deflowered opera hat and striped pullover had numerous misadventures that captivated the world. I like that. Captivating the world and not uttering a single word aloud. Marceau made miming a true silent art.

Mimes either annoy or amuse. Mimes perform street art. They busk. Traditionally, the mime wears tight black or white clothing with white facial makeup. That’s what I wore kind of when I took up miming in the 2000s. I posed for pictures in full mime for an RIT student’s photography assignments. Here are some of those photos of me, taken by Amy Tuccio:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Silent film comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton were some of the people I studied; and of course Marceau, when I did my posing. I practiced “mime in a box,” “sad mime,” surprised mime,” mime pulling a rope,” and other well known mime positions.

“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it! No matter how desperate the predicament is, I am always very much in earnest about clutching my cane, straightening my derby hat and fixing my tie, even though I have just landed on my head.” – Charlie Chaplin

There’s something to be said about that.
The mysterious and everyday things in life: natural disasters, death, birth, harvesting crops, floods and drought, were reenacted once upon a time in what can be thought of as early mime. Our people painted their faces with plant extracts and wore skins to mimic animals. Native Americans and Aborigines ritualized these mysterious life events and honored them in ceremonies using gestures, pantomime, face masks or make-up. Early Chinese performers used hand carved wooden masks painted to create characters with distinctive personality traits. Since the beginning of time we’ve tried to make sense of our world through art.

Silence in literature


“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”
― Chaim PotokThe Chosen

“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.”
― Nicholas SparksThe Notebook

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”
― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

“Seeing her sitting there unresponsive makes me realize that silence has a sound.”
― Jodi PicoultMy Sister’s Keeper

What do you think of this story: a mime artist who lives in the era of Nazi-occupied Europe, is forced by his oppressors to perform his craft (mime) for a team of Red Cross observers. This is the story of The Last Butterfly, by Canadian author Michael Jacot.

Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll’s The Clown is about a mime artist, Hans Schneir and his downfall. The mime descends into poverty and becomes a drunkard because he is abandoned by his beloved.

Here is another mime story: A landlord rents a spare apartment to a mime. I’m talking about Jacob Appel’s Pushcart short-listed story, Coulrophobia. In essence, the landlord’s marriage slowly collapses after he rents his spare apartment to an intrusive mime artist.

So, that’s interesting. We have a story about a mime forced to perform under duress by Nazis, a story of a poor down on his luck drunkard mime thwarted by love and a man whose marriage is ruined by his tennant – a meddlesome mime.
-How about modern day mime? The Blue Man Group comes to mind. I have seen them perform twice. I encourage you to see them.

This is the second draft of this particular blog. Somehow I accidentally deleted the first one, which I worked on for hours. It read through far better than this version, believe me.

Anyway, as I sit here on my corner of the couch (I have MY spot on the couch just as Sheldon Cooper has his) tapping the last sentence on my laptop, while simultaneously calling out Jeopardy answers which are really questions, (perhaps that’s why I accidentally deleted the first draft, I should not multi task) Alex Trebek called out an answer that was about mimes! I’m typing away about mimes and Alex says Mime.

Now that’s synchronicity.

I like synchronicity, whether we’re talking mimes, or parliaments of owls, or catawampus things (see my previous blog entitled Art, Auties, A Call For Submissions and a Catawampus Brain to explain the owls thing)…
So I’ll end this with a smile which is hiding a silent scream for having deleted my first draft which I worked on for hours!!!! Incidentally, while you were reading this, if that commercial came on with the mime in it, then you too have experienced synchronicity! Bravo that means something although I am not sure what.


2 thoughts on “An Overview of Mimes and The Importance of Silence

  1. I can understand your Passion about Marcel Marceau cause I have the same!!

    In “The Mask Maker”, Marcel Marceau explores the full range of human emotions; the narrative gestures, the slight adjustment of body stance, the amazingly facial expressions signalize an alphabet of human emotions one right after the other.

    How many times does a clown becomes a mask maker?
    How many times in our life do we all of us become mask makers??

    Liked by 1 person

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