Monday, July 25th, 2011
“When people ask me about being a mime, I tell them that it means doing everything with nothing. Some will always have the idea that miming means having a white face and being constantly trapped in a box. I can understand that because when I first saw Marcel Marceau, it didn’t land for me. I just didn’t get it.
“I used to act in high school and my style was very physical. The theater director, Ted Walsh, suggested that I connect with a friend of his who was a mime. This was back in the ninth grade, and I would skip my lunch breaks to go and study miming with one other student. My teacher saw that I had potential and suggested that if I ever had the opportunity, I should go to Paris and study with Decroux, who was Marceau’s teacher. When it was time for me to do a senior project in high school, I went to Paris to study with him for a semester.
“Meeting Decroux was like meeting Rodin after a career of using tinker toys. The man was a master and expanded my understanding of the vocabulary. He made me aware of the grand possibilities of the art and let me know that miming was more than telling stories with your body in a white face in a shopping mall. Through him I learned to explore the grand themes and emotions of life. After high school, I went back to Paris to continue my studies.
“When I came back from Paris, I got a job at the Round House Theater. They had a mime company, and I performed with them and also taught courses. At the same time, I wanted to use Decroux’s inspiration to take on the grand epics, things like Abelard and Heloise and all of these grand, tortured operatic love stories. Some of them went over well, and some truly perplexed the audiences.
“I started realizing how important it is to connect with the audience. Marceau used to talk about the genius of the audience. For him, it was the concept of making your work accessible to people while still trying to pursue some of the grand themes. After studying with Marceau in the 80′s, I came back to the area and built a solo show that also understood the audience’s genius. That became my ticket, and I toured the fairs, festivals, and school assembly festivals for years.
“Knock on wood, I have been a working artist my whole life. I have been flexible in my craft and now do everything from acting as a living statue to help sell perfume to teaching miming to putting on plays, but I have pieced together a living that has supporting a family of artists.
“After all of this time and study, miming doesn’t make me think that words are less important in life. Words have their separate functions. A former teacher of mine, Ami Hattab, used to say, ‘You should only speak if what you have to say is more beautiful than the silence.’ I like that. And, sometimes, there are things to say that are more beautiful than silence.”
Mark Jaster is an artist, performer, teacher, and a founder of Happenstance Theater. The Washington Post called him a “clown extraordinaire and one of the most graceful performers you will ever see on a stage.”
Here he is performing at Fan-Freaking-Tastic: