Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Miming master Marceau
cultivates art of silence

By Tim Ryan

s Marcel Marceau likes to call himself a magician in reverse.

"A magician likes to make the visible invisible, and I make the invisible visible," says Marceau, who performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall tomorrow and Friday nights.

Marceau, nearing 80, speaks slowly when discussing mime, not because his English is poor -- it isn't -- but because he wants to make sure the listener understands what he means.

"There is a big evolution in my art," he says. "Yes, when I was younger I had a bit more flexibility, but now I have more depth. And the text of what I do is so much a part of me that it has become instinct."

Marceau still performs regularly -- visiting America every two years -- and teaches mime at his international school in Paris and in workshops across the United States.

Like classical music or art, Marceau says he has deliberately kept his classical routines like "The Mask Maker," "Bip and the Butterfly" and "My Dreams" the same as the day they debuted.

"Classical art is not a fad," he says. "When it's very good, it lasts for all time."

EVENASA young boy growing up in Strasbourg, France, Marceau would imitate with gestures anything that fired his imagination. He especially loved silent screen actors like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy.

"Chaplin is still fantastic," he said. "Even the younger generation today has the same reaction I had to him.


Marcel Marceau

Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Tickets: $25, $50 & $60 at Ticket Plus outlets and the Blaisdell Box Office. Inquire about group ticket rates at number below.

Call: 526-4400

"The silence draws to him. It is hypnotizing, no?"

In 1946, Marceau enrolled in Charles Dullin's School of Dramatic Art in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris to study with the great master, Etienne Decroux.

MARCEAU became a member of the company and was cast in the role of Arlequin in the pantomime entitled "Baptiste." Marceau's performance won him such acclaim that he was encouraged to present his first "mimodrama," called "Praxitele and the Golden Fish" at the Bernhardt Theatre that same year. Marceau's career as a mime was firmly established.

Marceau created his most enduring character, "Bip," in 1947. The clown in his striped pullover and battered opera hat has become his alter-ego as Chaplin's "Little Tramp" became that star's personality. Bip has had misadventures with everything from butterflies to lions, on ships and trains, in dance halls and restaurants.

Marceau's other works include "The Cage," "Walking Against the Wind," "The Mask Maker" and "In the Park." His "Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death" routine sums up the ages of man.

"You can lie with words but not with mime," Marceau said. "Mime is the art of the essential. It allows you to create metaphors, which in the dramatic theater you cannot do. Mime has its own grammar."

Marceau became familiar to millions of Americans through television appearances. His first was as a star performer on the "Show of Shows," which won him an Emmy award.

He was a favorite guest of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore. He's also appeared in several motion pictures, including "First Class," in which he had 17 different roles, and Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie."

His Honolulu performance will include some classics and new material. The classics include "The Creation of the World," "Youth," "Maturity," "Old Age and Death," "The Lion Tamer" and "The Mask Maker." New routines are "Sea Cruise," "Street Musician," "Bip and the Dating Service," "The Bird Keeper" and "Hands."

On Friday, the University of Hawaii at Manoa will award Marceau an honorary doctorate. After the convocation, the acclaimed mime will speak to dance, theater and art students.

"When I first came to America, your country had the best of everything," Marceau says. "The thing I brought to the stage ... was silence."

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