Michael Gene Sullivan, 46, is a mime with plenty to say about everything ranging from the working class to the Bush administration to the challenge of making war and politics poignant but amusing. The lead writer of the San Francisco Mime Troupe recently spoke with The Examiner about his nearly two decades working for the nonprofit group.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. How long have you been with the group and what do you do for it? I’m an actor, director, writer, a little bit of everything. I’ve been with the troupe for 19 years, but sometimes it feels like only 18.
I have to admit that at first, I thought it was funny that a print medium picked a pantomime as its three-minute interview, but I understand your group functions under the older meaning of the word. To us, “pantomime” is simply the exaggeration of everyday life through story and song.
Is that the official line? No, the official line is “No, we’re not that kind of mime.” Our use of mime — exaggerated physical style, talking, singing — is just a broader style, so we’re dealing with broader characters. What we want to do is take different themes in American life and make a larger political point, whether it’s about corporations taking over government or American foreign policy. For me, it’s trying to awaken a working-class sensibility. No one wants to say that they’re working class anymore, but it’s a very noble thing.
How do you address topics such as war and still make them funny? The more people relate to the characters, the better it is. Psychological dramas don’t have anything to do with the audience, but we try to portray the audience as much as possible. It’s a lot easier for people to laugh at themselves.
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