Sunday, December 22, 2013

"After I Die..."

 A memorable dinner with Marcel Marcel Marceau in Paris, November 2004
Left to Right:  Victoria Labalme, Marcel Marceau, Haruka Moriyama, Gregg Goldston, Max Nourissat, Alexander Neander

"After I die, you'll tell people that "the mime" as a performer is the violin of all the instruments in a symphony orchestra."

This is what Gregg told me in a small bar near Cap 21 Studios, where he used to teach mime and physical comedy from 2001 to 2004. We often spent after-class hours there, hearing his stories about the art of mime and its philosophy. 

(Yes, Gregg is alive and actually very healthy. But I decided to share this story much earlier than he asked.)

Feeling the depth and significance of the word "violin" in his voice and gaze, I had no clue what he meant by "violin".

As I wrote previously, rich musicality called "The Musicianship" in mime performance develops overtime while we train our muscles by cubically defining and coiling body parts and also train our DNA by listening to different types of music constantly. 

If we hear the general term "rhythm" or "musicality", the word can mislead us to an intellectual image of it like that on a sheet music. However, as I kept working with Gregg, I started to catch a glimpse of a whole new world he called "Musicianship", which was not at all intellectual, but was much more tactile and forceful, where a lot of breath was used, where the rhythm became thicker and three dimensional, more vividly colorful and subjective as if the sound was generated within the musician's organs and exploded as it was projected towards the audience.

This was beyond what I used to understand as "rhythm" on a sheet music. That is why, I think, Gregg started to call it "The Musicianship", instead of "musicality". 

Last summer, I almost accidentally happended to perform one of my plays with Stephan Grappelli's short violin tune called "Misty". All of a sudden what Gregg meant by "The mime is the violin" made sense to me. I think it could happen to me then for two reasons. 

One was that I needed to improvise a lot and shorten my play to less than half the length of my original play while I was on stage. That condition forced me to listen to the music more carefully than usual. And secondly, that was the first violin tune I used for my play, and in the wings I was actually thinking back the very quote I heard in the bar a decade ago. "The mime is the violin... What could that mean to me now..."

What I learned from Grappelli on stage that day became one of my important milestones.  For I needed to deeply focus on the music, my visible thoughts naturally reflected the intensity of his violin sounds, and my acting got more layers of rhythms which I never had before!

As you know, a violin has a bow to rub against the strings back and forth. That edgy but delicate contact of the bow and strings creates the unique intensity of the vivid violin sounds. The way violin notes sustain is very different from other instruments. 

In order to sustain a violin note, the player must keep creating the new "current" sounds which is the "current" contact of the instrument. In other words, the violin sounds is less round, more square, vivid and raw, like the way our visible inner thoughts want to be seen by the audience.

But "reverb" in, for example, piano notes is not really a "current" sound, but an extension and reflection of a "past" sound, so it is not as keen or intense as a sustained violin sound. 

The characteristics of the violin sounds can most dexterously and intensely sculpt and resemble our delicate but amplified "visible" human thoughts. 

"After I die, you'll tell people that "the mime" as a performer is the (visual) violin of all the instruments in a symphony orchestra.

Firstly, that our technical level is not only most comparable to the skill required to be a solo violinist. 
And secondly and the most important to share is this: If we compared how we use our body, how we project our thoughts, suspend and coil, and how we stretch time...
Is most comparable to a violin.

Consequently, for the past 10 years, I've considered myself a human violin."  - Gregg Goldston

We wish you magical holidays filled with joy, laughter and art of mime.

--- We will see you in 2014!

Written by Haruka Moriyama 

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Season's Greetings from The GMI New York

"May your holidays sparkle and shine!"

This year has been filled with joy, inspirations and laughter for us. Thank you all for your support and heartwarming smiles you brought to us both in and out of class.

We hope to see you all in person in 2014. 
Please write to us to stay connected. 

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"A phrase is a sentence, when it comes to the acting. A phrase is a song, when it comes to an activity."

"A phrase is a sentence, when it comes to the acting. 
A phrase is a song, when it comes to an activity."  
- Gregg Goldston

“When it comes to our acting, we deliver a phrase like a Sentence.  When it comes to an Activity or an Illusion, we deliver a phrase like a Song.”

Today we will share The Goldston Mime Grammar Page 3 - "The Phrasing Categories & Examples of Mime Phrasing. 

First, here is the background story on how this all developed:

In 2006, Gregg was brought in to teach at the American Ballet Theater Summer Intensive in order to help the dancers improve their acting.  While preparing for this work he studied countless productions from companies around the world.  Although ABT didn’t ask him to teach or address “Ballet Mime” he discovered that the difference between Ballet Mime and Modern Mime was that Ballet used a 3-beat system and Mime used a 4-beat system.  This is why when watching Ballet Mime, the audience never feels the conclusion of a sentence, conversation, or scene.  

Seeing that this was what Mime could offer Ballet, Gregg spent over two-years developing a complete grammar structure that ranged from a soloist day dreaming, to a full company scene from Romeo & Juliet.

***It was from this period of research that led Gregg to what we now call:  
“See-Wish-Doubt-Believe.”  The Four-Beat Sentence Structure.***

As he developed this Grammar, he studied “all” the situations in which a non-verbal communication phrase happened within a story ballet.  Learning this, Gregg then categorized them according to type of “scene”, they would appear in.

Those phrases are categorizes as below:

  • Attitude Phrase
  • Activity Phrase
  • Monologue Phrase
  • Dialogue Phrase
  • Announcement Phrase

Without that enormous effort and dedication Gregg had for creating a modernized grammar of ballet mime, this modern system of non-verbal grammar that we are sharing today, would not be exist.  It is true that this system was in use by Gregg, and it originated by examining how Marcel Marceau made his thought process so clearly visible.  However, it was only after codifying Ballet Mime, that he realized he had also codified Mime Acting to a higher level.

This was certainly the best part of all this work, and since then Gregg and I have been continuing to codify a broad grammar of mime and assemble it into a teachable foundation of techniques for mime artists worldwide.

Now, let's imagine how we can put this grammar to use by looking at a few mime scenes.

Example 1:  You see a girl you like very much, but you are too shy to speak to her. How do you physically show that (Attitude Phrase) on stage?

Do you have at least four sequential beats (physical gestures) to say "I could never speak to her" and complete your sentence?  If you just make one pose of shyness, that is not a phrase to be understood. And if you have only three gestures instead of four, that cannot give a conclusion.

Example 2: You tie a necktie in your scene. Does that activity have its beginning, middle and end in different rhythms as if you are singing a musical phrase internally and visually? 

Tying a necktie ends with the tightening quick move of your hands with your whole body and face reflecting it. The rhythm and your acting together must complete like the end of a musical phrase. And usually, the end of a phrase has a pronounced longer moment ("The Hold Point") to be photographed nicely (by an imaginary camera of your "Universal Audience".

At first glance these seem like simple and arbitrary thoughts to show, and/or illusionary activities to practice.  However, Gregg assembled a variety of topics that will put you in many “emotional” scenes causing you to have to utilize the four-beat structure.

Note that this page works directly with The Mime Acting page we released on November 10, 2013.  

We suggest you and a colleague try to act out each of these scenes using the 4-beat acting moments.  By exploring the variety of combinations with another person, you will both be able to see the power of “Thought over Action.”

Here are a few examples I would start with:

Curious, only (Attitude Phrase) 

Curious (Attitude Phrase) 
plus Opening a Present (Activity Phrase)

Sorrow, My love has left me. only (Attitude Phrase)

Sorrow, My love has left me.  (Attitude Phrase) 
plus Getting Dressed (Activity Phrase)

Spontaneity is always required in the training of phrasing all five categories above. But remember, it is supposed to be fun for you like a casual jam session. I have to remind myself about this and dance around when I get too serious about phrasing. 

"Yes, it should be fun and it IS fun!"

Gregg Goldston
in "The Argument"

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Comedy is anything taken to its most exaggerated limit." - Learning the Principles of Physical Comedy

Comedy is anything taken to its most exaggerated limit."  
- Etienne Decroux

A variety of performing artists from stage and film attend our “Physical Comedy through Mime” class. 

Most of these people first tell us “they are not funny” and they cannot do comedy.  However, I assure you that Physical Comedy can be learned because it’s an art in itself.  It isn't part of mime, or dance or theater; it has its own set of laws and conventions that are simplistic and learnable.

The principals in today’s article will enable you to begin to add infinite possibilities of visual humor to your scene, in any kind of performing arts.

Physical Comedy & The Mystery of Talent

Today I write for people who are new to physical comedy.  I personally had a hard time learning it especially for the first few years of my training.  It was always frightening for me to perform comedy in front of people, not having a clue of why sometimes it was easy and not always. The more I felt timid and afraid of making mistakes, the more tragic my comedy became. I started to think that comedy required some kind of talent you’re born with and I believed that I did not have any of it. 

It seemed true that some people who grew up making others laugh often acquire sense of physical comedy faster than others do, but I now see that the key is a relaxation while executing the comedy phrase.  Because if you are nervous or disbelieving your ability to be comedic, you cannot hear the most important element of comedy, "the comical rhythm".

Anyone can learn Physical Comedy step by step, because comedy “Is About Steps.” It is a “sequential” delivery of thoughts, and actions not a simultaneous one.  It is about the quality and rhythm of your "projected thoughts".  You play a musical instrument silently with your eyes, face, and body in square rhythm to convey your thoughts to the audience.

Comedy is Painful:

Making a scene comedic requires a strong focus on your acting within the scene.  Most great comedians create a persona that we “feel sorry for,” an empathetic character.  One key way to create this is to put your character in situations that make them the victim of the situation.  The audience always laughs at “pain” so put yourself in danger of pain, either physically or psychologically.

Even in a scene of "being in love",  you become a victim of love, and that is why your character becomes universally laughable, thus, worth loving on stage.

It’s your “Thought Process” that makes you funny, not your story.  

It’s not the Action, it’s the Reaction.

In improvisations in our class, we often see students' too much effort to convey a comic story (ideas of events) in order to make the scene comedic.  However, a comic story becomes "visually comical" only after the character’s sincere thoughts reach the audience whether it is a theater audience or a film camera.  The process of becoming comic is very different from writing a comic story in words searching for unexpected events in the story.

Comedic thoughts?

The word "comedic thoughts" may sound unclear for some people.

How can we make comedic thoughts?  Here are some basic aspects to see if you can make your thoughts comic.

"Comedy is square. Drama is round."

1. Is your non-verbal monologue visually square or soft and round? If soft and round, choose fewer moments of thoughts, hold a little longer on each thought and paint a dot with your eyes in the air for each thought. Keep breathing and hold your thought vibrant while you paint the dot. Then connect dots (thoughts) with straight lines and make those dots (edges of thoughts) sharp, not round. 

2. Are your eyes and cheeks seen by your audience? If not, look for a range of directions where your cheeks are seen from your audience while you share your thoughts (Wish, Doubt, Believe). Comedic thoughts must be visible to the audience first.

"The Spielberg" - Always feel where your audience is and adjust your face angle to have your eyes and face seen as much as possible, instead of expecting your audience to approach you with flying cameras like Spielberg movies. We, the performers, become the flying cameras for the audience. 

3. If you sing your phrase, does the rhythm sound comic?  If you count each thought as beat, you should be able to sing your thoughts like an instrument.

If the beats in the musical phrase you sang were evenly spaced or sound somehow boring, it is called "The Flat-lining".  You just entered a dangerous zone where your audience may consider leaving you soon.  How can you break the rhythm to get out of the dangerous zone?  Make every beat different in length and the emotional pitch (physical tension), and surprise yourself with spontaneity.

4. Can you put yourself as a sympathetic victim of the situation in your scene (in pain physically or psychologically)?  If not, try to lose the sense of "In Control" of your situation and make it "Out of Control". Then, scream with your eyes, "It is not funny to me!" 

5. While your character is in trouble, can you still remain light?

In other words, are you keeping your eyes open and readable and a little stupid that you cannot completely understand the danger?  Even if the story can lead to a life or death situation,  your audience does not like to imagine blood or an ambulance in a comedic scene.

Comedy is not a "911 – Emergency!"  It’s an escapable “Terror.”  The character is a victim with an exit to the situation. Like he is about to get run over by a car, He screams!  Then he falls into an open manhole in the street that saves his life.  

Do not close your eyes or you will make the scene go dramatic.  The comedy is always in your eyes.

You just finished the basic principles of Physical Comedy.  Did everything make sense to you?  Then, you are now ready to study the next level of Physical Comedy such as "The 1-2-3 Setup", "Bait & Switch", "A Drop Off" and "A Shake Off" and many, many more.  

We recommend watching great comedy films, old and new, and you will learn great rhythms by watching them over and over.  Gregg recommends:  Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  The Philadelphia Story.  Groundhog Day.  The General.  City Lights.  The Pink Panther movies.  Monster’s Inc. 

If you would like more step by step guidance, please come study with us in New York City! I am sure that all will make sense to you.

Great News about The GMI Workshops:

We will have weekend workshops in New York City starting next year. Please send us your specific requests on topics covered in those workshops. We will go deep, taking enough time for each technique. 

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"The Flashlight" - Follow-Up

Dear Mime Artists around the World,

I cannot believe that it is already the end of November!  Thanks to each of you for supporting and spreading the word about The GMI Community, our International Summer Institute, and this blog site. 

With your help, our blog reached thousands of views within three months since it opened, and we are now connected with so many mime artists on earth including the ones we have never met.  Our blog articles are now being read in thirty five countries listed below:

United States, Poland, Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Croatia, Serbia, Finland, Lebanon, Australia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Puerto Rico, Denmark, Portugal, China, Hong Kong, Spain, Czech, Belgium, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Iraq, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Paraguay, Iceland, Indonesia, and Egypt.

"The Flashlight" - Follow up

Today I will answer one of the questions from a reader regarding my last article. The question was about how "The Flashlight" for indoor space is done physically in relation to "Eye Focus" and "The Attitude Phrase".

In our New York studio, I recently demonstrated this technique using an actual flashlight.  It was very helpful for the students to understand the process and its timing.  And their immediate improvement I saw was unbelievable. 

"The Flashlight" Process in relation to Eye Focus:

Imagine you are wearing a head lamp which has a narrow focused flashlight attached to it. You enter a dark room with the head lamp on.

Head Lamp

Section 1) 
Shine "The Flashlight" (head lamp) on a diagonal high corner of the indoor space.  You "See" a wall clock hung there with your head and eyes together.  Immediately adjust your eye focus to recognize the clock like you naturally do in life when you try to read a street sign.  This should take almost two seconds.  (Two beats = see, recognize.)  As you “recognize, inflate (coil) your body into an attitude.  Then, move to the next point.  

* You only have about 6 to 10 seconds of stage time to “Paint the Space” that you are in.  Best advice is to make this a musical phrase of beats that are quick thoughts about the place.  This is illustrated in the examples that follow.

Section 2) 
Keep your flashlight pointing there and say to yourself a few quick thoughts in beats such as "Oh? clock... cool!" while making your eyes farsighted and focused upon the clock. Then, you can add a few minimal moves with your eyes, painting “thought dots” in the air, independently from your head.  

* Internally sing short syllable words like above or simple sounds.  Thoughts for "The Flashlight must be square and quick taking only a few seconds at the most for one glance.  Do not take longer time or describe the thing with gestures. 

* It’s true that a simple visualization such as a clock in the performer's mind helps us achieve a better acting moment, during this phase of your play.  But it is not important "what" we are visualizing. What it is important, is that we ARE visualizing something in order to show a “place” around us.

While “painting the space” stay in one place, do not walk around.  Quickly repeat Sections 1 and 2 above on two or three more points at different heights and angles from where you are until you see the space in your own imagination.  Each space will take a different time and rhythm.  Describing a Church will be more lyrical and a busy street in Times Square will be more frenetic.  The opening moments of a play can be the most enjoyable part once you take advantage of these tools.

After you’ve drawn the space, you’re finished with "The Flashlight" phrase and can now add "The Depicting Objects."

Quick "Attitude Phrase" (See, Wish, Doubt, Believe) in "The Flashlight"

Let's find "The Attitude Phrase" in each glance of "The Flashlight" for indoor space.  One glance (at one corner of the space) consists of two sections.  Section 1 is "See", and Section 2 is "Wish", "Doubt", and "Believe".

Section 1) You see a point with the head lamp and eyes together and recognize (visualize) a thing.  This is the moment of "See" in "The Attitude Phrase".  Your eyes get focused on the thing by widening your eyes in a second.

Section 2) You keep your head lamp pointing there, and give a few thoughts ("Wish" and "Doubt") about what you saw with minimal moves and color changes of your eyes separately from your head, then make a quick conclusion ("Believe"). 

You just completed a quick "Attitude Phrase" (See, Wish, Doubt, Believe) about the thing you saw on the corner of the indoor space.  This "Attitude Phrase" is shown so fast that people hardly notice it.  But if that is missing, your audience will easily get lost in your play.

Again, the timing is so important in "The Flashlight".  And those quick seconds you take will definitely help your audience feel at home throughout the scene.

Here is a video link to Gregg's "Phantom 309", my favorite play. Watch this play and see how quickly he puts in "The Flashlight" when he enters the cafe.  He sees the corners and things sitting there, so we, the viewers, create the space through our own memory and imagination.  It is not important "what" he saw, but it is important "that" he saw.

Please feel free to send any comments and questions you have about mime techniques, our articles, etc. Gregg is currently creating a video series "Goldmime Online" to support our global community.

If you are not receiving our weekly email with latest news, I highly recommend you to send an email at 
and join the GMI Community by the end of the year so that you will receive full support and exciting news from The GMI.

Also, please share this blog through Google g+1,  Facebook or any mime related site so that more people can get support from us. 

Thank you!

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"The Flashlight" The First Few Seconds On Stage


In a mime performance, it is critical to give the essential visual information on "Where the character is" at the very beginning of a scene as quickly as possible, whether it is an indoor space, outdoor space, or even “no-place” in an abstract environment.

There are different ways to establish your "Visible Environment" and we often combine various techniques in accordance with the characteristics of the play. Today, I will explain only the very first step I call "The Flashlight", an effective way to visually create the foundation of the space before you add "The Depicting Objects" which was explained two weeks ago.

B-1) "The Flashlight": Introductory Space Reflection

This technique is used when you first introduce your new environment to help the audience instantly visualize the most fundamental information as below:
"Is this indoor or outdoor?"
"What is the general size and shape of this indoor space?"

1) Narrow Focused Flashlight for Indoor Space: 

Shine a "Flashlight" on three points
As soon as you enter an indoor space, you give a quick glance with eye focus at three different points. It is often effective if you choose one diagonal corner, which is a farthest point from you, and two other points in different angles and heights. At each focus point, stop your head for two beats and let your eyes register a thought.  This will feel like your eyes are painting dots, which eventually paint a picture of your space.

Quick thoughts on dots
Always remember to reflect quick thoughts on each point you see. But you don't want to make it a great deal by "describing" the unknown things for it is only about a rough idea of the space. Simply visualize the things sitting at those corners. Colorful thoughts naturally come out from your visualizing eyes.
And after those three stops on dots, you can give a phrase of after thoughts about that space.

This "Flashlight" process helps the audience understand the general size and shape of the three dimensional indoor space and the relationship between you and the space through your thoughts.

If you enter a church, 

1. You can look at a diagonal far corner visualizing a stature or painting there, 

2. Then, look at a little closer object at a lower height visualizing someone kneeling there, 

3. Then look up the high ceiling with stained glass taking a little longer time, in order to give the initial idea of "a spacious room with a high ceiling". 

4. Then you can give an “after-thought” phrase, 

5. Then start to add "The Depicting Objects", i.e., actually touching "Visible Objects".

2) Broad Focused Flashlight for Outdoor:

Brush over horizon line with Broad focused "Flashlight"
When you go outdoors in your scene, or your scene starts outdoors, you can smoothly brush a “faraway” look with your eyes over your horizon line above your audience with your head to create an outdoor image around you. Never stop your eyes on any object.  (For distance, imagine you are at the beach, you trace the ocean left to right, and you do a similar diagonal arc, like tracing a rainbow to create the sky.)

No specific thoughts on horizon line
No specific thoughts need to be involved in this horizontal stroke. It is done just to quickly establish the basic information as "Outdoor" in the audience's mind. And after this "Introductory Space Reflection", you can start "The Depicting Objects" such as reflecting a bird flying by, finding a bench, a dog barking at you, etc. 

3) No Bulb Flashlight for No-Place.  (The Placeless Plot): 

In the writing structure called "The Placeless Plot", the scene is not in a specific scenery, i.e., you do not introduce your environment on purpose. It is still your responsibility to provide that information and keep your environment coherent in that texture of "no-place".

The Flashlight with no bulb
At the very beginning of the "No-Place" scene, you can give a kind of spacy and abstract moving gaze around you,  never focusing your eyes on any point in your view, scenery. Imagine that you are blind and looking around to feel the air. When the illusion (of the play) appears, you can only focus at the illusion. But never focus at other objects around you, for such a simple look can trigger images of an environment in the audience's mind.

Gregg Goldston in "Digits"
showing No-Place

The Flashlight - its process and effects:

The process of "The Flashlight" - Introductory Space Reflection takes place in a split second like a magician's trick not being noticed by most viewers, but the effect is enormous. It enables the next process of "The Depicting Objects" to work smoothly. 

Because most objects can possibly exist both indoor or outdoor, and we should always avoid confusing audience. Also, we all like to bring furniture in after knowing the size of the room and painting the walls of the room, don't we? That is the order we like to recognize in our imaginary world as well.

If you miss the process of "The Flashlight", the audience will be forced to keep guessing the answers between indoor, outdoor or where while you are far ahead of them showing the objects and events in the story. They sure feel like being left in a dark room without a flashlight, worrying about bumping head or stubbing toe in a nightmare...

But once you learn how to guide your audience to enter the space with you, you will soon hear your audience "get" where you are, and find yourself enjoying a stronger connection between you and your audience. 

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Depicting Object - The Key to Creating a Visible Environment

Today, I will write about how to draw the scenery, "Visible Environments" on stage.  The entire subject of “Making the Invisible Environment become Visible” is too large to cover in one article, and before I realized it, I caught myself writing an 8-page article.  Consequently, I decided to make today’s post concentrate on one of the most essential concepts we use to make an environment become visible on stage.  

This concept, developed by Goldston in the early 1980’s and is called: “The Depicting Object."  It is the method of quickly showing the “object” that best “describes” the environment you are showing your audience and today, I will elaborate on this topic.

B) Visible Environments:  

B-2) The Depicting Object:

In order for a visible environment to be painted clearly in the audience's mind, showing a unique object that most typically appear in such an environment (place) is necessary.  We call this technique “The Depicting Object.”

“The Depicting Object" follows the proper "Introductory Space Reflection (B-1)" which is to show the general space size and indoor / outdoor information.  (Abbreviated here)

Example 1 - Golf Course:

After "Introductory Space Reflection" as outdoor, you can hold and swing a golf club, and put a golf ball and hold the golf club again.  The earlier in your play you add a Depicting Object, the sooner the audience will identify the environment, they will quickly “paint in” the rest of the scenery within your place.

Example 2 - Bathroom:

After you give three quick glances (Introductory Space Reflection to show the Indoor space size), you can show a toothbrush, razor, and shower.  Note that the fewer objects you use the better.  The beauty of the Depicting Object is “Economy”, not to create a guessing game of objects.  

Example 3 - Bedroom: 

After you give three quick glances (Introductory Space Reflection to show the Indoor space size), you probably need to first show a bed, then a night table, and a night lamp.  Those are better objects and better order to show than, let's say, a book, and a bookshelf, and a bed.  Even though those objects may exist in some bedrooms, if you choose an unessential object, it can lead the audience in the wrong direction and confuse your viewers.

The important thing to remember is that, in a mime show, your audience’s mind is working quickly to find the answers to: "what?" plus "what?" plus "what?" to create "where?" and then "who?"  Once they understand this information they can move onto WHY?  At this point, they can look for the plot in your story.  Remember, a human brain will not relax until it solves its’ problem.  At the beginning of a mime play, the brain is only thinking:  Where!  Afterwards, it can think about Who and Why.  Those answers are arrived at one hint at a time in the audience's mind in the exact order you present it to them.   If the Objects you show are in the wrong order,  it can actually erase the images you've already painted in their mind.

Example: "Oh, a book, ... and a bookshelf?  ... it must be a library!  Oh wait, ... a bed?  A bed in a library?  I must be wrong.  Let's see what this program says..."  See how quickly it is to lose your audience!  Never assume that because You know what it is, that They do.

We need to choose objects that quickly and directly create images and ideas of "Where the character is now".  Also the order of objects to establish an environment needs a special care in consideration.  If a golf ball appears before a golf club, most people are forced to guess between so many possibilities while you are holding that mysterious little ball.  A golf club is a much easier object to identify a golf course than a golf ball, so the golf club should appear first for a faster relief.

And we must care for our audience and approach our public as if they have never seen a mime play before, nor an expert in the field of objects or environments you are creating on stage. Uncertainty in mime is painful for the audience.

That is a difficult part if writing / choreographing mime plays.  We always have to start with a blank canvas and draw our play visually and objectively, and give one information at a time, in a correct order. It reminds me of the difficulty I found when I needed to erase my adult knowledge and explain things to a little child.  Assumption of being understood is the most common mistakes in this art form.  "How would they know that?" should be the most frequently asked question we the choreographers ask ourselves while we write a mime play.

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Magic Show in Mime - How To Create Visible Objects

The Art of Mime is known as "Making the Invisible Visible." (A famous quote by Marcel Marceau.)  In mime, we make our character’s inner monologues, (non-verbal thoughts) become visible, the invisible objects and environments become visible, invisible illusions become visible, and even invisible characters become visible.

Here is how we categorize these and in this article I will focus on the first one and the rest in upcoming articles.  

A) Visible Objects 
B) Visible Environments
C) Visible Characters
D) Visible Illusions 
E) Visible Inner Monologues

For better understanding, I will use the following terms: 
“Objects,” will refer to things found within a Place, such as a coffee pot inside of a kitchen, and “Illusions” will refer to a Classical Illusion, such as a Wall, Rope, Ball, with which an entire play can be created from.  I am referring to "The Placeless Plot" writing structure.  It is true that those too are non-existent objects and it is helpful to clarify which of these I am referring to in this article.  We typically categorize this difference due to the different type of play writing structure in which they appear.

In the future, I will write more specifically about The Placeless Plot illusions such as the wall, balloon and rope and the variety of ways these can be used.

Today, I will focus on the “Mime as a Magician” side of our art form - making non-existent “Objects” visible.  Let's first look at how to “technically” create this phenomenon within your performance, and enable your audience to paint these objects in a most colorful and astonishing way.

Our audience is so smart and creative that they can paint our objects more beautifully with their imagination than what we actually draw on stage, "if” we properly introduce and maintain those objects within our scenes.

A) Visible Objects:

A-1) Contact Reflection 

By touching and mirroring the characteristics of the objects with the contacting part of your body, e.g., when you show a door, your hand makes a shape of a doorknob and your elbow moves like a door hinge.  When your door is shut, your hand becomes the hard surface of the door. Your hand is no longer a hand.  It becomes the doorknob or the door surface when you are touching it. 

Note 1: When you release your hand from the door, you loosen the tension of your hand, making your hand round to show that it is no longer flat/door surface.  (If you skip this clear change of hand shape, it visually looks like your door keeps following your hand until you do it.)  Then keep your hand there for a second to spotlight from your palm toward where you were just touching.  This way, the invisible object stays visible longer.

Note 2: Before touching your object, we often need to give at least a glance to the object (with your head, instead of only eyes), and project some thoughts about the object.  This preparation helps your audience see the moment of introduction to the object.  If you miss it, your audience will feel left behind of your magic, thus your magic becomes private.

In other words, you SEE it, then WISH (first thought) then DOUBT (second thought), then BELIEVE (conclusion) before touching it.  This phrase can be very subtle depending on the relation between the character and the object.  However if there is no thought before touching, it can hardly become visible to your audience.  It is your responsibility to make it visible, or there is nothing but your body on stage.  And remember, your audience sees your object through your eyes/thoughts.

Gregg Goldston in "The Ballroom Dance Teacher"

A-2) Direct Reflection with Entire Body

The “Entire body” directly reflects the universal image of the object.  With touching or without touching, looking at the object from a close distance to it. 

Example 1: You make your entire body delicate and lovely if you are picking or looking at a delicate and lovely thing like a flower or a feather.

Example 2: You make your entire body square and stiff, if you are touching or about to touch a square hard thing like a table.

Of course you need to put thoughts (from the character's point of view, not that of the object) super-ceding your hands or body.  You, the character, are the star of your play, not the objects.

This A-1 and A-2 are often combined simultaneously or sequentially.  The next one A-3 is a little bit similar to A-2 but it is used more indirectly to establish or maintain your Visible Environment.  A Visible Environment is painted with a set of key objects (usually with three or more objects to best identify the Environment) plus your projections towards them.

I will explain more about the Visible Environment in the future.  Let's now continue with the subject of Visible Objects.

A-3) Indirect Reflection with Entire or Specific parts of the Body

It can be done without touching, or after touching it.  There are different ways to make Indirect Reflection with Whole or Parts of Body.

1) Thoughts from a distance - By looking at the object and showing thoughts about it:

Imagine a scene in a sport bar.  You are leaning on the bar drinking.  Then you see a huge TV screen, which is showing a football game.  How do you make the TV screen and the game visible?  

You don't want to touch the TV screen at a bar, which will look strange.  Touching is definitely most helpful to make it visible, but it can be done only if you can find a natural reason to do so in your acting/scene. 

Here, without touching, you can first find the TV (SEE), then notice what's showing in the screen with at least a couple of thoughts (WISH / DOUBT), and reflect your excitement (BELIEVE) in your eyes and face.

But you have not conveyed enough info to your audience to help them recognize what was showing in the screen.  They see that you are excited, but they have no idea why you are excited.  So, here is another way to help them visualize the game.

2) Mirroring from a distance - By mirroring the essence / characteristics / activities of what the character sees:

Continued from the sport bar scene above.

You can also reflect some activities of the players in the game, using short slow-motion images of a player running with a ball, throwing a ball, and cheering, woven into the gestures of the guy in the bar.  It can be done very much like a quick recap of a "Metamorphosa" play. 

Mime is magical.  You can create a gradation of images and take the audience with you to a dream state at once.

With #1 and #2 both combined, finally your audience will recognize that you are watching a football game in a TV screen!

3) Maintaining an Object from a distance:

This is my favorite, which is used to gradually create, or steadily maintain the invisible objects visible.  By giving subtle, unnoticeable glances from a corner of your eyes to the object in the required frequency, you can maintain the energy connection between you and the object, thus you can maintain its visibility of the object in your audience's imagination.

I will explain how it’s done with the following example:

I learned this technique from Gregg when he was helping me create a comedic play about a pianist in a concert hall.  I entered the stage, introduced my character, gave three quick glances with thoughts to show the Environment, which was a concert hall, and the third glance was the grand piano. 

I needed to make the piano clear to my audience, because it was important for the story.  So, I lightly traced the shape of the piano with my hand, while I shared my thoughts about it.  Then I put my music sheets on the piano and made some noise by mistake, a couple more jokes here and there, the spinning chair broke, etc., then I left my piano. I went to downstage center, more jokes there, and bowed to the audience.  I think the story started something like that.

However, when I looked back to the piano, the piano had completely disappeared!  This happened “only” because I didn’t know how to maintain its visibility without touching it.

I wondered: How could I maintain the visibility of the non-existent piano on stage while I was not “touching” it?  And even more difficult, was when I was far away from it?

I then saw how Gregg could so naturally demonstrate this technique for me and how there was a method to keep the piano staying so clearly visible in the audience’s mind.

When your body has to leave an invisible key object, you have to give indirect glances to it, often from a corner of your eyes, in the required frequency and rhythm.  If you want to know the frequency for a specific scene/object, ask an outsider's eye.  That will train your intuition to know what is needed for your case.

By giving the glances, you can keep in touch with the object while you are away from it.  It is like saying casual hello to its existence before any audience member forgets that it is there.  

It is created with a constant attention to it, using a type of mimed projection from your body parts to the object.  The energy you project towards the object is similar to how you pay attention to an important guest in your room while you are not looking at him.  You give him a space to sit and relax, then keep paying indirect attention to him without disturbing him.

Another example is this:  Imagine you “own” the stage space and then be consistently aware of the fact that: “Nobody should invade your space.” 

Suddenly, someone brought a grand piano and left it there. How do you react psychologically and physically?  Maybe you feel pressure from the foreign invader. 

If you would like to know how it is done physically, I would advise you to imagine that the piano is blowing gentle winds toward you continuously, so your body is a little blown away from the piano.  Then, every so often, you are reminded about the invader in your space.  You know it's there, so you do not look at it directly, but the corner of your eyes is capturing it every few to several seconds.

Now, let's replace the pressure from the piano with the kind of thoughts your character has towards the object.  If you like the object, the projection between you two becomes a positive connection with respect.  If you hate the object, the projection between you two becomes a negative uncomfortable one.

While you keep projecting towards the object, you also receive that projection “back” from the object.  You create a “mutual connection,” just as you would in a human relationship.  This gives the Object the stronger importance, and with this method the Object begins to have a life of its own.  Then the object stays visible for the audience's eyes and at the same time, your emotional relationship to it also becomes much stronger.  This is the magic you can control technically and then over time, it will help you become a stronger Mime Actor.

Why is it important to remind your audience about objects?  Because if your audience forgets where the "important" objects were or what objects were there in the environment you established once, they feel lost and confused.  They will begin to feel like they are losing their memory not being able to remember what happened five minutes ago.  Eventually they become frustrated and will later hold this against you.

Another thing to remember is that if you create an object that is not important after being used once, you should “purposely” make it disappear.  By doing that purposely, you tell your audience they do not need to remember this object.  In Film terms, we would call that Object an “Extra” not a “Main” character.

Objects need their proper balance of visibility in order to guide your audience through your play.  It is similar to what we see in regular theater as lighting design, adjusting stage lighting in order to switch the focus of the play, and quickly make necessary changes of your stage setting and props around you while it is dark. 

In mime, most magic tricks are purposely created right in front of your audience.  You remain in a spotlight, make things appear and fade away like how film uses special effects. 

That is why mime is known as a mysterious art form.  

When our public tries to describe what they saw, felt, or imagined; they will often use words like: Astonishing, Mesmerizing, Unbelievable, and Magical!

It was for this reason I was inspired to write an article about one of the most powerful elements within our art.

Our job is to create the visible world properly and steadily, simplified and universal enough so that your audience can follow the story line easily and enjoy painting it as they wish.  Usually they paint our invisible world by using their own memories.  That is why your objects need to be universally recognized ones, those that the audience can identify quickly, then their minds can “play in this world with you,” not spend their time running behind you “guessing” what is going on.  The MAGIC in Mime isn’t that we can make them see something that isn’t there…the Magic comes from what we do with that thing “once they see it.”  

It is in this moment that our technique, becomes an Art.

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.