Sunday, January 22, 2017

Guest Post: Michael Evans reviews Lou Campbell's "Emergence of Physical Theatre..."

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"Memoirs of Mime for all Time –The Emergence of Physical Theatre in the 21st Century” by Louis H. Campbell

[Michael Evans is author of the book “The Great Salt Lake Mime Saga and Amsterdam’s Festival of Fools.” He graduated from art school, but spent a long career as an engineer and technician in private industry, higher education, theatre, and the arts. He is webmaster for the Cosmic Aeroplane Archive Site, about the early history of Salt Lake City’s still-vibrant Alternative Culture.]

Lou Campbell
Dr. Louis Campbell is a teacher and theatrical director who has published about eighteen other books —all except one outside the field of physical theatre. Dimitri Mueller’s death at the age of 80 was my main impetus for undertaking this review. I acquired a previous version of this book in the 2000s and promised to write about it.  Some very positive theater-related travel interfered with completing the project. The experience of writing my own book also modified my point of view of what it takes to publish these sorts of things.

Dr. Campbell’s book relies on dozens of names. I’ve chosen to review it according to its overall structure, keeping these metaphorical eggs in their cartons, and making the context clear.

Diversity in Mime Terminology
This chapter has only six pages but many viewpoints. It features a lot of names and matches them with quotes and concepts, so we might as well start this review with a baker’s dozen personalities encountered in the book:  Etienne Decroux; Ladislav Fialka; Louis Dezseran; Yass Hakoshima; James Donlon; Claude Kipnis; Bob Francesconi; Tony Montanaro; Jacques Lecoq; Mamako Yoneyama; Adrian Pecknold; Richmond Shepard; Bari Rolfe; David Alberts; Antonin Hodek; and Geoffery Buckley, who states: “Mime is a very loose word.”

Major Influences and Solo Acts 
Substantial historical sketches make this section a valuable resource on its own. There are also quotes, explanations, and anecdotes galore, along with a few references to other theatrical figures including: Isabella Canali Andreini (1562-1604); Joseph Grimaldi (1779-1837); Jean Gaspard Debarau or Debureau (1796-1846); François Delsarte (1811-1871); Jacques Copeau (1879-1949);Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940); Charles Dullin (1885-1949); Jean-Louis Barrault (1910-1994); Etienne Decroux (1898-1991); Jacques Lecoq (1921-1999); Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999); Marcel Marceau (1923-2007); Geoffrey Buckley (of England); Ctibor Turba (1944-); Adrian Pecknold (1920-2000); and Sigfido Aguilar (of Mexico).

Clown Dimitri A Major Force in Physical Theatre 
This chapter starts with a short professional biography, and an appreciative quote by theatrical director Max Frisch. It continues with an outline of the curriculum at Dimitri’s own school in Ticino, Switzerland, told in clear colloquial English by the great man himself. A coda of appreciation finishes the chapter, with a few more quotes from Dimitri and his fellow performers.

Specialty Acts
Hovey Burgess & Judy Finelli
1974  International Mime Festival
These dozen pages include the great Swiss performing company  Mummenschanz,  plus educators such as Hovey Burgess and Carlo Mazzone-Clementi. These pages embody the theme “… Emergence of Physical Theatre” in the title of the book. Other performers and their philosophies are described in this chapter, along with a mix of color and monochrome photos. They include: Avner Eisenberg; Mamako Yoneyama; Lotte Goslar; Ladislav Fialka; Charles E. Weidman; and Tom Leabhart.

Exploratory Glossary of Terms 
These twelve pages contain innumerable quotes and reflections by practitioners introduced in the previous chapters. They are applied to seven subjects: The Value of Mime to the Actor; Techniques of Character Development; Circus Techniques in Mime Training; Commedia Dell’Arte in Relationship to Mime; Improvisation, and Mime and Dance in Physical Theatre. It barely touches on subjects that could make a whole shelf of books, but agreements and disagreements are stated, plus personal theories are expounded by various artists.
Mummenschanz at 1974 International Mime Festival

Forms of Mime
This is a chapter about hair-splitting. It is also a sincere attempt to articulate, in words, a visual art form that is supposed to be independent of words. Quite challenging, to say the least! There are more quotes and cross- references from most of the other practitioners found in the book, and Dr. Campbell tries hard to have the many artists speak for their own artistic practices.

Commedia & stage fighting
This is a short essay about a vast subject, where the various dramatic functions of masks are bravely outlined in Dr. Campbell’s own voice.

Commedia Dell’Arte Overview —Timeline and Characters
This book starts getting personal as Dr. Campbell expounds about the rich history of these Italian stock characters. They still haunt the backgrounds of innumerable books, movies, and stage works, though! This chapter is illustrated with classic prints of major zany archetypes, and provides a graceful transition into Campbell’s most personal chapter of all.

Joshua Squad 
This chapter seems to come right from Dr. Campbell’s heart, and delightfully so! There are forty-two pages of illustrations and descriptions of an international performing company (Joshua Squad) that put Dr. Campbell’s ideas and aesthetics into practice onstage. Commedia Dell’Arte seems to be their point of departure, but they look timeless rather than archaic. This is a book within a book with some early explanations, outlines, and policies constituting a de facto manifesto. It expresses so much in visual terms with lovely photographs from as late as 2011. Chapters Eight and Nine seem to be the soul of the book to me.

The Ultimate Gesture
Carlo Mazzone-Clementi
Sketch by Michael Evans
This chapter is an amalgamation of a workbook, more definitions, written exercises, a review of the previous material. There is a deeply personal essay about the International Mime Festival and Institute in 1974, with lots of names and stories about contacts with important individuals. Mary Wigman is mentioned, along with her association with important movement master, Rudolph Laban... like Laban, Dr. Campbell suggests drills of his concepts, and summarizes his interpretations of the work of Geoffrey Buckley, Robert Shields, Ladislav Fialka, Marcel Marceau, Charles Weidman, Antonin Hodek, Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, Mummenschanz,  Lecoq, and Mamako. 

Carlo Mazzone-Clementi
with Gunda & Dimitri, 1974
International Mime Festival
More Photos 
The final chapter consists mostly of pictures taken at the International Mime Festival and Institute in 1974. I saw a number of these artists myself. It is enjoyable to see these images, along with pictures of performances I missed.

Reviewer’s Random Thoughts
My own definition is simple —“Mime is the visual aspect of theater,” which even includes radio dramas. One needs to make decisions about what to say when there is nothing to see! The use of labels can help, or not help, but the decision is really up to people who are putting themselves on the line for their art.

Some of this material was previously printed in a small hardback called: “Mime and Pantomime in the Twentieth Century – History Theory and Techniques” by Dr. Lou Campbell in 2008. The Foreword by Jewel Walker is much longer, with a separate Preface by Campbell. There were a couple of paragraphs about Leonard Pitt in Chapter One which aren’t in “Memoirs,” and the chapter “Mask” was not present at all. The content is almost identical through the first six chapters, except for “some textual errors,” as Campbell said to me.

The quantity and quality of photos and illustration is much superior in “Memoirs of Mime for All Time.” The larger physical size of the second book is much friendlier to visual content, and Campbell’s wonderful personal chapters at the heart of the bigger book simply outdo the smaller volume.

Dr. Campbell’s generosity has resulted in my making contact with Mamako Yoneyama. The fine lady is working on an essay about her career after 1980. She still performs in Japan.
Dr. Campbell barely mentions Cirque du Soliel, arguably the most successful theatrical company of all time, and I vividly remember Noel Parenti’s performance and presence at the International Mime Festival, but nothing is said about him in this book. Parenti was on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine, which did a pictorial about this landmark event. I also wonder about the videotaped interviews recorded throughout the festival.

Noel Parenti
I would recommend any reference library possessing a copy of Dr. Lou Campbell’s “Memoirs of Mime …” without hesitation, but I’d also recommend having a copy of “Mimes on Miming” (1979) sitting on the shelf too. It was edited by Bari Rolfe, with essays by and about major figures in the art form. Ms. Rolfe was co-director of the International Mime Festival and Institute in 1974. The two books together provide a sweeping overview of Mime from differing perspectives.
Bari Rolfe

“Mimes on Miming” contains of historical sketches, attempted definitions, essays, and interviews —but with more artists than those included in Campbell’s survey, although there are overlapping subjects: 

Mime in Greece and Rome;  Lucian: On Pantomime;  John Weaver: Pylades and Bathyllus; Charles Hacks: A Roman Premiere; Mime Through the Seventeenth Century; Two Miracle Plays; Paul Hippeau: Pantomime in Italian Comedy; Evaristo Gherardi: The Italian Theatre; Elizabethan Dumb Shows: Gorboduc; Hamlet; Herod and Antipater; Mime in Asia; Cecilia Sieu-Ling Zung: Some Symbolic Actions;  Motokiyo Zeami: On the Noh; Ananda Coomaraswamy: Notes on Indian Dramatic Technique; Mime in the Eighteenth Century; R. J. Broadbent: Rich's Miming; jean Georges Noverre: Ballet Pantomime;  Jonathan Swift: A Pantomime Audience; Glaskull, the Edinburgh Butcher; Mime in the Nineteenth Century: France with Theodore de Banville: Deburau-Pierrot; Horace Bertin: How to Listen to a Pantomime; Raoul de Najac: Souvenirs of a Mime; Paul Margueritte: Pierrot Yesterday and Today; Saverin: The Last of the Pierrots by Barrett Clark; Mime in the Nineteenth Century: England, Europe: Grimaldi; Paul Hugounet: The Hanlon-Lees Go To America; Jacques Charles: Dan Leno; Ronald S. Wilson: The Pantomime Theatre of Tivoli Gardens; Carlo Blasis : On Pantomime.
Mime in the Twentieth Century to 1950 – France: Georges Wague: Resources of the Silent Art; Colette: Music Halls; The Cinema According to Max Linder; Etienne Decroux: Each Art Has Its Own Territory; Jean-Louis Barrault: Dramatic Art and the Mime; Serge Lifar: The Mime and the Dancer; Europe -- Grock: Life's a Lark; Rudolf Laban: The Mastery of Movement; USA -- Charles Chaplin: My Sense of Drama; Buster Keaton: My Wonderful World of Slapstick; Harold Lloyd: My World of Comedy; Stan Laurel: Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy; Bert Williams, Everybody by Ann Charters; Angna Enters: Mime Is a Lonely Art; Charles Weidman: Random Remarks; Red Skelton: I'll Tell All; Mime in the Twentieth Century: Contemporary – France: Marcel Marceau: The Adventure of Silence; Jacques Lecoq: Mime, Movement, Theatre; Jacques Tati: The Cinema According to Tati; Pinok and Matha: Mime and Something Else; Europe, Asia -- Clifford Williams: Mime in Great Britain; Oleg Popov: Russian Clown; Henryk Tomaszewski: Movement Theatre; Dario Fo: The Art of Dario Fo; Ladislav Fialka: The Fools, or a Strange Dream of a Clown; Ctibor Turba: A Topsy-Turba World by Kuster Beaton; Dimitri: Dimitri, Clown; Mummenschanz: Mask, Mime and Mummenschanz, with Bari Rolfe; Mamako Yoneyama: Zen Mime; USA -- Lotte Goslar: How Sweet It Is; Dick Van Dyke: Mime in the Medium; Paul J. Curtis: American Mime; Carlo Mazzone-Clementi: Commedia and the Actor; Antonin Hodek: Price of Folly; Samuel Avital: Mime, Self-Imposed Silence; Bernard Bragg: Signs of Silence, by Helen Powers; R. G. Davis: Method in Mime; and Robert Shields: Mime in the Streets, by Jack Fincher

In the last chapter, “Anti-Mime,” there are catty maunderings by Max Beerbohm, Marc Blanquet, and Woody Allen. They act as a record that there were warnings against artistic stasis by peers and competitors. The term “mime” would lose its luster in the USA, and become the butt of unfair jokes. However, Cirque du Soliel, Blue Man Group, Julie (Lion King) Taymor, and others associated with Lecoq’s school carried the art form to great heights of success, rarely using the term at all.


Ira Seidenstein said...

Sounds like a fab book. I'll order one. X Ira

Tony M. said...

Good post.

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