Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe

Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe

Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe

Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe

Synopsis

The history & lineage of a Bay Area performance troupe that blends politics & festivity.

Excerpt

Every summer, city parks throughout the San Francisco Bay Area play host to a familiar sight, so familiar in fact that some have come to regard it as a yearly ritual. Early in the day a long white truck with a big red star emblazoned on its side pulls up to a grassy lawn in the park. Soon platforms, flats, wires, and step units are unloaded. Working as a team over the course of the morning, a small band of techies deftly assembles the pieces into a raised outdoor stage, complete with amplification and brightly colored backdrops. When they're done, the colorful cloth drops rustle gently in the breeze, illuminated by the sun. Costume racks, props, chairs, and musical instruments gather about the set, giving the impression of a garage sale at the home of some eccentric neighbor. Onlookers stop by to watch the lively work that disrupts the otherwise lazy weekend afternoon, and the company members urge them to stick around for the show.

What had once been a bare, green lawn is transformed into a theatrical space. The workers have metamorphosed as well. Some don wigs and costumes while others pick up instruments and start to play. The upbeat music attracts and entertains the gathering crowd. Many arrive planning to attend the performance, and, children and dogs in tow, they spread out blankets and unpack picnic lunches. Others, caught unawares by the day's events, watch standing up or leaning against a tree. A booth hawking T-shirts, posters, and tapes, and political activists who work the crowd, handing out flyers and pamphlets, soon round out the festive atmosphere. When the crowd is sufficiently filled out, the actors costumed, and programs distributed, a company member takes the stage and welcomes those gathered to another San Francisco Mime Troupe performance.

This scene's familiarity to many, both in the Bay Area and beyond, is testimony to the Mime Troupe's widespread impact and longevity. Founded in 1959 by R. G. Davis, the Mime Troupe boasts a history of more than thirty-five years of performing politically engaged theater in parks . . .

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