Pantomime Essay, Research Paper


This paper is about pantomime, about it’s origin, it’s people, how it has

evolved, and how wonderful it is.

Pantomime is a dramatic performance in which a story is told or a theme

developed through expressive bodily or facial movement. The origin of pantomime

can be traced back to classical farce and the Italian Commedia Dell’arte. Not

all pantomime is silent. The completely silent performance of pantomime was

invented in Rome. Pantomime is sometimes used to worship.

Mime is a short way of saying pantomime and also means someone who performs

pantomime. A mime, if performing on the streets, will have a hat that is passed

around for spectators to put money in.

When doing pantomime, it should be noted that the imaginative performance skills

are illusion and illustration. Also, you should “cultivate an understanding of

the role that the body plays in suggesting an idea, an impression, a sensation,

or a character.” Pantomime can be done solo, or in a group of any size.

Before performing, a mime must do warm-up and relaxation exercises. Miming takes

mental and physical strength. Perfect coordination of all parts of the body is

essential for expressive movement and graceful poise in pantomime. A good mime

must be very flexible. You must be fluid at changing posture to create a

character. Facial expression changes everything while performing pantomime. You

must be very relaxed when doing pantomime.

People speak different languages, but most gestures mean the same thing.

Animals, insects especially, have probably done pantomime before humans were

even alive. For example, bees do pantomime when telling others where nectar is,

and peacocks use pantomime to impress a mate.

Prehistoric man was next, after animals, to do pantomime. Prehistoric men would

do pantomime to try to influence nature to let them get a kill while hunting.

Before language, prehistoric men told about a hunt with pantomime. Prehistoric

men would use pantomime to tell the history of the tribe.

A clown named Grock became a very successful mime. He started as an acrobatic

clown at a very young age. Grock became famous because he succeeded in the

circus and in the music hall.

After years of successfully performing in circuses, he tried his clown routine

in a theater in Berlin. Grock began to move away from broad comedy in the

Grimaldi tradition, and towards Debureu’s type of performance. In his first

performance in a theater, the audience did not respond. Grock realized that the

type of performance required for the theater is different than that required by

the circus.

Grock began to use a clown as a pantomime character whose actions comment on

life. Grock went on to become one of the greatest performers of the variety

stage. Grock used music to portray man’s struggle with fate, just like

Beethoven, but in a different way. Before Grock would play violin, he would

throw the bow up in the air and try to catch it, but miss. Then he would retreat

behind a screen to practice and the audience could see the bow flying above the

screen. He returned to face the audience and missed again. He became so

flustered that he threw the bow in the air and caught it without even knowing


When Grock sat down on the piano bench to play piano and found that it was too

far from the piano, he would struggle to push the piano closer to the bench!

Like all good comedy, this reflected man’s struggle to tame nature.

The circus was saved from too much clown tradition in the 1940’s by a man named

Emmett Kelly. The costumes were getting too elaborate. The usual clown costume

descended from the vari-colored costume of the Roman mimes. Originally, it was

intended to symbolize rags, like the clown was an impractical guy who didn’t get

along in the real world. A long evolutionary process ended up with vari-colored,

but elaborate costumes. The costumes reached some sort of peak when the

Harlequin costumes of the English pantomime had as many as fifty-thousand

sequins on them. Emmett Kelly brought back the original idea and wore a tramps

costume of actual rags. The usual clown make-up is a bright colored pattern

which serves as a trademark for each clown. Kelly wore make-up to match his

raged costume. He invented his own intimate style of pantomime in, but almost

independent of, the circus. Kelly would beg peanuts from kids in the audience

and then break the shells with a huge hammer, completely shattering the peanut, and then search stupidly for the meat among the debris.

Clowns of the modern circus are called “Joeys” after Joseph Grimaldi. In the

modern American circus, there are many able clowns including Lou Jacobs, Paul

Wenzel, Otto Griebling, Paul Jung, and Freddie Freeman, but they are almost

overwhelmed by the sheer size of the circus.Modern circus clowns depend on acrobats, costumes, and mechanical stunts to perform, but a mime just has gestures. The technique of the circus clown is

limited by the conditions under which he performs, therefore, there is a

tendency for any successful idea to be repeated so much that it becomes a

tradition. Most of the clowning is done in what is called a clown promenade, or

walkaround, in which the clowns circle the arena while performing so that each

spectator might see a complete performance. Each clown performs something

different. It is difficult to think of gags to perform while walking in a

parade. One could carry a heart that lights up like a neon sign when he sees a

pretty girl, another could drive a really small sportscar, or one may wear a

trick costume which enables him to change from an old lady to a midget, and back

again. One clown may run away from a stuffed tiger that is attached to him by a

thin wire.

As you can probably see, pantomime has changed over the years and there have

been ups and downs during the change. There were also some performers who saved,

or played a big part in the history of pantomime.

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