Prime time for mime 

  • Rob Mermin with his mentor Marcel Marceau in 1999. Courtesy of Rob Mermin

  • Rob Mermin with his dog Rufus performing with Circus Smirkus, the youth circus in Vermont that Mermin founded. Courtesy of Rob Mermin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/11/2018 10:49:25 AM

When Rob Mermin was just 19, he ran away to join the circus in Europe.

That decision set him on a path that would shape the rest of his life. He was first a clown with circuses in England, Sweden, Denmark, as well as circus buildings in Hungary and the Soviet Union.

As a clown entertainer, Mermin never spoke. And as he got deeper into his love of the circus and performance, he wanted to learn more about the art of silent acting.

In 1969, famed mime Marcel Marceau opened his first school that taught the art of silence – just what Mermin was looking for. 

Mermin’s decision to attend Marceau’s school began a relationship that lasted decades.

“Marcel was my mentor for about 30 years,” Mermin said.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Mermin will be at Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton for an event focusing on Marceau and the world of miming being put on by Flying Gravity Circus and its founder Jackie Davis, as well as Pine Hill and High Mowing. And it’s just part one of the weekend with a cinematic angle on Sunday at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre.

“This is a tribute to him as a performer, as well as a detailed look at the art of mime itself,” Mermin said.

Mermin will be demonstrating mime techniques, and telling all kinds of behind-the-scenes stories about his time with Marceau. There will be rare clips shown of Marceau teaching and performing, as well as a special highlight of the evening: footage of Mermin’s dog Rufus performing pantomime in Denmark.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Mermin said. “He performed with me for about 15 years.”

What Mermin truly enjoys about these kinds of presentations is giving people a look at who Marceau was and what he meant to the history of miming. Mermin said it’s well known that there were two influential mimes in the 20th century – Charlie Chaplin and Marceau.

“People these days don’t remember who he was,” Mermin said. “So I’ll be telling a lot of stories and once you get a mime talking, it’s hard to get them to stop.”

Mermin wants people to understand just how much miming has meant to his life and so many others who chose the artistic expression.

“This will an entertaining, yet serious look at the power of silence and the art form of mime itself,” Mermin said.

On Sunday at 4:30 p.m., Mermin will be at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre for an afternoon presentation entitled, Silents are Golden: Celebration of Silent Cinema.

Mermin has selected 50 short clips from the silent era to show that include comedies, dramas, adventures, romance and from European films.

“It’s a comprehensive look at the period of the 1920s silent films,” Mermin said.

During the clips, Mermin will explain what is happening, as well as demonstrating silent acting techniques.

And since the Wilton Town Hall Theatre is kind of a big deal when it comes to showing silent films in the area, Davis thought it would be a perfect match.

“Rob has a very interesting perspective on silent films,” Davis said.

Back in 1987, Mermin founded Circus Smirkus in Vermont, which tours New England during the summer months. He has been giving similar presentations for the last 10 years.

“We both were mimes and both studied under Marcel Marceau – at different times – and both founded circuses,” Davis said. “He’s like my mime circus brother.”

Davis founded Flying Gravity Circus in 1999, and thought it would be great last year to have Mermin come to the area for a couple days. When it didn’t work out, they decided to give it a try this year.

“So this has been in the works for over a year,” Davis said.

What Mermin hopes to give people is a look at just how important the art of mining was and is.

“It taught me how to move in the world,” Mermin said. “And it allowed me to perform in any country and be understood. Mime is the universal language.”

Both presentations are open to the public for a suggested donation of $10 each. Cash, check and credit cards will be accepted.

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