Separate Worlds of Migration Merge in Dallas 

by Becky Baumwoll

Originally published November 23, 2016 by Clowns Without Borders

I met David and Bekah upon arrival, my co-teachers from Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado, respectively. We were to arrive in Dallas and figure out how to teach two weeks of clown workshops to both students and adults. They were all refugees from around the world, having arrived in the States anywhere from weeks to months ago. Some could speak English, some could not. As the Artistic Director of a mime theater company with no formal experience in clowning, I knew this would be a trip of many firsts.

A Unseen, Unconscious Landscape

Art Basel Unlimited 16I’m leaning over an empty gallery pedestal, in a warehouse-like space entitled “Unlimited 16” -- a sprawling exhibition of installation art inhabiting one of three event spaces of the larger Art Basel fair, in Basel, Switzerland. My pedestal is on the edge of a small field of pedestals, all empty. A few of them also have close observers, dressed as I am head-to-toe in white, with pink gloves. But in my mind, I see
an Unconscious Landscape. By Louise Bourgeois.

It's a work I was introduced to just a few weeks ago, but having now learned every slope, I’m tracing and shaping the air with my pink-gloved hands, outlining and narrating the piece to myself. We all do it a little differently, the various mimes, according to our strengths -- some have more patience than I can muster, or more precision -- but for me, the tracing is always a story.

Why Mime?

I get this one a lot. It’s usually the second question people ask when they discover my mimeness, right after “can you do the box thing?”

In truth I don’t have a satisfactory answer, at least not for myself, and people don’t seem to accept “because I kind of have to….” Why dedicate so much time to this style? Why are there certain stories that can only be told this way? What is it that draws me, living today, to this style that dates back thousands of years?

Like many simple questions, “Why Mime?” has a complex answer...

[puts on philosophy hat]

In 2014, BKBX teaching artists reached over 700 students, spreading our passion for silent storytelling to students aged pre-k through adult.  Broken Box Education programming is a wonderful and important part of what we do - teaching mime and theater-making gives us the opportunity to distill and reflect on our process while spreading the joy, of course! Read more for some highlights from our education projects this year!

I’m sitting among the mimes in our cabin singing “Miming in the Woods is Good”! It’s one of the many songs that we have composed this past week, and trust me this one is a hit and these mimes can sing.

Tonight marks our last night of our White Pines Residency at Mohican Outdoor Center on the Appalachian trail in New Jersey. We are 12 mimes in the middle of the woods, we all eat breakfast at 8 o’clock in the morning, we pack our lunches at 9, we walk on a gravel path through the woods to the Boat House, the most scenic rehearsal hall your dreams can create. We start with physical warm ups and get down to business, mime-style.

A: By talking.  Lots and lots of talking. 

Yesterday we had a mini-meeting with a few company members to discuss a skit we've been working on.  Key ideas: suspense, dark themes, obsession... and the image of a corset.  How's that for inspiration? We each came with a draft, then ordered some snacks and got to work...

Let's just say this. If we got a penny for every time someone asked "What's the point of telling this story?" in rehearsals, we wouldn't need a Kickstarter right now.  That's the key for us: honing in on what makes us excited to tell the story, what's at the heart of it.  The same for any playwright, no? But in this case, in addition to throwing ideas around 11 collaborating members (oy vey!), we're also asking a new question: why tell this story in mime?

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