The Pantomime Eclipse of the 1930s: The Hibernation of Pantomime in Paris

Pantomime: The History and Metamorphosis of a Theatrical Ideology: Table of Contents

PDF version of the entire book.

Figure 147: Pierrot (1932) by Estonian artist Johannes Greenberg (1887-1951); photo from Hilja Lähti, “Johannes Greenberg,” Tallinn: Kirjastus “Kunst,” 1990.

The Hibernation of Pantomime in Paris

The most significant development in pantomime during the 1930s took place in Paris, and even this development did not produce much in the way of performance until the 1940s. A new, modernist conception of pantomime emerged there through its chief theorist, the actor Étienne Decroux (1898-1991), whose ideas about pantomime dominated the practice of the art from the 1950s until the late 1980s. But Decroux was the product of a peculiar French theatrical milieu. Born in Paris to a family of modest circumstances, he did not benefit from any privileged access to education. In his youth, he worked for years as a mechanic and construction worker, and this “long confrontation with the material world” instilled in him “a profound respect for physical effort, the conviction that the spirit finds in the material the site of its supreme achievement.” His father’s friendship with a family of Italian sculptors was also an important influence insofar as sculpture, this “Promethean […] struggle of man with a brutal element,” was “a refusal to accept the world as it is, as a will placed in rivalry with God” (Benhaim 2003: 242). In 1923, after his release from the army, Decroux earned admission to the new theater academy established by the actor and director Jacques Copeau (1879-1949), the Vieux Colombier, which was an adjunct to Copeau’s Vieux Colombier Theater and ensemble. Although Decroux and Copeau differed hugely over political values, the Vieux Colombier was enormously influential in forming Decroux’s approach to pantomime. Copeau came from an upper middle class mercantile family, but he early developed a deep aversion to business. After studying at the Sorbonne, he became drawn to the theater by writing theater criticism. By selling family business assets, he was in 1911 able to finance his ambition to form his own theater company, Vieux Colombier, which he sought to build as an alternative to what he considered the excessively commercialized mainstream theater and the artificial acting that prevailed there. Beginning in 1913, the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier inspired abundant critical acclaim and for the most part large audiences in Paris and in the United States, where the company spent the war. After the war, Copeau restored the theater to Paris, where it continued to attract critical praise and devoted audiences. To present a large repertoire of classical and contemporary plays in a simpler, less artificial style, Copeau believed it was necessary to create an entirely new system of education for actors. The theater, however, quickly sank into serious financial debt, in spite of Copeau’s prodigious fundraising activities and in spite of his desire to use very spare set designs, simple costumes, and minimal technological effects. The Vieux Colombier School, launched in 1922, provided a stream of revenue that helped sustain the theater. But by 1924, he had to dissolve the theater and move the school to a rural village in central eastern France. The school attracted passionate students, but it did not attract enough funding to achieve Copeau’s educational scheme, and by 1929 the school ceased to exist. 

            Copeau devised a rigorous curriculum that in effect sequestered the student from the corrupting influences of theater external to the school (Kurtz 1999: 74-75). He invited distinguished intellectuals, such as Paul Valery, Edmond Jaloux, André Gide, and Henri Ghéon, to lecture to the students. He incorporated the rhythmic exercises developed by the Austrian-Swiss pedagogue Emil Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950), who promoted the doctrine that bodily wellness and the healthy social integration of the individual depended on the body’s ability to respond in synchrony to musical rhythms. Copeau also included mime as an area of instruction, but, like Meyerhold, he regarded pantomime as an exercise, rather than as a mode of performance: the study of mime helped the actor to become aware of his or her body as a thing that he or she must synchronize “naturally” with the voice, with the language issuing from the text; the body must not be in tension with the text, as was so often the case with “artificial” forms of acting. Copeau’s concept of “mime” derived almost entirely from the commedia format, which itself derived from the ancient Roman mimus, the street theater, not from the imperial pantomime, of which he betrayed no serious awareness. He saw mime as an exercise in improvisation that compelled the actor to “live” in the moment rather than to anticipate or remember words or actions, which was always an element of artificiality in acting. He showed no interest in the complexities and innovations of modernist Austro-German pantomime, if he was even aware of them, and the huge repertoire of plays performed by the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier contained almost nothing German. He especially disliked the complex technological innovations in theater production and the radical emotional turbulence spawned by German expressionism. In his estimation, modern theater needed to become more “human,” which meant more actor-centered. But the “humanness” of theater ultimately depended on the voice of the actor, on the voicing of the theatrical text, for theater was the “natural” voice of literature. Pantomime estranged audiences from humanity; an art that focused perception on bodily action without the intervention of the voice created the image of an alien identity. The famous actor Charles Dullin (1885-1949) was a student of Copeau and then a teacher for Copeau, and all the major French mimes of the twentieth century, including Decroux, studied under him. Dullin advocated a kind of poetic realism on the stage, which occurs through the process of “transposing” the reality of the play into the reality of theater. Transposition results above all through the actor’s poetic relation to his or her voice and body, rather than, as with Stanislavski, through his immersion in the dramatic narrative or, as happens with many stars, through finding a unique identity as a performer by watching other performances. But the actor achieves this poetic relation to his or her body through exercises designed by a master teacher who can discern the poetic qualities unique to the actor’s voice and body: exercises supposedly expose these qualities (cf. Surel-Tupin 1984: 60-63). The poetic actor is the product of an academic environment. 

            One of Dullin’s students, the poet-actor Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), was the most important French theorist of theater in the 1930s, although his ideas had little impact until decades later. Many of his most salient ideas appeared in his short book Le Théâtre et son double (1938), a collection of essays written between 1931 and 1937. Like Copeau and Dullin, Artaud condemned what he regarded as the commercialization (“prostituting”) of theater, but the worst aspect of theater is its fetishization of the dramatic text, which leads to an obsession with talk on the stage, for “actors do nothing but talk and have forgotten they ever had a body in the theater.” “No one in Europe knows how to scream anymore” (Artaud 1958: 141). For the theater to free itself from “falsehood and illusion,” it had to abandon its reliance on textual “masterpieces” to bestow value on the theatrical experience (74-79). Inspired in part by a 1931 performance in Paris of a Balinese theater ensemble, Artaud proposed that a truly modern theater is performer-driven rather than text-driven and requires a new architecture. He envisioned the “elimination of the stage” and replacing it with a sensuous architecture that “will physically envelop the spectator and immerse him in a constant bath of light, images, movements, and noises” (125). The goal of theater was to create an intensely visceral, convulsive awareness of a repressed, poetic self that Western civilization had stigmatized or poisoned by “the lie, the slackness, baseness, and hypocrisy of our world; [theater] shakes off the asphyxiating inertia of matter which invades even the clearest testimony of the senses” (31-32). Throughout his life, Artaud suffered from various illnesses and diseases, both physical and mental, and his precarious health shaped his understanding of the body in performance. The default condition of the human body in the modern world was sickness. Therefore, theater achieved its highest purpose, not as entertainment, but as a mysterious form of therapy. The theatrical event was a kind of medical procedure, visceral like a surgery, intoxicating like a powerful drug, “hallucinatory,” inoculating, as the plague, to use his metaphor, inoculates those who survive it. The immersion of the spectator in “fiery fusillades” of light and powerful sonic vibrations (“sonorisation”) was necessary to achieve a visceral impact on the body, to “ensnare the organs” (91). The actor models this visceral shock to the body. But in spite of his experience as an actor for silent films, Artaud did not see pantomime as a major component in his “theater of cruelty.” He indeed observed that “in our theater which lives under the exclusive dictatorship of speech, this language of gesture and mime, this wordless pantomime, these postures, attitudes, objective intonations, in brief everything I consider specifically theatrical in the theater, all these elements when they exist apart from text are generally considered the minor part of theater; they are negligently referred to as ‘craft’ […]” (40). Yet he was suspicious of bodies that acted without using their voices, as if pantomime signified bodies that were insufficiently ailing or tormented. “It would be meaningless to say that [the theater of cruelty] includes music, dance, pantomime, or mimicry. Obviously it uses movement, harmonies, rhythms, but only to the point that they can concur in a sort of central expression without advantage for any one particular art” (90-91). But Artaud never developed any concrete ideas about physical action other than to remark, in a Dalcrozian fashion, that, “all movements will obey a rhythm” (98); otherwise, he relied on metaphors to describe the “umbilical, larval” movements of the Balinese theater that have an abstract beauty in themselves: “A rippling of joints, the musical angle made by the arm with the forearm, a foot falling, a knee bending, fingers that seem to be coming loose from the hand, it is all like a perpetual play of mirrors in which human limbs seem resonant with echoes, harmonies in which the notes of the orchestra, the whispers of wind instruments evoke the idea of a monstrous aviary in which the actors themselves would be the fluttering wings” (56). But Artaud does not explain how he would apply these observations, which seem to refer more to dance than to pantomime, to his own performance ambitions. The body should become an “animated hieroglyph,” but he could not imagine the animation of the body without the voice—an “incantory” voice that distorted words, utterances, glottal vibrations, which in turn distorted or convulsed the body: “There is no transition from a gesture to a cry or a sound: all the senses interpenetrate” (57). For Artaud, language always signified pain, an ailment. Language, speech, the voice issued from the body like blood from a wound. This attitude was not inclined to see in pantomime a significant component in the therapeutic mission for theatrical performance, for pantomime with any power showed what the body could say but the voice could not; pantomime was about the animation of the body by something “outside” of language, of the impulse to speak, of the vibrational pressure that produces utterance. Artaud’s idea of theater was much closer to modern forms of poetry than it was to modernist storytelling or narrative structuring: a profusion of images and sensations, a sensual “anarchy,” as he put it (79), rather than the building of a new type of logic or motive for the sequencing of actions. But this way of thinking limited his ability to put anything on the stage or even to compose scenarios for this “alchemical theater.” He proposed as “the first spectacle of the Theater of Cruelty” a piece dealing with “The Conquest of Mexico,” which never achieved production; the notes for this project didn’t even appear in print until after his death. He envisioned an enormous four-act spectacle about the conflict between Cortez (Europe) and Montezuma (anti-Occident), but his notes on the project constitute a poem, not a scenario (126-132). He described impressions and effects but not the physical actions that would produce the effects: “The spirit of the crowds, the breath of events will travel in material waves over the spectacle […] Montezuma cuts the living space, rips it open like the sex of a woman in order to cause the invisible to spring forth […] Lights and sounds produce an impression of dissolving, unraveling, spreading and squashing […] This unrest and the threat of revolt on the part of the conquered will be expressed in ten thousand ways […] And in the collapse and disintegration of the brutal force […] will be delineated the first inkling of a passionate romance.” But this describes a theater that exists only in the mind of the poet. Artaud proposed other projects that never moved beyond a listing in a dream program for his proposed theater: “an extract from the Zohar”; “the story of Bluebeard […] with a new idea of eroticism and cruelty”; “The Fall of Jerusalem”; “a Tale by the Marquis de Sade”; “a play of extreme poetic freedom by Léon-Paul Fargue” (1876-1947); and so forth (99). His historical-poetic treatise Héliogabale ou l’anarchiste couronné (1934) contains startling and fascinating descriptions of connections between physical actions and ideas within an innovative (montage) narrative account of the young Roman emperor’s “anarchistic” life and bizarre religious cult, but Artaud never seems to have considered either the book or the emperor’s life a suitable subject for “transposition” into theater. Instead, in 1935, he mounted at the Folies-Wagram Theater in Paris an adaptation of a five-act verse tragedy of incest and murder, The Cenci (1819), by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), with Artaud himself playing the maniacal Count Cenci; the modernist conductor Roger Désormière (1898-1963) arranged the music, and the artist Balthus (1908-2001) designed the sixteenth century costumes and the large, semi-abstract but not spacious or deep set. The glamorous socialite and part-time actress Iya Abdy (1897-1993) played Beatrice, the Count’s violated daughter, and also financed the production, which Artaud claimed “is not Theatre of Cruelty yet but is a preparation for it” (Artaud 1972: 103). But the production was a great failure, partly because of poor acoustics, but also because of Artaud’s inability to stage physical action effectively: he resorted too often to tableaux vivants postures while actors spoke in a stilted, amateurish manner (Artaud 1972: 128-145). Henceforth, his work for the theater remained confined to the manifesto essays gathered in Le Théâtre et son double. He went to Mexico in search of mystical, drug-induced therapies; he became progressively sicker. The Cenci production, however, seriously undermined the credibility of his ideas within the Parisian cultural milieu; he envisioned a theater that required the resources of a highly advanced scientific medical research center, but the justification for such resources seemed dubious to a society that hardly as yet saw itself as profoundly sick. Yet Artaud nevertheless exerted a strong influence on Decroux and his students, for his writings galvanized the idea of the performing body as a poetic phenomenon. But Artaud’s attention to the voice (as the chief sign of illness) obscured the poetics of the body. In a sense, pantomime was for Decroux an antidote to the “affliction” of language, a sign, not so much of health, as of resilience, of immunity to the depredations of language and speech. At any rate, the pantomime aesthetic cultivated by Decroux could survive, he assumed, only by showing that a poetic body was not the same thing as a diseased body. His idea of pantomime therefore avoided the morbid themes, the pathological states, or the violence and “cruel” exorcisms that Artaud regarded as inescapable to the therapeutic mission of theater. Decroux took from Artaud the notion of the therapeutic mission, but he sought a more benign form of healing that linked therapy to political values.

            Copeau’s royalism and devotion to the rightwing doctrines of Charles Maurras (1868-1952) provoked tensions within the student cadre of the Vieux Colombier. Decroux’s way of thinking about how to make theater more “human” and actor-centered diverged significantly from that of his mentor and became more aligned with the views of Dullin, who had broken with Copeau, at least as a collaborator on theatrical projects, by 1920. In his youth, Decroux, like Artaud, developed an enthusiasm for anarchism, but by the end of the 1920s, he pivoted toward a socialist world-view, having reached the conclusion that “above art, there is politics” (Benhaim 2003: 244). Throughout the 1930s, he dedicated much of his time to political activism, including affiliations with communist organizations, which, starting in 1931, sponsored agit-prop productions through an ensemble he formed called “Une graine” (247). These productions, filled with oratory, choral scenes, and polemical dialogue, only occasionally and very briefly included pantomimic scenes (247-248). However, information about these productions is very scant. Although the great actor Jean-Louis Barrault (1910-1994) became his student in 1931, Decroux did not actually form his own school until 1938, but the outbreak of war quickly brought an end to this project. In the 1930s and during the Occupation (1940-1944), Decroux found work as an actor in plays and occasionally in films. It was a period of time spent thinking about pantomime and performing improvised, pantomimic experiments in Dullin’s Paris studio. In 1930, Decroux, in collaboration with his new wife, Suzanne Lodieu, composed a three-part pantomime that corresponded to the three economic ages of humanity: the primitive life, the artisan life (Middle Ages), and the industrial life (“the forces of super animals”). This piece evolved over many years and only achieved public form in the late 1940s: Decroux performed only for small, invited audiences of “two or three people” in Dullin’s studio or in his own home (Benhaim 2003: 254-255; Leabhart 2007: 11). In 1933, Barrault broke away from Decroux and aligned himself more closely with Artaud’s psychoanalytical, trauma-oriented theater than with Decroux’s socio-economic philosophy of “corporeal mime.” The rift seemed profound when, in 1935, Barrault staged at Dullin’s Théâtre de l’Atelier Autour d’une mère, a pantomime adaptation of the novel As I Lay Dying (1930), by William Faulkner (1897-1962). The narrative depicts the dismal, nearly catastrophic struggle of a poor, rural Mississippi family to bury their mother, Addie, as she wished, in the town of Jefferson. The novel presents this struggle through the perspectives or monologues of fifteen different characters across 59 chapters to show that none of the characters has a complete or accurate or even shared history of Addie or of each other. How Barrault transformed this modernist literary, stream-of-consciousness narrative into a pantomimic narrative is not clear, even from Barrault’s description of it (Barrault 1951: 30-45). Barrault played Jewel, Addie’s favored but illegitimate son, film actor Jean Dasté (1904-1994), Copeau’s son-in-law, played Jewel’s brother Darl, and eleven other actors played almost as many characters as have monologues in the book. The Belgian surrealist painter Felix Labisse (1905-1982) designed the set, continuing the French habit of infusing theater with modernism by using scenery that placed the action against a backdrop of modernistic painting. But commentators do not discuss clearly, if at all, how Barrault constructed the different perspectives of the characters through pantomimic action. Barrault received much praise for a scene in which he showed Jewel wrangling a horse and played both Jewel and the horse, becoming a “centaur.” Another scene that inspired delight showed the family crossing a river in a wagon bearing Addie’s coffin: the actors conveyed the presence of the river and the difficulty of traversing it entirely through bodily gesture. Artaud wrote enthusiastically about the production, which opened a month after his own Cenci production and enjoyed a much more favorable response from the press (cf. Plana 2004: 50-51). He saw Barrault bringing great “magic” to the theater because he possessed access to a “primitive,” pre-rational level of experience (Artaud 1958: 144-146). The production seemed to demonstrate the viability of pantomime even in relation to a densely literary work, which probably very few who commented on the production had actually read, and the piece greatly enhanced the esteem with which the Parisian cultural milieu held Barrault. Yet the production, this “synthesis of drama and music hall for intellectuals,” had only four performances, far fewer than for Les Cenci (Artaud 1990). The relentlessly ambitious Barrault never again attempted such a large-scale pantomimic narrative, despite eventually gaining a reputation for being one of France’s greatest mimes. Though it was daring, exceptionally innovative, and close to Artaud’s therapeutic rather than political belief in the tormented, convulsive basis for action, neither Barrault nor anyone else ever revived the piece, although in 1948, the American dancer-choreographer Valerie Bettis (1919-1982) staged, in New York with her own company, a ballet-modern dance adaptation of Faulkner’s novel. One gets the impression that Barrault saw in Autour d’une mère the opportunity to demonstrate the power of the actor’s body to “transpose” literary language into a theatrical poetry rather than to open up a new path for pantomimic theater or even for a more successful realization of Artaud’s “cruel” aesthetic. Having demonstrated this power, he felt no need to sustain it by constructing any more pantomimic narratives of even remotely similar magnitude. He could subordinate pantomime to his larger goal of revealing his manifold capabilities as an actor and director. Almost no actor was as skillful at using his body to play any role. So, in spite of its small audience, the production of Autour d’une mère was quite good for Barrault’s career as an actor without being much help, if any, to the development of pantomime. Yet without this production, pantomime in France during the 1930s had no real existence on the stage, and without Barrault’s captivating and beloved performance as the nineteenth century pantomime Deburau in the 1944 film Les Enfants du paradise, it is most likely that Decroux, who also appeared in the film as Deburau Senior, would not have found his path to establishing a distinctive French school of “mime” in the years following the war. 

            Meanwhile, Pierrot seemed to have vanished from the Parisian theatrical scene. The last of the Pierrots descended from Deburau’s configuration of him, Maurice Farina (1883-1943), had retired from the stage in 1928, ailing from wounds he received during the war. He made his debut in 1899 collaborating on “cantomimes” with Georges Wague. After serving in the army in Morocco and Algeria (1905-1907), he returned to Paris, where he collaborated with Adolphe Willette on Pierrot pantomimes; he toured extensively, but by 1912, he began appearing in ballets produced by the Opéra de Paris. He became a soldier again during the war; in spite of his severe wounding by mustard gas, he returned to the stage in 1920, working with Séverin at the Olympia Theater, appearing with the Opéra (1923), and performing at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925). His performances attracted much praise from prominent Parisian literary figures in the 1920s. Pierrot was always the center of his theatrical life. According to the biographer Albert Keim (1876-1947), who composed some Pierrot scenarios for the mime, Farina’s face “has the tormented, ravaged face of an emaciated Beethoven, or that of a light-hearted and naive Pierrot figure with candid blue eyes that surprise vice and infamy, and sometimes also [he presents] the profile of a hunched, tortured daemon” (Driant 2012: 6-7). Just as importantly, he collected an enormous archive of documents, images, and artifacts related to the history of Pierrot, which in 1947 his widow donated to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (9-12). The archive served in part to resolve the “debate” about the future of pantomime between Wague, who advocated the abandonment of Pierrot, and Séverin, who remained attached to the belief that pantomime was Pierrot. Farina himself was ambivalent, uncertain, but he did not welcome the Futurist pantomime that Prampolini offered Paris in 1927 (13). However, by 1930, it was evident even to those outside of Decroux’s tiny circle that the future of French pantomime depended on a way of thinking about the art that did not stem from either Wague or Séverin.

            Although Decroux’s success after 1947 in establishing his emphatically “humanistic” conception of pantomime owed much to peculiar postwar conditions and to the rise of existential philosophy and the aesthetics of “absurdism,” much of this conception was the product of ideas and convictions already formulated in the 1930s and even the 1920s. World War II was not the catalyst for a new conception of “mime”; rather, it was the catalyst of a “liberated” or liberal political spirit for which mime was a convenient humanist emblem. Decroux was important as a teacher, not as an artist, of mime, and he established mime as an experience produced by schools rather than by authors or artists exploring the body’s power to narrate. Like Copeau and Dullin, Decroux believed that reform of the theater was necessary to save it from commercialization, which in his mind was synonymous with technologization and the Wagnerian concept of integrating various scenic and sonic performance elements into a “total work of art” that supposedly displaced the actor as the dominant element of theatrical performance. Of course, an excessive amount of talk on stage was a major problem, but the solution was not to build shows around technological effects or music hall spectacles. The solution was to build performance around actors rather than around texts or scenic splendors. But actors required a systematic, institutionalized education to achieve the confidence to build performances around themselves. Schools were essential to the fight against commercialization, but, as Copeau realized, they also could provide a more reliable revenue stream than actor-centered theater productions. Decroux only slowly grasped that the school experience of the actor could have a greater impact on the perception of pantomime than theatrical pantomime productions driven by authors and artists who believed more in the authority of their narratives than in the authority of actors to attract audiences. After World War II, “mime” became above all an educational activity, a process of teaching actors to free their bodies from the pressures of commercialization, from the pressures to narrate and technologize performance according to tastes learned outside of school. The academic environment placed a high value on the studio performance of exercises, often of an improvised nature that stressed the excitement of the present moment rather than the authority of structural relations between the past and the future. The education of the mime became a never-ending process of devising exercises that tested the performer’s skill at creating “moments” unique to or within the performer rather than to some larger “scene” containing the performer. Mime education was not about theorizing the relations between pantomimic imagination and the constraints imposed on that imagination by linguistic, social, political, economic, cultural, and biological circumstances that motivate or depress the desire to construct or consume speechless bodily performance. Exercise-based education in the performing arts invariably makes the display of technique the dominant aesthetic value of performance. Bodily technique emerges as the counterforce to technologization and to domination of the performer’s body by authors, by narratives, by persons outside of the mime “community.” Dullin’s concept of theater as a “community” was another idea from the 1930s that Decroux (as well as Artaud) found helpful in developing his mime pedagogy. But by community, Dullin implied a collective activity that remained closed off to other communities and lived according to rules, values, and aspirations unique unto itself. He did not mean that a theater community was indifferent to political, social, and artistic issues outside of itself; rather, the community existed as a unique collective processing of these issues, yet it could only survive through a sequestering of itself, through a collective sense of purpose that was indifferent to the value placed on it by “outsiders” (cf., Surel-Tupin 1984: 76-77). Decroux “transposed” this idea of the theater community to the studio classroom. The history of mime after World War II is largely a story of mime teachers and their students, of mime schools, of mime companies formed out of mime schools, of mime communities formed out of teacher-student networks with a shared education in mime. It is not a story of powerful theatrical productions, daring narrative or technological innovation, significant transformation of the entertainment industry, or certainly any more ambitious idea of pantomime than the history of pantomime had already offered. Exercises were fundamental in building the mime community. Exercises strengthened the bond between teacher and student by making transparent the technique that bestowed the greatest value on the act of miming, a value that was not dependent on anything outside of the community performing the exercises. Mime became a technique identified with schools and controlled by teachers. With exercises, teachers and students were simultaneously performers and spectators of the pantomimic action, of the technique that authorized, so to speak, the pantomimic action. Through exercises in the studio, students built audiences for mime out of their shared appreciation of the technique that brought them together. As with ballet and the academies that sustained it, the core audience for mime consisted of students who had studied mime. This audience would never be large enough to control theater culture, but it was large enough to sustain an international community that did not depend on “masterpieces” of its art to grow or attract the support of “outsiders.” It was an art of distinctive personalities, solo artists, masters of technique, and revered teachers. This way of thinking about pantomime was what made Decroux such an important figure after the war. Pantomime thrived during the Roman Empire because Tiberius abolished in effect the academies that purported to educate pantomime artists according to a “standard” determined by the academic community. Since then, pantomime had constructed a long, disorderly history of experimentation and unsystematic, unregulated efforts to define itself instigated by people educated to do something else. Decroux’s achievement in redefining pantomime as “mime” receives closer attention in the section dealing with the pantomime culture from the 1950s to the 1980s. The point here is that the ideological framework defining mime was a product of the 1930s and of a small French community of teachers and students formed in the 1920s. 

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