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Teaching Mime & Acting Skills for Creative Story Telling

Teaching Mime & Acting Skills for Creative Story Telling.

"We live to communicate mime finds new ways to communicate the ancient truths. It centers on universal situations of war, peace, love, and much more."

The mime has the ability to embody the essence of a reality and let it shine through motion clearly

Elixir Mime Overview

Elixir Mime uses Applied Theater, which is the use of drama practice in an educational, community or therapeutic context. It is often done in non-theatrical spaces, with participants who do not consider themselves to be artists.

At the Elixir Mime workshops we teach mime acting techniques, communication, storytelling, and presentation skills to the participants. Though all young people could benefit from these workshops, our focus is to help young people that are underserved, disadvantaged, or challenged physically or mentally, and to empower their caregivers to teach dramatic skills.

Mime opens up performance possibilities for international communication and is especially beneficial for the Deaf as a means of expression. It is also an excellent and viable means of developing self-confidence and communication skills in youth. The institutions hosting the workshop will monitor progress of the participants and keep the momentum up for developing their drama skills during and after the workshops with our heartfelt cooperation, on-going support, and networking capabilities. We encourage new mime groups to form in the places where we have done workshops and continue to cooperate with any existing mime performing groups that share our goals. We continually strive to update and improve our performance arts skills by researching new methods and instruction in order to communicate more effectively.

At the end of the 3 day workshop, participants should be able to:

  • Be proficient in the basic mime skills
  • Teach others the basic skills of mime they have learned
  • Put on a short performance

During and after each workshop an evaluation is made of the workshop, both by the facilitators and the participants to make future workshops more effective.

Goals

  1. help the participants to utilize the power of stories through dramatic performances to share meaningful stories and ideas
  2. work with existing NGO’s to facilitate mime, acting, storytelling workshops in their area and enhance their skill training program.
  3. give the disadvantaged and those facing special physical challenges a means of creative expression
  4. introduce Elixir Mime’s story/telling mime course to a wider audience. The course made available to each member and they will be encouraged to share it with others
  5. build a network with volunteers and interested young people for continued development of storytelling through mime and theater.
  6. encourage volunteers and young people to develop acting skills in order to perform at a professional level and enhance their public communication skills
  7. create and perform regular quality performances containing inspirational story content at established theatres as well as at informal settings.

Objectives:

  1. Facilitate mime/storytelling workshop or related projects regularly every month
  2. Document each workshop with photos, reports, recommendation letters and newsletters
  3. Research and improve the workshop material by continually enriching the class content
  4. Correspond with former participants and seek to find new participants for the workshops every month. Strengthen and expand our mime workshop network.
  5. Develop and adapt the course to fit the needs of special sectors such as the mentally challenged, troubled or delinquent youth, summer camps, and integration of the Elixir Mime course into public school curriculums.

The Concept:

To build positive communication and drama skills through powerful and inspirational story performance.

The purpose of these workshops is to develop expressive & dramatic story telling skills in young people. Mime is our emphasis because we are not focusing on dialogue, but rather on actions, theme, body movements, and facial expressions. Narration is sometimes used. Much more than just French classical mime, our techniques emphasize communication skills that can be understood by any nationality or language. Acting out stories has been proven to be one of the most effective means of sharing ideas and feelings throughout the ages.

As one Story Telling NGO put it: "Stories transport, amuse, teach, question, and they heal. They shape the way a generation grows, help mould minds and they are essentially the way we learn. Since there is a natural urge and a considerable ability in all human beings to narrate stories, we believe, that even the simplest endeavors of nurturing this impulse can bring about immense results in inspiring imagination and a positive approach to living."

Appreciation and Invitation for all:

"We would like to give a big thanks to all who participated in our mime workshops and to those who expressed interest or gave support in various ways to our projects. You are the reason for our success. If we can be of service in any way to you in developing the storytelling mime project in your area, please feel free to let us know. It is hoped that you will recommend us to those you meet so that we can continue to develop this work in new areas as well. If you would like to continue to participate in future projects, please keep in touch so that we can keep you informed. Thanks and best wishes!"

- Peter van Gorder (director of Elixir Mime)

Goals for 2017: Train mime actors and story tellers at our coffee shop A30 in Dresden, Germany. Continue our weekly performances and storytelling there.

Conduct workshops in countries that are in need of our services.

Facilitating mime workshops and training programs in Port Elisabeth, and other cities in South Africa as well as developing a drama program for the schools in Lesotho. These projects would be done in conjunction with Family Care Africa.

Developing specific themes for targeted venues and audiences such as building self-esteem for abused women in homes in Thailand, performing arts for autistic children for summer camps in Texas, dramatizing the immune system for health awareness in Africa and the Dresden Health Museum, enacting stories for Dresden’s International Week against Racism, and acting out stories for conflict resolution for the Military Museum in Dresden.

Activities in 2016:

Featured project:

Thanks to a mission grant and the kind cooperation of several NGO’s, we were able to do a total of 3 mime workshops and performances in Bangkok and 1 in Chiang Mai. In Bangkok we were working with the Central Thailand Mission’s project partners, that is very committed to a multitude of beneficial social projects. These included the Thanksgiving Home (23 developmentally-challenged kids and needy youth), the House of Blessing (about 30 kids born in prisons who were stigmatized or ¬abandoned), and the Emergency Home (a protective shelter for those who have suffered from abuse, domestic violence, or rape). In Chiang Mai, we worked an international school. The principal was interested in training her teachers in performing arts methods, especially with Christmas in mind. We established a very good working relationship with this school that will continue and be developed more fully in the future.

In Bangkok, we worked with a specific theme in mind. The CTM organized a big event on the next Sunday after we came for the women of the Emergency Home, where got a beauty make-over, new clothing, baby care items, receive some cosmetic packs, and enjoy our performances. The theme for our activities was “I Am” - The goal being to instill a sense of self-worth in the women and children. Some of the specific attributes we covered were: I am: loved, love life, valuable, beautiful, a good friend, good person, not guilty, worthy, strong, can do it, nice to be with, clever, forgiven, and not afraid of making mistakes.

We used simple object lesson stories to illustrate various themes such as a bouncy ball to show resiliency (bouncing back), an umbrella to show protection, a diamond to show how valuable they are, a mirror to show that they are beautiful, and a medal to show that they are winners. In this case, the prop triggered the story to illustrate the theme. We made a game of it and had a list of possible answers in Thai, and they had to choose the correct word that the sketch represented. Prizes were given as rewards.

A beautiful aspect of this workshop was that we were able to act out many meaningful stories that reminded me of many of Jesus’ parables. For example, to illustrate the theme of how valuable each person is, we acted out a woman dressed in black cloth with an attitude of despair that held in her hands a lump of clay that symbolized her beating heart. An explorer came with a flashlight and found her. He asked her to give her heart to him. She was hesitant at first but then reluctantly gave it to him. The explorer took off the outside layer of clay to expose a brilliant diamond within. He then polished it and gave it back to her. She became elated and showed it with joy to others.

Usually we cover basic acting principles in our workshops that they can apply in their own future performances; but in this case we focused on creating a performance on a theme and then taught the principles needed to bring that about as we rehearsed. I would call it theme based learning.

Some of the things we learned in these workshops were:

Encouraging shy or reticent students to get more involved. One young boy was so focused on football that he wasn’t interested in much else. He was very shy and when we used the soccer ball as a tool to bring out various principles in team working etc., he came out of his shyness. Then later when we did other activities like acting out various animals, he got into the details of doing the mime accurately.

  • Making a powerful 'wow' ending to stories so that they finish with a flourish.

  • Covering staging basics such as: Don't turn your back to the audience, use your entire full body to express ideas and emotions, realize that timing is important, use your senses, focus and concentrate, eyes on the goal, always keep in mind what you want to accomplish, using contrasts to bring out principles, learning how to use the creative process to solve problems and simplify complex stories.

  • Using the dynamics of the group to improve what you're doing and give a proper presentation.

  • Learning the principles of blocking the action and how to select stories.

  • Working through the creative process – everybody getting involved so they have ownership.

Here are some of the reactions from the teachers and participants of the workshops.

“Thank you very much, Peter and Pauline for taking the big leap of faith to come here to present your Pantomime Seminar! Initially I was overcome with how could you possibly change a story into a pantomime-not to mention all of the other details that would go into creating a performance with “no actor” types?  But as Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage and we all are actors…” I guess some of us are unwilling actors, while others are doing a grand performance which everyone else can see. I learned I could be natural and be a good actor.

The way you went about it made it seem so simple and it was easy to get started.  This was a sort of revolutionary approach that can be applied to many avenues of teaching, education and society, which is: to not wait until everything is perfect, but to start with what you have, right where you are and that you can start right now!  That was mind-blowing!

When some of the participants discovered that their input was valued, they saw that they could apply the principles they learned.  They also were encouraged as they shared their comments and ideas to see them considered and implemented.

You just stayed focused and used the opportunity to teach, also using our comments to teach as the situations arose.  Using this method helped us consolidate lessons and points faster than if we read about them in a book because we had a situation that helped us to stay on track. We learned how to apply points and ideas as they came up.  We got to see how everyone can contribute and how the experience is a learning and teaching experience for everyone at the same time. Because we were actively involved in the creative process, we were constantly switching from teaching to learning.

The warm-up exercises to teach acting points, as well as the props, the hats, and masks helped us to see how one “little thing” can change and say so much. All of this was very enlightening.

The story selection process, the reading of the story, the blocking of the action and then going through the process of what you want to show and the importance of minimal movement or better yet,  “movement with meaning” helped us not to be misunderstood or to distract from the main story.  It was also important to see how needed it was to “bell the cat” and get participants to be an active part as soon as possible.  As they contribute it breaks down walls and helped us to move towards our goal quickly while also helping people to learn better as they were applying what they learned, while refining and constantly modifying what they learned.  For someone like me who is, “public performing dramatically challenged”-the seminar will have a very positive effect on teaching, singing and speaking in public as well.

We learned not to get stuck in a rut about ideas but saw that it was  possible to have some freedom of movement of ideas without getting completely derailed.  We learned how to incorporate “simple” artistic, but not overly elaborate actions, that most Thai students can possibly do since most are artistically inclined, as well as face-painting to enhance characters.

The idea of getting feedback at the end of the day as well as at the end of the seminar was good as you are getting these ideas fresh. 

Potential Impact

It seems evident that the participants will use the ideas learned in their regular teaching and outreach.  There is a great potential for drama, mime troupe, Christmas program, drama, creative writing, a school play and more.  If the top of the school gets inspired then the sky’s the limit on the impact that can be had.”

“Acting teaches you how to move and emote in the situations you find yourself in.”

“I’m a teacher and have to act a lot with the students to keep their attention  - or to keep them from being naughty. I have to be firm but also I have to find new ways to have fun with them. Being a teacher is a multi-character job. You have to improvise a lot of the time and be sensitive to the situation. I have to act strong – so body language and the things I learned in this workshop are useful and important.”

“This mime workshop has been a good experience for the children so they can learn how to express their feelings. Some of the participants were autistic and they often have a hard time to express their feelings well. Mime and the acting principles we learned helped them to get people to understand what they are thinking and their emotions.  It helps tremendously in developing their communication skills. For some of them it was a new experience. When they practiced they gained more confidence.”

“I liked the exercises and games you did with masks. The students picked a mask and then acted with it. This helped them to express certain feelings.”

“I appreciate what this team is sharing – professional knowledge and technical know-how in doing mime. I came to realize this is such a great tool – a great teaching aid for all educators. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. God bless you in all your endeavors.”

“When they perform, they get self-confidence. They feel that people accept them.”

“The quick drama games we did helped them to learn how to show emotions through actions.”

“Thanks for coming and for all of your energy and sharing your talents.””

“When working with beginning actors you have to take what you have and turn it into something beautiful. It is a matter of stirring up the gifts that are within you and bringing it out. Soon you discover what they can do. Of course, some are slower but as long as you stay simple and are patient you can make progress. You give them an opportunity to overcome their fears and timidity to do something that they felt that they couldn’t do before and step out of themselves.”

End of comments

These mime and storytelling workshops that were held in Thailand were a great experience for us as well as the participants and opened up a lot of possibilities for future collaboration in other projects.

***

Performances and workshops with refugees – Dresden, Germany

Throughout the year we used Applied Theater with the refugees at the camp as well as our coffee shop named A30, where we do weekly storytelling and mime performances. Every week we have around 30 refugees from various nationalities who attend. After the performance we involve the audience in a lively discussion where they can share their stories and make applications to their lives.

In conjunction with the Dresden city office, Elixir Mime contributed their talents with dramatic interactive mime performances for their annual street festival. This was a first for us. We were invited by the city to contribute to other festivities and events in the future such as the upcoming International Week Against Racism that will be held in March 2017. We are now in the planning stage for this event.

After doing several performances for the refugees in Arabic at the camp and another venue, we were invited by the German Red Cross to do workshops with the focus of developing the theme of “Overcoming Fear of the Unknown”. To do this we focused on the verbs that related to this theme and developed short sketches to illustrate these ideas. We boiled these ideas down to: We can address our fears, control them, or expose them. We joined all the stories together by using a briefcase as the ‘recurring motif’*.  As the participants developed their own original stories and performed them, they had a better insight into story creation.

*A motif is a recurring element in a story. Motifs are images, ideas, sounds or words that help to explain the central idea or theme.

We received this commendation from the Red Cross representative:

“Various aspects of fear were dealt with in a playful and creative form. The workshops and performances demonstrated methods of resolution to overcome fear and transform it in a positive way. We appreciate all those that participated in this work well done.”

***

We did a 3 day workshop in Budapest, Hungary and another 2 day mime and storytelling workshop in Gothenburg, Sweden for volunteers many different nationalities.

Activities in 2015:  Palestine – Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hungary fellowship, at A30

Featured project:

Elixir Mime conducted an introduction workshop in Bethlehem, at a conflict resolution center with the volunteers there. Our purpose was to discover ways to use stories in pantomime to communicate ideas in relation to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. We explored ways to use body movement as a medium of expression. We used various stories as vehicles to bring out the theme of resolving conflict.

An extensive 18 hour course and workshop was held in conjunction with the Palestinian Red Cross in Ramallah, West Bank. The target group was teachers and caregivers of deaf students.  This workshop gave a unique chance for the participants to enhance their creative talents that will in turn benefit  thousands in their respective fields.

We also did a 4 day workshop with Palestinian scout leaders and graduates from the MOVE volunteer training program. We used human statues to illustrate the various attributes of scouting such as being: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Each participant brought an object that was special to them and a story was built around it. For example: One brought a stick that his grandfather had given him. We showed the grandfather in his role as shepherd, then as he gave the stick to his grandson and told him to remember what he had taught him. We then had a funeral service for the grandfather and the grandson standing by the grave with the stick recounting the things that he had learned from him. In this way we used the object as a focus for the theme. We also used traditional stories from Juha (Hodja) Nasruddin, who was a famous traditional story teller from the 13th century. We combined several stories to make a performance around the theme of gratitude.

As of July 2014 Elixir Mime has carried out 32 mime workshops, 8 of these were in various countries and 24 were done in India with approximately 1,000 participants.

2 workshops in Dimapur, Nagaland at the Deaf Bible School and a Baptist mission school.

2 mime workshops were held in Ukraine. One at a summer camp for orphans and with volunteers of the StudentAktiv organization in Sevastapol, Crimea.

We held 2 acting/mime Diwali workshops in Mumbai, India with a CHIP school, this is an organization that is dedicated to improving the educational standard of needy schools. We are presently working on a long-term project to include dramatic arts as a part of the national school curriculum.

We held a 3 day workshop in conjunction with volunteers from the NGO BibliotekaPerla, in Tirana, Albania.
Three day workshop in Turkey with a Deaf School.

One day workshop with the Logic Centre that assists street children in Mumbai, India.
Workshops for the Deaf Friendship Clubs of Dharamasala and Shimla, India were carried out successfully. A core team will develop methods learned for future performances.

We held 4 mime/storytelling workshops (40 hours in total) and did 2 performances in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. We worked with various churches and the NGO - P.E. Family Mission to organize these workshops. We received enthusiastic responses from the 130 participants who came from ‘economically challenged’ townships, volunteer teams, and high schools. We continue to develop this program with them.

Two mime workshops at special schools in Livingstone and Lusaka, Zambia.

We did a one day pilot workshop with the Syrian refugee children at the Azraq camp, Jordan. We evaluated the program afterwards and are now designing a long-term and comprehensive plan based on what was found to be effective.
Facilitating an Elixir Mime workshop at the University of Jordan Drama Department with freshmen. A dramatic arts professor in the faculty is now one of our main project consultants.

Mime & story telling workshop with young students from the International Community School, Amman, Jordan

Three day mime workshop at the National Center for Culture and Arts with volunteers of various NGO’s organized by STEPS in Amman, Jordan.

Fun mime birthday activity with teens who reside in a mentally challenged center in Romania.

Elixir Mime Course Update consisting of 24 hours of instruction. This is available on 4 DVD's. The course includes lots of activities, clips from mime masters, and methodology. We were able to distribute these to participants of the course and to send them out to other organizations in various countries. This course material is crucial to develop the idea of "training the trainers", enabling the participants to pass on the skills they have learned at their various institutions.

For the remainder of this year and next year we are taking the mime workshops and performances to a higher level by:

  1. Carrying out workshops with institutions that assist underserved youth.
  2. Continuing to build a network of acting professionals internationally that will help to move this program forward.
  3. Making known to others of Elixir Mime in order to offer support for developing mime projects from participants, share resources, and enhance communication networks.
  4. Continuing working with the Deaf community in conjunction with existing organizations.
  5. Developing the Parable Project.
  6. Developing the School Performance Project.
  7. Continuing to distribute our Elixir Mime course to organizations and institutions that could benefit in various countries.
  8. Improving our workshop content and teaching methods.

Would you like to assist in some way to help us implement and develop these projects? If you would like more details, please drop me a line at:

new2mailbox@yahoo.com

Thank you and best wishes.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

"The function of mime, as in any performing art, is to touch and move the audience.
It brings spiritual enrichment."

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