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.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Your Own Voice" on Stage

Same as other art forms, there are philosophical perspectives in mime, which may sound not so practical first, but are extremely important to understand. However, those are often impossible to teach in a class for they should be introduced more delicately according to each student's personality and readiness for it.

I, as one of Gregg's students, always saw huge differences between what I learned in private coaching and regular classes. I admit that most important things I have learned came from his private coaching. If the teachers treat students as a large group, we can hardly dig in layers of delicious secrets hidden in this art form. That was also a strong reason for me to create this Blog, so that I can at least write about them.

Today, I would like to share one of my episodes from Gregg's private sessions you might enjoy.

One day, over a decade ago, I went to Gregg's studio for our weekly private session. (Often we worked over 10 hours.)  As soon as I entered the studio, he said, "Today we will have an art class." There was a piece of paper and a black pen on the floor waiting for me.

He drew a human figure (simplified figure like an icon) and told me to draw exactly the same figure next to it. I drew one, carefully enough so that the figure was almost a clone of the original. I was proud and showed it to him like a little kid. He told me to draw many more next to them. So I did. After I finished drawing enough same figures, he looked at me and said seriously "Oh, that's why you are... Don't copy my figure and draw differently."

I never forget the uncomfortable feeling I had in that session. I was told to draw those figures that way, and then heard that I should not have followed that direction. It took some time for me to realize that "he was training my intuition - my own voice."

How much do I depend on that voice now as a performer and a teacher? ... enormously.

I tell you this story to show how personally he was planning the strange session just for me, and expanding my potentials by presenting what "I" needed to hear, first expect, confusedly think, and finally realize at "that particular phase of my training". 

If I did not need to actually draw the figures "many times" (which sounds wasting, doesn't it?) before I learned that lesson, I did not feel the "needed" disappointment afterwards. Concept is easy. Experience takes fruitless looking time, and that time you take to reach the realization really teaches you lifetime.

I have a six year old son. He likes to wait on top of a slide in a park and make everyone behind him wait forever, until he really wants to "Go". It seems like a cheep power game and most mothers would say "Go go go! Your friends are waiting behind you!" 

Of course I sometimes feel urged to say that too, but I intentionally ignore the pressure on me and wait for his own voice to say "Go!" He still has his own voice and knows his own power to hold people's attention on him. If you really try doing what he was doing on the slide, you will understand that it is exactly the same power we hold and project on stage. I never want him to lose it. Gregg taught me "that" many years after I lost it. 

Breaking and changing the rhythm in performance, holding a thought extremely long, "The Forever Takes" to keep the tension between you and your audience alive, etc. etc...  

Many technical challenges in mime performance depend on your ability to listen to "your own voice", and often it requires a strong boldness to recognize that inner voice.

Gregg is now in Italy working on a new mime project with a company called Jobel Teatro. I am here in New York City, typing this article in my living room, soon heading to the gym downstairs to do my daily training. I feel strong inspirations from all of you who are reading my articles and cultivating the art of mime around the globe. 

Thank you for loving and supporting this art form with us.
Please join our international mime community by sending us an email at 

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, October 6, 2013

Chaplin's Innocent Eyes

Okay, everyone knows who Charlie Chaplin was. Well, even if you have not seen his films... (now I start wondering if there is any teenager reading this..)

Marcel Marceau adored Chaplin and he studied Chaplin for many years. That is also a well known story in the world of mime art.

If you have a chance, try to look really closely at Chaplin's innocent eyes and character. We call that type of character "the cookie" . This term came from Gregg's funny story about a parrot's way to ask her owner for a cookie. She always made the request irresistibly charming.

We study that "cookie" in our class. Because those Chaplin's eyes can get inside people's heart, like lovable baby eyes. 
I already wrote about some eye muscle exercises to make the perfect frames for strong thoughts. But I would also like to write about something most essential for all artists who deal with thoughts, which is the "inside" of your eyeballs. 

A decade ago, Gregg told me this shocking quote:
"Someday in the future, you will have to face how you really see the world. You may avoid facing this for now, but because you are a serious mime, it will eventually come back to you and will beat you." 

What a quote... This made me think deeply for years about the link between my psychological state and performance quality. Overtime, I slowly processed what he meant by "how you see the world".

This applies to other art forms as well, but especially in mime, because we convey the story mostly through thoughts coming out from our eyes, audience notices if our eyes are not "innocent". Pure thoughts cannot come through opaque eyes. 

If we are holding fears, shyness, insecurity, self consciousness, competitive consciousness, evilness..., or any mental state that shuts our heart, our believable thoughts cannot reach the audience. What the audience sees is a set of empty eyes with no real thoughts inside. And often, the audience unwillingly witnesses the dark shadow in our subconsciousness. 

Have you ever watched a well written mime play with very skilled performers, but for some unknown reason you felt sick of watching? That is probably the shadow you accidentally witnessed.

Here is a quote by the jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie saying exactly the same thing in "Dizzy" by Lee Tanner.

"The first thing we must keep in mind about a musician is that the music he plays is a reflection of his true self. His music might not be what you, the listener, thinks he is, but truly, he can no more escape himself through his playing than we can escape the contingent world in which we are placed, except through death. You are what you are; that is reality, you can't escape it. And the reality of the musician - especially the jazz musicians - is that the music is a continuance of himself."

Audience is a symbol of your world. And in your subconsciousness, the world you see is a reflection of how you see "yourself". 

How do you see and feel your world? Can you truly love and trust your world, which is a reflection of your true self? Can you share your thoughts as if there is no border (proscenium) between you and your world? Can you freely allow your audience to become "you" and live your emotional moments? Universality in this art form is disturbed if "yourself" is not living in universality.

Therefore, we need to study baby eyes, and their psychological state.There is no border to separate a baby from his world. There is only oneness existing within his eyes.

I was born and raised in Japan, where the society expects everyone to overly humble themselves. I knew it, but I had no idea how much that social system negatively affected my relationship with audience.

Breaking my habit to protect myself within a barrier called "shyness", has become the toughest challenge I found in my career. After I recognized this barrier, I decided to go back to my forgotten past and reprogram my relationship with self and world step by step.

Shyness is not welcome in art (or life). I used to think that shyness and innocence were somewhat similar, but later learned that shyness is in fact the opposite side of innocence and too painful to watch on stage.

Shyness is a shadow of disbelief in yourself, everyone holds somewhere deep inside. Contrary, innocence is absence of disbelief in yourself or the world. Thus, confidence and innocence are synonymous. I believe that true confidence we the performers want to gain is the strength to focus on innocence and self-belief until it wins and melts the shadow we unconsciously brought from the past.

I am still working on my challenge every time I enter the stage.  It is a long journey for me to acquire real innocent confidence where the shadow of self-disbelief does not exist. I dream of reaching the level where I meet my world (audience) with a completely open and relaxed heart, which is sprinkled with the "cookie" charm flavor.

Here is my favorite "Cookie" character in Gregg's "Loves Me Not".


We are building a larger international mime community to support mime artists around the world. Please send us your email address to join our community.  We also welcome any personal request for us to discuss and write about in our future posts and/or demonstrate in Gregg's video series "Goldmime Online" 

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.