What's magic about mime?
Mimes use the term, "taking the audience off the clock." Literally, the art form does things that other art forms can't: We suspend time; we time-travel; we morph into new characters in an instant. We engage our audience in a fantasy space and world that's completely alien to their real lives. That's the greatest satisfaction: to take someone out of their busy lives and communicate with them through the sharing of a universal emotional experience. As Marcel Marceau once said, "Isn't it strange how all of life's more important moments are silent?" I think he was onto something there.
When and how did you start as a mime?
I've been a mime since I was 7, when I started studying mime, theater, song and dance in Spring Green, Wis. I was lucky in that as a child, I was able to study with Reid Gilbert, who lives in Tucson now, and who studied with Marcel Marceau's teacher. So I received a good grounding in mime in my marrow. I was a mime until about 18; then I went and did life.
You became an attorney.
Yes, I've been an attorney since 1989, when I graduated from the UA law school. I've also lived and worked in Spain. It's really only in the last 10 years that I've resuscitated mime work, because I like it more than theater--it's what fills my heart most. But I still do law, working in the federal public defender's office, basically defending indigent people charged with crimes in federal court. Often, guilt isn't an issue, so my job is really to humanize the accused in court, to give judges the opportunity to see them as individuals and not just punish the crime.
What's the most important thing you draw from your law career?
I've always been sensitive to the struggles of the common man, because sometimes, we can find amazing human strength inside of people who on the outside appear fragile or unimportant--or the other way around. I incorporate that into a lot of my mime work: I do a piece about a prisoner, a piece about a beggar, one about an old man. In both my mime work and law, I try to focus on those little kernels of strength that we all carry in us, as flawed and as strange as we are as human beings.
So your activities in mime and law go together?
Well, I don't know that they go together so much as they complement each other. My legal life is a life of words, a craft of delivering sound bites in an eloquently vocal way. Lawyering is a craft of persuading and battling with the mind, and mime is a craft of communicating and finding common ground through silent movement, with the body and not the mind. Lawyering is real life, living on the clock, making ends meet. Mime is all about suspending time, getting off the clock, suspending life's most important moments and celebrating life's most important images. I'm quite privileged in that I have both worlds. And it's fun.
Is mime experiencing a resurgence as an art form?
It has certainly changed, and it's very strong overseas. Mime became popular here in the states in the '70s through Hollywood and street mimes, who use some of the coolest visual elements of mime--visual illusions, wall work. ... People don't know this, but Marcel Marceau taught Michael Jackson how to do the moonwalk. And all that's cool--but street illusionary work and street statuary work are not mime. You wouldn't take ballet to the street, and I think you shouldn't take mime to the street.
What are your own mime performances like?
I don't perform in whiteface, so I like to tell people, "This isn't your momma's mime." There's no horizontally striped shirt, but I'm true to performing silently or only with music and keeping any props to a bare-bones minimum. The audience really pays attention, because they know if they stop looking, they might miss something important. And that great audience attention is a real privilege, because it translates into great audience appreciation. ... At least that's my hope. ... I'm just babbling now. Once you get a mime started, he never stops.