Monday, April 21, 2008

The art of mime

I met Carlos Martinez two weeks ago at a CITA (Christians in Theatre Arts) gathering in midtown. He and his wife, Jenny Findeis, were visiting New York for the first time. After they returned home to Germany, Jenny sent me “Hand Made,” Carlos’ latest DVD of mime stories. What a blessing it is to reconnect to this wondrous form of theatrical expression. I love this DVD.

It’s easy to see why Carlos was selected by the audience to win the prize of honour for the best show at the XXI Almada Theatre Festival in Portugal. He has such love for his characters -- he becomes them as he brings everyday experiences to life in shimmering detail. Mime “allows you to see what you do not see,” he explains, and it’s true. A trip to the barber, waiting for a bus, these ordinary things are lost to our consciousness through their very routineness. But not when Carols portrays them, with a twist. For more than 25 years he has been refining his art so that he can communicate easily around the world. “Hand Made” has subtitle selections so that Carlos’ setup commentaries in Spanish can be understood in English, French and German. But the DVD can also be played without the commentaries because none is needed. His calls his characters his “loyal travel companions and imaginative translators” who take over on stage and “speak” for him.

In his bio, Carlos says he was fascinated by the "woodcarving expressiveness of mime and its plain reduction to the essential.” Without words, props or ornamentation, he wants the audience to experience on a sensory level “the entire story of their minds.”

Carlos’ previous DVDs, also based on his touring shows, are “My Bible,” in which he brings to life stories from the Bible from a surprising perspective, and “Human Rights,” for which the Declaration of Human Rights becomes truly human. He also conducts seminars and workshops. You can see trailers on Carlos’ web site,, or on All three DVDs can normally be ordered through (for USA) and (for Germany and other European countries).

I first fell in love with mime at my beloved CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore. I started volunteer ushering there when I was in high school as a way to see all their shows for free.  Sophie Wibaux and Bert Houle, who as I recall were husband and wife, choreographed “Julius Caesar” in the 1972-73 season and included their mine. It was spellbinding to watch them perform their wordless dialogue of Shakespearean drama. As I remember, they were part of CENTERSTAGE’s resident company and were incorporated into shows over several years. That would certainly be in keeping with CENTERSTAGE’s creative approach to theatre. Wibaux and Houle have written that ''mime is the art of touch, not intellectual or physical, but emotional touch.''

I extended an open invitation to Carlos to perform at Broadway Blessing if he is ever in New York on the second Monday of September. Until then I will enjoy “Hand Made.”

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