Mime, Anyone?

     What is mime? We know it's a popular artform in ministry, but what is it, exactly? There are a lot of people doing it, and many don't understand it, are afraid of it, or see it as evil.
  • Where did mime come from?
  • Why do people wear "mime" make-up?
  • What is the difference between pantomime and mime? Aren't they the same thing?   
     Pantomime is a very old art form that dates back to the Grecian Theatre, when the first recorded pantomime actor Telestes stepped out of the chorus of Seven Against Thebes in 467 B.C. to interpret through movement and gestures, the actions that the chorus sang.  This also shaped the beginnings of Western Theatre. (1)   

     There is a difference between pantomime and mime. Paul Curtis, Founder/Director of The American Mime Theatre, uses the following definitions: Pantomime is the art of creating the illusion of reality by dealing with imaginary objects or situations. Its art rests on the ability to imply weight, texture, line, rhythm and force to the air around them. Mime, on the other hand, is the art of acting silently through various kinds of theatrical movement.

     American mime is a unique combination of playwriting, acting, and moving that is quite different from the familiar French school of mime exemplified by  Marcel Marceau. "He is a pantomimist," Curtis explains, "and pantomime and mime are not the same thing. Pantomime is the handling of imaginary objects or situations. Mime encompasses any form of silent performance. It's a broader term. When a pantomimist is performing, you don't have to believe it or empathize the way you do with speaking theatre. You just see it and are entertained by it. But American mime is more like a play, in that if you don't believe the characters up there, then it's nothing. In American mime, everything has to be motivated; it has to be me. And of course we don't wear white face." American mime actors perform symbolic acdons and express the feelings of their characters honestly through motivated movement they call "form." (2)

     As you can see, there is much more to mime than a lot of people know. One of the main objections to mime ministry is the fact that during the times of the Roman persecution of Christians, mime was used to mock Christianity. It is true that the Roman theatre was the most efficient tool used against Christians (3). But remember that if you don't want mime in the church, there should also be no drama or dance ministries, because according to history, the mimes were part of origins of the theatre, which also eventually included dance as we know it today!  Also, in those days, mimes did not wear "white face", which started in France during the 19th century with the Pierrot pantomimes as pantomime blanche with Gaspard Deburau.

    The mime ministry can be very effective in communicating the Good News of Christ. So, if you are called to minister in this way, learn all that you can about it, don't just put on mime face and a robe, and step out in front of an audience. Know why you do what you are doing, and be able to answer the questions that you may be asked!

     Please enjoy this mime/dance presentation by Dancing For His Glory of Kileen, Texas. Watch their expressions, with and without mime make-up. They are powerful!

(1)Lust, Annette: The Origins and Development of the Art of Mime, www.mime.info/history-lust.html 
(2)Curtis, Paul, The American Mime Theatre, http://www.americanmime.org/ 
(3)Bruch, Debra, Ph.D.: The Prejudice Against Theatre, www.rtjournal.org/vol_3/no_1/bruch.html