Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #32 Talking Mime (Audition August Episode 1)
Lorin Eric Salm: https://movement-coach.com
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you're someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don't stop moving because you're in the right place.
Dana: Hello friends. Welcome, first-timers and welcome back to those who are coming back for more words that move me. You are walking in to episode one of a very special series. This is week one of Audition August four weeks of talking almost exclusively about auditioning and booking work. Whoa, I'm jazzed. Um, I'm going to start off with a very special story. One of my favorite audition experiences, although don't worry, there will be plenty of time to go into my least favorite audition experiences, but first wins this week.
My win is that I met Josh Smith. I have admired Josh's sweet, sweet moves, uh, for some time now, but recently I got to interview Josh for a special episode of the podcast in partnership with CLI that episode will be available to you here after audition August. So be sure to stay on the lookout for that because Holy smokes, what a great conversation, what a great human, very stoked on that episode. Um, but I'm celebrating this as a win because I'd never met Josh. Um, and the thought of a 30 minute conversation with somebody that I've never met being live streamed, eventually reaching hundreds of thousands of dancers and educators around the world made me super nervous. Um, before I went into it, though, I remembered this saying that my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff once shared with me years and years ago. And it's very appropriate for audition August that I'd be gifting you this thought. Now Gary said that butterflies or the fluttering feeling that's rapping on your insides when you're nervous about something, those butterflies aren't nervousness at all, they aren't self doubt, they aren't fear. The feeling of butterflies wrapping on the walls of your stomach is actually your potential knocking and asking to be let out. This thought is one of my favorite thoughts to bring with me when I head into auditions or nerve wracking situations, um, in my case, this interview, and let me tell you what it went so well, Josh was so kind, so insightful and so open. Um, I really felt myself rise to a new level of potential in my question, asking in my interviewing and I sense the potential of a budding new friendship. So, boom, that's my win. What's yours this week. What's going well in your world.
Okay, great. Congratulations. I am so happy for you. I'm so glad that you're winning. You deserve it. Keep crushing. All right. Speaking of crushing, I'm going to start today with a story of my favorite audition experience. This is many, many years ago now, and I'll start at the very beginning, which is a very nice place to start.. Name that lyric. Anyways, I got an audition breakdown for my agent that was for a project Rhapsody James, one of my favorite choreographers and dancers and creator types. Um, she was putting on a show called Sirens Assassins. It was actually a remounting of a work that she had already done. She had this, uh, this company, this creative project of hers called sirens assassins. And, um, the show is more or less. And I hope I'm not doing it a disservice by giving it the, um, the supermicro wrap up the cliff notes, if you will, but Sirens. Assassins is a show about women who possess very specific gifts, skills, or talents that make them in some way lethal. So these are not women that you want to cross. In other words, the show itself is very dark, very sensual, very mysterious, very exciting. It is like a film noir, but a show noir. So anyways, Rhapsody is remounting the sirens show. Everybody knows and loves the show. Everybody knows and loves Rhapsody in the breakdown of the audition. Now Rhapsody was calling specifically to replace a few existing roles in the show, but she also was asking for new characters. She asked to bring any ideas, bring yourself, bring yourself fully, of course, and is always dress body conscious, which is code for dress enclose that reveal your body not conceal your body. Another wardrobe note was to wear all black.
Okay. So this audition hit me with a one, two punch super combination, knockout. Number one, open call. So many people I'm already thinking, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh. Number two, dress body conscious as a person that was not 100% confident with my body anxiety dials up a little bit. And number three wear all black. Okay. How am I going to stand out? I decided in that moment, that one way I could stand out, it would be two elaborately disobey the call to wear all black and wear all white. I imagine that is being a surefire way to stand out, although possibly not in a great way. So my mind kept massaging. This thought of wearing all white. And then I eventually thought to myself, what if I even painted my face white? What if I was a clown? What if, what if this call for new characters? What if that is where I stand out? Not just in what I'm wearing on my body, but what I'm doing with my mind. Oh yes. Oh, I like this. Let's go deeper. What if I'm a clown? Scary clown. Yeah, it's been done. Maybe that's a little bit too on the nose. What about a mime? What if my mime character, my mime assassin had invisible objects that did real damage on the stage. What if the swing of an invisible machete sprayed blood across the back of the wall or the imaginary pulling of a ring out of a hand grenade thrown into a group of dancers that then jumped and hit the ground. Like, could we really dial up illusion and give this mime character a really, really cool and really, really invisible edge? I became so jazzed on this idea. I kept whirling and going and going deeper and digging in. At the time, also, I'd like to mention how lucky was I to have a makeup artist as a roommate? How lucky was I to have Gia Harris, makeup artists extraordinaire as a roommate? So she and I got right to work concept locked, loaded. Execution, oh my gosh, give me strength. I showed up a little late to the audition. Deliberate. Wouldn't recommend it. I didn't, I want to get there early and be tempted to converse with my fellow dancers or with Rhapsody herself. I had committed so fully to my concept that I knew I would not speak a word from top to bottom. So I arrived late partially for dramatic effect, but also partially so that I could really, really commit and sell the silence. I entered the room with the squeak of a door and almost every step that I took also had a squeak. You could hear a pin drop, a gasp, and it took people a while to recognize who I was obviously face paint. As soon as Rhapsody recognized me, she shook her head with a frown, but a sparkle in her eye that said, thank you. And also what in the heck are you doing. Now, I knew Rhapsody relatively well. Well enough to know that she favors the bold and brave ideas. Oh, that reminds me perfect example of one of my favorite quotes by Shirley McClain, who happens to also be front and center on the vision board of my life. Uh, she says, don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where all the fruit is. I'd like to add that it is also where the branches get thinner and susceptible to breaking. So you might fall, but alas, it is where all the fruit is. So at very least it is worth a risk assessment. I remember dancers in front of me beside me, behind me in 360 degrees, absolutely killing themselves to get Rhapsody’s attention. I mean, flipping, turning, jumping in heels and not much else for most of these ladies. And all I did was stand, pretend to lean on a fake wall or table smoking invisible cigarette. And when it was time to dance, I danced, I found several places in the choreography to layer my ideas about these invisible weapons and something, whether it was visible or invisible sealed the deal for me that day, I booked the job as a mime Rhapsody wanted the mime. Let's have a conversation about the difference between being special and having special skills. At the bottom of a dancer or performers resume. There's a section for special skills. And honestly, when I'm sitting on the other side of the casting table, that's where I look first. This is where you get to tell people if you know how to fence or do aerial work or operate heavy machinery, like a forklift, true story. I've seen it under special skills on a resume can operate a forklift. I love this stuff. It's what really sets dancers aside from one another and under my special skills at the time I auditioned for Rhapsody, you could absolutely not find mime because it wasn't a skill that I had. It was a special idea that I had not a special skill. Enter panic. I knew that if I wanted to portray this role and my creative vision to its fullest, I needed to back it up with actual skill, actual technique, actual mime training. So I did what I do. I hit the Google and I searched for best mime teacher in Los Angeles, kid. You not the first three results pointed me to Lorin Eric Salm and his mind theater studio. Lorin is a full time performer, mime instructor and movement coach. Most recently he coached, uh, Jesse Eisenberg in the role of Marcel Marceau himself for the film resistance, which is a must watch by the way, extremely beautiful and extremely relevant. Even though it takes place during world war II. Lorin brought me the tools that changed my craft more than any dance training I ever received. And he and I even went on to create our own curriculum. Mime technique for dance, which you will be seeing a second season of very, very soon. Please stay tuned For those details. We'll talk a little bit about that in this interview. Um, but today I'm bringing you just a part of that conversation with Lorin, because believe it or not mimes can actually talk for quite a long time. The whole interview is available by becoming a member on my Patreon page, www.patreon.com/WTMMpodcast I will link to that page in the show notes where I will also link to Lorin directly. One of the great things to come from this pandemic is that right now, Lorin is doing all of his workshops online. He just started a level one intro workshop. It's a six class series. Unfortunately the first workshop is already underway and sold out. But for anyone that's interested in really blowing the lid off of their training, adding a super special skill, please email Lorin so that you can get information about registration details for the next workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again that's email@example.com or you could call 310-494-MIME (6463) which is super cheeky. I really do recommend that you seek him out. He is a busy, busy guy, but if you can train directly with him, Holy smokes, it is so worth it. Alright. Alright. That is it for me today. Enjoy the first episode of Audition August and enjoy listening to mime and movement expert Lorin Eric Salm. Oh, and trust me, by the way, the irony of having a mime on a podcast is not lost on me. All right. Enjoy.
Dana: Lorin Eric Salm. I am so excited. You're here. Thank you for being on the podcast. I am jazzed about this.
Lorin: It's great to be here. I'm really happy. You asked me to do this.
Dana: I’m thrilled. Um, let's get into it. Let's get the, let's get this train and move in. Um, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Lorin My name is Lorin Eric Salm. Uh, I'm an actor specializing in mim8e and character movement. And I also teach mine and character movement. Uh, and I do that through workshops and classes and I do and private coaching. And I also do that through movement coaching for film, television commercials, music, videos, animation, um, all kinds of on-camera applications where character movement is important.
Dana: Okay. So on the teaching front, um, can you recall some of those first few sessions that we had together?
Lorin: I think that the thing I probably remember even more than specifically what we worked on was just us meeting each other and, and my getting to know who Dana Wilson is because, um, it was, I mean, I felt like we hit it off really well. Personality wise, you're, we're, we're both so, um, enthusiastic and passionate about what we do. That it was excitement on top of excitement. Um, and I remember, I mean, I think I started, uh, by teaching you some of the fundamental concepts that I teach everyone who is new to mine. And, um, that's always my first, my first step. And then the next thing that I, I think I did with you was try to focus on how, on what you needed to do, how you needed to apply this to what you're going to do, how much of it was traditional mine, how much of it involved dance, um, or something else and how that was going to require us to, to tailor or work toward the goal of that particular role. I wasn't sure what you knew and what you didn't know and what was going to be new to you and what you were going to look at and say, Oh yeah, this is something I already know how to do. So I was, I was excited about the things that were new to you. And, and I remember some of them where it was like a revelation of an entirely new way of looking at something perhaps that you did know, but it was a whole new way of looking at it. And, and I know that that was an exciting part of those sessions that we did together was giving you a new way of looking at movement. I mean, for someone who's experienced in movement, as you were at already at that time to give you a new way to look at it in a way to expand on that was exciting for me and for you.
Yeah. It was like, it was like dance gets in a room with mine and dance loves mine and mine gets in a room with dance. And my mime like, wait, are we the sec? Are we the same thing? Is this like weird self-love that we have? Um, yeah. In, in my studies with you, I was always blown away at the overlap between mime and dance. For me, I think mime does a really, really good job at explaining possibilities of motion and explaining combinations of movement and explaining parts of the body and explaining dynamics of movement. I just, I remember hearing you say words and being like, Whoa, that's what that's called or that's what you call it. And I'm feeling so glad that there was in fact a name for things. And in mime that in many cases there's a diagram for things. And, um, I am a sucker for words, obviously, cause here we sit, uh, in my podcast, but I also love notation. I love preservation. I like to think of myself as an archivist. Um, and I think you are as well. You are, you are writing a book about mime and you are one of the few, um, in our time. And certainly in this city that I know of that have trained with Marcel Marceau, one of the greats. So I knew that you were something special. And I knew that the relationship between dance and mime was something special, something that I wanted to dig more into. Um, and you and I did eventually create a, um, more or less, I guess I'll call it a syllabus. We created a training program called mime technique for dance and we broke, we broke it down into a, a five week class course. Um, we'll get, we'll get to that in a second. But for those that are listening that don't know much about mime or might think white face paint and white gloves when they think about mime. Um, could you tell those listeners which no shame, if that's you, uh, could you talk us through the difference or the differences between pantomime, traditional mime and corporeal mime, which is what became such an important part of
Sure. Well, I think that, um, a lot of people's impression of mime or knowledge of mine is limited by what they've seen. Film and TV tends to have a very narrow idea of what mime is and what it can be. A lot of it, if not all of it comes from stereotypes that grew out of Marcel Marceau's work. Marceau of course is it was the world's most famous mine throughout most of the 20th century and the, the first one to be widely covered on, on film and TV and for a very long time, for many years, um, as he helped, re-popularize the art. Most people were copying what he was doing and for, for a long time. So any stereotypes that grew out of that came from his, his look, uh, his costume and makeup, his style of performance, the, the, the types of stories that he would tell in mime and because Marceau wore white face makeup, that was probably the largest part, the largest stereotype that grew out of it. So almost universally when people think of mime, they think of white makeup. Um, it's kind of a long story, but yes, the white face tradition came from a character named Pierrot. Pierrot was the central character in the pantomime of 19th century France. So to give honor to that tradition Marceau wore the white face makeup. It was never his intention that everyone wear white face when doing mime, but because people copied his style, they also copied the white face. Many of them have no idea where it originally came from. Um, also what people copied were the illusions that Marceau made famous, especially early on when, when people weren't very familiar with mime, part of Marcel's performance was performing the illusions almost separately from any other context so that people could appreciate the technique and the art and the virtuosity of mime. And that was one of the things that stuck. He popularized things like walking against the wind and an illusion that came from a piece he had called the cage, which involved creating the illusion of what looks like an invisible wall. Um, he also did the tug of war, um, which is holding a rope, walking upstairs, things like this that became very common illusions, um, attached to mime, but Marcel, his work went far beyond that. Um, he has, he had comic pieces, dramatic pieces, lyrical poetic pieces, symbolic pieces, and it's a much deeper art form that goes far beyond simply creating illusions. There is of course acting involved. Um, when we think of pantomime and mime, nowadays, the terms are largely interchangeable. You really have to go back into history into the 19th century and even way back to ancient Rome and look at how at what mime was like in different periods in time to understand the differences between those two terms. And it would take a long time to go through those. So I'll basically just leave it at, there are historical differences between the two and today we don't largely differentiate between those two terms when it comes to you asking me about corporeal mime though, as well. Um, there is a big distinction between pantomime and corporeal mime. When if you ask someone who knows corporeal mime, what pantomime is, they will sharply distinguish it from what they did. Um, corporal mine is, is a technique that was developed in the early 20th century by Étienne Decroux like Marceau was also from France. In fact, he was Marceau’s teacher, um, around the late 19s and 20s and early 30s, Decroux decided to recreate mine from scratch and in studying the body, what you can do with the body, how the movement of the body works and how you can use it expressively in, in acting. He created this technique. He called dramatic corporeal mime. That's the full name of corporeal mine. Um, and it's based on a very structured technique, breaking down the body into individual parts and studying how to move those parts individually, isolated from the other parts and in groups of parts. So a lot of it is getting to know how your body moves very, very well, very technically and, and expanding, creating a movement vocabulary. I mean, corporeal mime offers a movement vocabulary and it expands the performers movement vocabulary, whether they didn't have one to begin with or whether they have one that perhaps comes from a different, um, approach to movement like dance or acrobatics or, or, or acting, um, it offers a, an expanded way of understanding how you can move the body and how you can use it expressively,
Beautiful Put a stamp on that and ship it. Um, as you were talking about corporeal, mime being a very technical, um, or let me, let me say this corporeal mime has a very technical way of breaking down the body into parts and then groups of parts. Um, and there are names for all of these parts and groups of parts, and there are ways that they can move together or isolated from each other. And I remember that as I was learning this skill set from you, or as I was learning this technique from you. I remember being in a bathroom at SNL studios, practicing how to isolate my head from my neck, looking at like looking at myself in a mirror, in a suit and tie, we were, were, uh, going to be performing Suit and Tie with Justin Timberlake in like an hour and a half.
And I was standing in the mirror, looking at myself, trying to hold my shoulders still until my ear, closer to my clavicle without moving my neck. And it's that degree of detail that corporeal mime really focuses on. And I had no clue how little control I had over my, over my body. I really fancied myself a person that, you know, knew what I was doing all the time with my body. And I really had to try hard to accomplish these seemingly very simple tasks. So I had, you know, from that point on, I was smitten with it and I really committed to achieving an awareness of my body and this kind of, I guess it's more than awareness. It's an awareness and a control and an ability to describe what I was doing that corporeal mime gave me. And I think those are the key points that we tried to bring forward with our workshop, mime technique for dance. It really was geared towards achieving this awareness and control and way to describe what we're doing with our bodies. And, um, it was so much fun for me creating that syllabus with you was such a ball. It was challenging, but it was so much fun.
So our first class was isolation, which I, how would you explain isolation to a person that's not a dancer or a mime?
Um, well, it's, um, a little, like what I mentioned before, it's learning, it's first knowing the parts of the body that you're working with, uh, in, in life, when we move one part of the body, we tend to move more than one part of the body without meaning to, or even being conscious that we're doing so. You move your head and your neck almost always moves with it. Sometimes you move your head by moving your neck, but even when you, when you think you're just moving your head, you don't realize how much your neck is moving as well,
Or your hips for that matter.
Yeah. Yes. You, you go to move your chest or your waist and your hips or your hips naturally get pulled along the way. Um, it, it's not natural for us to isolate one part of the body from the other. They usually isn't reason to do so. So we're not aware of how to do it. Um, but when you're using your body, expressively and movement is everything. You want to be able to move the parts you want to move and not move the parts you don't want to move. So that, um, because there, there is a difference. One, one thing, one movement says one thing and another movement says something else. So part of the work is understanding very carefully where one part ends and the other begins and working on different ways of holding some parts still, while moving other parts, it's always a balance of tension and relaxation of movement and resistance. There's a lot going on and it takes a while to learn how to do it.
I like to think of isolation as being how you direct the audience's eye. Um, and I think of movement in terms of volume. And I would want to make very, very quiet a part of my body that I don't want the audience to be looking at. And then I turn up the volume on the part of the body that I do want the attention to go to whether it's my leg or my hip or my shoulder, um, everything else gets quiet, almost muted. And then I dial up that, that part that I want to highlight or spotlight. And, um, it's a very important thing for a performer to know how to do be they dancer, actor, mime, you name it, um, that type of directing the eye or magician for that matter.
Yes, yes. For magicians. I I've taught magicians before. And of course directing the audience's eye and their focus is, is extremely important. Um, and movement can attract the eyes. So if you want to, for instance, if you want to get them to look at one thing and not another, um, being able to hold one part still or minimize the movement of that part while moving some other part can be useful in getting the audience to look where you want them to look.
Um, and then week two, we dug into character and this, I think, Ooh, it's hard to pick a favorite, but character might be my favorite part. In our character workshop we talk about a movement center, which I would explain to a dancer as being the part of the body that tells the audience the most about the character, um, with while saying the least. So I don't have to do a full dance to explain. I could just stand there and by highlighting or spotlighting this one part of the body, the movement center, the audience would know who this character is and what's important to them. Oh, I think we also, um, covered the Commedia in that class. Did we do that? Do we talk about Capitano and Columbiana and Arlecchino. Who else? Who am I missing?
Can you talk about those, those four characters real quick?
Sure. The Commedia dell'arte was the Italian comedy of the Renaissance era. And from that, um, tradition comes a whole set of characters that are very broadly defined, not only by their personalities, but by their physicality, uh, studying the comedic characters is a great introduction to understanding how clearly different one character can be from another, by connecting the physicality to the personality you're trying to express
Well said, well said, um, let's see, moving right along week three, we covered dynamo rhythms. Um, how would you explain dynamo rhythms? And, Oh my gosh, it would be a good test. If I can remember the 10
Well, the name dynamo rhythm, it's a combination of the dynamics and the rhythm of a movement and of movements as they relate to each other.
And as they relate to time, like how they move quick or slow or a combination of quick and slow.
Yeah. Yes, exactly. Exactly. So, so the, the dynamic, the dynamic part is things like, uh, tension and relaxation, um, and an accent, I guess you could say. And the rhythm part is what you were saying. The relationship to time, the tempo, speed and the what ends up being a rhythmic relationship between each movement and the movements before and after it
Incredible. And we're just halfway through our course.
You wouldn't explain what those 10 different dynamo rhythms are. Otherwise we might be giving away our course.
Oh yeah. You don't get that for free. Come on now. Come on now. Um, okay. In the next week we covered imagination. I suppose we dug a little bit more into illusions that week. Oh, segue in, uh, the difference between subjective and objective mime. Could you talk about that a little bit? I remember my mind being blown in our first couple of lessons. You helped me understand how I use my imagination to see an apple hanging from a tree, but how I use my body to show the audience how far away that tree is and what my emotional relationship to that tree and that apple are. Um, so, so using objective mime to explain the object and using subjective mime to, to explain things that do not have physical forms. Yeah.
So when you're, for instance, creating the illusion of picking an apple off a tree, you're using objective mind to show the tree, to show the apple and using subjective mime to show your thought process. What you're thinking about when you're dealing with these objects, why, what was the thought behind wanting to take an apple? How do you feel about it? How does it taste, um, what's your reaction to tasting the apple? I'd like to think every performance involves subjective mime, if not objective mime, whether you're you're dancing or acting or, or doing mine or, or anything really it's. If we can't see some kind of expression of your interior state, of being, what, the quality of your thoughts, um, the, what kind of emotions you're expressing, it can be a very dry expression of technique, or maybe not dry. The technique can be impressive or entertaining, but it can also, we can also feel like we're missing a connection to it. Um, if we don't get something from inside you and that's, uh, the emotion or the thought behind the movement, um, adds so much more to it, and that helps you connect to your audience. So that's where subjective mime comes in. There's, there's definitely something different when we can see that there's a thought process there, and that the movement is the result of a character that's thinking and feeling something and not just executing movement, no matter how well they do that movement,
That actually reminds me of an incredible quote that I have, um, from my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff, who says, I believe these are his words. That could be somebody else's words that came through his mouth. Um, but Gary always said, and I'll never forget “Stage presence is simply the amount of interest you have in what you are doing” and being engaged in some sort of imaginary thing is being interested in something and being interested in something is attractive. And so, you know, you will see, or you might say that somebody with stage presence, you might not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is that they're doing, but I can tell you it's that they're interested in something they are thinking of something other than simply executing five, six, seven, eight.
So, um, come take our class. I'm not even, we're not even done. That's true. Okay. So that's number four. Um, and then our fifth week, okay. This one might actually be my favorite on the subject of being interested and being interesting and being expressive. Um, week five is all about emotion. Uh, can you explain some mime attitudes for us? What, what is an attitude in mime?
Um, this is something that is very much from Marcel Marceau’s approach to my mom. Marceau when he, when he was asked to define mime or, or to describe mime, he would always say, it's, it's an art of movement and attitude. Attitude is part of subjective mime, really it's expressing your internal state of being. So there's, there's an external, the external attitude is the, the position the body is in whatever, whatever position the body is in whatever posture or whatever your arms and legs are doing, what your head is doing. That's the external attitude of the body. The internal attitude is the psychological and emotional state that you're in. Which of course we can't see. So it has to be in order for us to, to know what it is it has to be expressed with the body somehow. Um, so the attitudes are a series of, of movement studies, where we look at at different emotions and how those emotions express themselves, themselves in the body. And being able to do that involves exploring that emotion and finding, finding what is, what I like to say is essential about it, finding the qualities that are essential to that emotion. Um, and then once we know, once we can put it into a single statue, then we can start to move it around and know, know what elements of that statue to carry into the movement.
I love that explanation. And I think you just revealed one of the other reasons as if I needed any more reasons that I love mime and that's that it is very deliberate, very specific, um, that all of the fat has been stripped away. You have what you called essential qualities. And to me, essential qualities become universal qualities. I grew up in the suburbs of Aurora, Colorado. So let's say somebody grew up in the jungles of the Amazon rainforest. They might see the mime attitude for fear and understand that that character is afraid. These are like universally spoken and universally heard, but without words, it's so poetic. It's so beautiful. And I I'm geeking out right now, just thinking about how beautiful that is.
So when you're not learning and you're not teaching, you're actively working, whether it's with an animator or as a movement coach, actually, one of the things I'm very, very excited to talk about is your latest project as a movement, coach and choreographer, um, on the film Resistance, starring Jesse Eisenberg. And I'm thrilled to see it. It was just released
Movie releases right now are not what they usually are.
Yeah, it's a funny thing, isn't it? Um, but still it's, it's been a special release and Jesse's talked a lot about the process of preparing for this role and he talks a lot about you, and I'm so glad that he does. I'm always fascinated in hearing about how actors prepare physically for roles that are very physically demanding. Um, and this film, Jesse is portraying Marcel Marceau and Whoa, what a daunting task. Um, I'm so glad they found you. Could you tell us a little bit about how they found you?
Sure. Well, uh, I've been, I've been doing movement coaching for film and TV for, I think about 18 years. So my name is out there as a, as a movement coach for this sort of thing. But when it came to finding a coach or not only a coach to teach someone mime, but to teach someone how to play Marcel Marceau. Who’s widely considered the greatest line performer of our time. That was something more specific. And, um, I actually heard about the film early on after the first press release was put out that the film was in development and that Jesse had been cast to play Marceau as soon as I heard that, I immediately started trying to do everything I could to contact the producers, to tell them I'm the guy I'm, I'm, uh, I'm the movement coach that you need for this project. Um, and, and I, I couldn't, I couldn't find them. I tried every bit of, um, contact information I could find for them and for their company. And I absolutely could not get through to them. I was as frustrated as I was about not being able to, to get through and talk to them. I finally had to give up because I didn't know what else to do. Months went by actually I about a year went by, uh, and I figured that ship had sailed. They were making the film was made. They found someone else, and I lost my chance to work on it. And then one of my students said to me that they had just seen a press release about the film, uh, that they were still casting some other actors. And when I realized that they were still casting and hadn't shot the film yet, I thought, wow, maybe there's still time to get in on this, but I still didn't know what else to do. Uh, I asked someone who I knew in the industry, um, someone who is a, uh, a manager that, who didn't represent me, but I thought might have connections that could get to the producers in some way that I wasn't able to. So I, I asked them for, for help with this. And, and they said they would, um, even though it seemed like kind of a long shot at this point, since the film was already so far in, but they said they would give it a shot. Literally two days after I asked them for help, I get a call from the director and he asks to meet with me. So I meet with, with him and the producer over lunch and somewhere in the conversation, I casually asked him how he heard about me. And, and he says, I found you on the internet.
See, I'm telling you Google
But, but I said, I said, w so you, you, you just did, uh, you just did a search on the internet and that's how you found me. And he said, yeah. And I didn't want to be specific, but I said, just to clarify, I said, did someone tell you about me before you looked me up? And he said, no, he just on his own, did the search and found me. And somehow his finding me had nothing to do with this person who just two days earlier, I had asked to try and get to the director. It was just some cosmic coincidence that when I took this one last shot at trying to get on this film, the film found me
It was destined. And I'm so glad that it happened. And I'm glad that you were found because it seems like, well, it sounds like, I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like from everything I've read that you did an incredible job and I'm not shocked by that. Um, it sounds like Jesse took really well to the training. Um, and in all of the interviews that I've read, uh, Jesse talks about working with you as being kind of a two pronged approach, this academic side, where you taught him a lot of history and gave a lot of insight into who Marcel, you know, the person that is him. Um, but then of course, there's the physical side. Um, the learning of the techniques, the rehearsing, the learning the choreography. I'm wondering if, when you do this type of work, if that's always your approach, do you always take an academic and a physical approach to teaching this type of work?
It depends who I'm teaching for what purpose. And in what context, when I teach my own classes and workshops, I, I do mix the history in with my teaching, because I think it's important for our students. Not only to learn the technique and learn and learn how to use it, but mine is it's different than if you go to take an acting class, or if I, if I might say a dance class, um, it would be unusual in, in either of those, for the teacher to feel the need, to give you the history of theater or the history of dance for you to be able to understand what you're doing. Partly because more of those things are, are commonly known, whereas mime, most people, no don't even know the history of mind back to the beginning of the 20th century, much less all the way back to ancient Greece. And not that they have to, but, um, I, I like people to know something about the art and where the techniques come from that i’m teaching them and what the difference is between one kind of mime and another kind of mime. Um, and so I naturally mix that in also because I'm very interested in it. So I think I naturally introduce that as part of my, um, teaching it to other people. But if I, if I was coaching someone, um, you know, sometimes if I coach for film or television, I have very little time to work with an actor. I may have a few sessions with someone. I may have one session with someone I might even be brought directly onto the set and coach someone right before they're going to shoot a scene, which is certainly not ideal, but sometimes that's all I get. So I don't have time to, to add the surrounding material I have to get directly to, this is what you're going to do, and this is how to do it. Um, with Jesse though, not only did I have a lot of time to work with them, we, we worked repeatedly over a span of several months. Um, and we had hours at a time to work together, um, sometimes consecutive days at a time to work together. Um, but for him, it was also, not only had to do a scene or two where he performed mime, he had to play the character. He had to play Marceau and understand the character and why, where Marceau learned mime and, um, how it figured into his life and him as a person. And, um, so I, aside from my natural tendency to introduce history into the lessons and be very academic about it, it was also part of helping him understand more so in where Marceau fits into mime. I mean, who this guy was and why he became the most famous mime in the world, even though Jesse didn't really have to worry so much about that in the story, because almost the entire film takes place before Marceau began his career as a mine performer.
A lot of people ask me the difference between movement coaching and being a choreographer. I like to think of movement coaching is everything that doesn't involve account all movement that is not count specific. Once you give a one, two, three or five, six, seven, eight, that becomes choreography, but everything else from the way a character sits, stands, walks, you know, all, all other movement elements of a character would fall under the scope of work of a movement coach. And I love doing that type of work. And I love the way that my mime training has supported me to do that type of work. Um, it's, uh, it's delicious. It's so much fun. So on the subject of choreography though, because you also did choreograph the mime in the scenes of this film, um, how did you reference Marcel's more familiar works and his style without actually ripping off or like in the dance world, we would call it biting. How, how did you show that this is Marcel Marceau without ripping off his moves or his phrases?
Well, that was a careful line to walk. We the director, and I agreed that we didn't want to use Marceau’s choreography directly. We didn't want to have Jesse perform an actual mime piece that Marceau had created, um, for, for a number of reasons. But one of which again is that this whole film takes place before Marceau started as my career and began creating the work that he's known for. But it was important that particularly for people who know Marceau’s work, that they could see in this younger character, the, the person who was going to become that famous mime, that everyone knows. So we wanted to include it in my choreography I wanted to include things that alluded to was, were things that were recognizable, that someone might have seen in one of Marceau's pieces that he choreographed, but it was also important to capture more so style in my own choreography. Um, so I, I guess I sort of tried to choreograph the pieces as if Marceau was choreographing them. It's a combination of his technique, which, which he really didn't have much of at the time the movie takes place, because like I said, he hadn't studied mime. He hadn't studied with Decreux yet, so he didn't really have the technique, what he had was his innate talent for movement and his, his talent for imitation I'm imitating the silent film stars that were his influences, like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, um, and, and just imitating people. Um, but I, I put some of that technique on top of that, even though he wouldn't really have had it yet, so that his movement would somewhat resemble the movement that we know when we think of more so, so I had to bring his style into it and at the same time, avoid my style because although I use his technique, I use it in my own way. And, and here I had to very careful that I was teaching Jesse to use more so style and not my style. So that was a part of the work. The other thing was, mime is not just movement it's drama. So there's more so has his own dramatic approach to telling a story, to expressing a thought. And that's something that I know very well from having studied with him. So I put, I tried to put Marceau’s way of approaching drama into, and when I say drama, I mean, comedy and drama. I mean, I mean, that's a lot of right there, there, there, there are other aspects of it, like the way that it was written when, when Jonathan Jakubowicz, who, who wrote and directed the film, when he wrote the mime scenes for the film, he had specific, well, someone's specific sometimes general ideas of what was going to happen in the mime scene. And, and that was what I had to choreograph. So, um, I also was, um, I wasn't just creating standalone mind pieces for their own sake. The mime pieces that were in the film were related to the plot. They had to further the plot in each scene. So that was a consideration I had to take. And of course each scene could only be so long. So I had to work within the confines of how long the piece could be. I sometimes had to have certain parts of a piece move faster or slower based on the scene or how they were going to shoot it. I couldn't just choreograph these as if they were mime pieces that I was going to perform on stage any way I wanted to, they had to, it was done for a film. And that, that was something was something different, not to mention the fact that they were going to be performed on camera, not on the stage, and that also necessitated choosing movements and qualities of movements differently than I would if they were going to be performed on a stage
For sure, a whole different batch of considerations. Okay. Here's what I want to finish with. I could not myself, If I did an entire episode and not talk about the one mime technique that changed my life and dancing the most. Um, when I say life, I mean, truly like the way I physically show up, uh, for myself in the world every day, and that is suspension. So when I put, um, a pin in breath earlier on in the conversation, this is what I'm talking about. Um, suspension, probably suspension was probably one of the first things that you taught me. So I am wondering Lorin Eric Salm, if you could talk us through a quick, um, explanation of what is suspension and maybe if we're all in a safe place I.E. not driving, um, if we could join in on this, uh, physically as you talk us through it..
Wow. Okay. Um, maybe the notes suspension is, is very much a Marceau approach to mine. It's the foundation of Marcel Marceau’s technique, but not all mines use suspension. Uh, some of them arrive at suspension through another approach to their movement. They, they arrive at something equivalent to, or similar to suspension without necessarily using Marceau's technique. Uh, there was, there are plenty of mimes though, who don't have suspension at all. Um, it's not something every mime performer knows about. So I should say that. Um, but knowing that it's the, perhaps the most important thing of Marceau his whole technique and knowing that Marceau was Marceau it certainly makes you, uh, hopefully interested in knowing what suspension is and learning how to use it. Um, suspension is, let's see, I'm trying to think of how to put this. I always have the benefit of being able to use my body to explain suspension while I'm doing it
Right. Podcasts is such an unnatural place for a mime to live.
Actually it is. Um, suspension is a way of giving life to the body, visual life, to the body, making you, um, making you interesting to look at. And I don't mean in a stylistic way. I mean, making people want to watch what you're doing. It's a way it's a, it's another way of giving. You talked about stage presence earlier. It's a way of holding and moving your body in a way that, that adds something to it that we don't see in everyday life. That makes it, I always like to say, if you want to see everyday life, you can just walk outside and look around and you'll see people walking around as they do in life. That's everyday life. When you see someone on stage or in a performance on camera or on a stage, we expect to see something more than that. And, and, and, uh, a theatrical performance. It seems like it's missing something. If it's, if we just move the way we do in everyday life, we have to add something more to it and make it more interesting. Suspension is a technique for doing that. And it's rooted in the breath, I guess. Uh, you asked me to give you something. You could try, try breathing in slowly. Uh, and as you breathe in, imagine that you can actually see the breath entering the body and follow it. Not only down into your lungs, but imagine it could go up into your head and fill your head. Imagine it could go out through your shoulders, down your arms, through your hands, all the way, the tips of your fingers. Imagine that it passes your lungs and goes down through your abdomen, through your pelvis, your legs, all the way to the tips of your toes. So by the time you're done taking in that breath, it's the air is filling the entire inside of your body and not just invisibly, but let it change the body. As the air enters a part of the body, something that is visible. And then when you then breathe out slowly, and as the air leaves each part of the body, let that change go away until you're back to where you were when you started then trying repeatedly to repeat that process slowly and then more quickly. And then just with a single breath, you breathe in, create the image of the air going everywhere in the body, all at once in, in the second, it takes you to take in a breath and filling the body and supporting it, holding it there. So your body is not just there. Loose as Mr. Marceau would say, but that you're, you're holding it up. Not, not necessarily physically up. It can be in the same position you were in, but it's not just hanging there. You're holding it there and using that image of breath inside the body to hold your body. And then of course, we translate that into movement where using the breath to support each movement Marceau would compare that to, to music, the way that music sustains. A note, a when, when you play a note on a wind instrument, the note only exists as long as the breath supports it, or when you sing a note vocally as the moment the breath has gone, the note dies movement can be very much the same way when it's supported by suspension, by the image that there's breath inside the body, throughout the movement. It gives visual life to that movement in a way that makes, that takes it to a new place.
Thank you. That is exquisite. That was a perfect rundown without saying too much.
One of my favorite things to do was to suspend with different qualities of breath, or in other words, the visual quality that I give to the breath that's entering my body, depending on the character that I'm portraying might be, um, a pale blue kind of like the sky type of breath, or it might be molten hot magma, or it might be like the galaxy dark, dark blacks, and bright, bright whites and stars and swirls and colors and stuff. So, so the visual qualities that I give the breath that I take in also changes the way I'm held instead of hanging. I love that differentiation. Um, so there's a lot of different ways that I've used suspension, not only in performance itself, but in the way that I train people to become aware of their breath and train people, to become aware of the quality of the carriage of their body. It's a very fun thing to imagine and a super fun thing to practice. And I love practicing it. I love, uh, I love being able to practice this at all times. You really truly can practice it driving. I just didn't want you to hear about it for the first time while you're driving. Cause it does take some focus, but I remember learning a suspension for the very first time and practicing it while I was in the car being at stoplights. And I would look to see if the person next to me was noticing me, and if they weren't, I would suspend and just count the seconds before they looked it, it is in re relationship in relationship to stage presence. It is an incredible way to get people, to look at you by being interested in your own breath, how you know, it, it makes you an attractive being to be inspired, I guess. Um, maybe we could close out with just a couple of words on, on inspiration. Um, what inspires you? What,
Wow. Um, I've always been inspired by movement. I'm not sure I can even tell you why it's something that just feels right. I think always wanting to be an actor and having this feeling for movement when I found mime and could combine the two, I guess that's when I realized that was my thing.
That is a beautiful answer. And I'm so glad that you love movement because I guess because of that, here we are a mime and a dancer, having a conversation talking, uh, for hours. I cannot thank you enough for sharing Lorin, your, your, your insights and the wealth of information that you hold are truly priceless. So thank you so much for being here.
Oh, well, you're very welcome. And thank you for inviting me on the podcast. I'm glad to be a part of it. And of course, I always love having your conversation with you. My pleasure,
My pleasure, and likewise. Okay, everybody. Um, we're gonna, we're gonna sign off and see you all later, Lorin. Thanks again.
I'm waving. Like nobody can see that,
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