SF Mime Troupe's 'American Dreams' - a topical yet fun new musical

  • Tuesday July 9, 2024
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(L-R) Andre Amarotico, Mikki Johnson and Michael Gene Sullivan in San Francisco Mime Troupe's 'American Dreams' (photo: Mike Meinyk)
(L-R) Andre Amarotico, Mikki Johnson and Michael Gene Sullivan in San Francisco Mime Troupe's 'American Dreams' (photo: Mike Meinyk)

Now through September 8, San Francisco Mime Troupe will perform "American Dreams," a new musical that opens their 65th season. The show will be seen at various venues throughout the Bay Area.

"American Dreams" is a political show, a contemplation of what the future of the United States and the world might look like. It's about the country's ability to save democracy from despots, and from repression against those who speak up for justice and against the killing of innocents. The show follows a group of characters as they navigate the possibility that their American dream has been replaced with a nightmare.

But all is not lost. The show is also about hope, about how Americans have the power through their actions today, on Election Day, and even after Election Day to work for a better world.

Mime is the art of developing a character or telling a story through silent pantomime. No dialogue, just gestures and body movement. Yet "American Dreams" is filled with dialogue and songs, which begs the question, why call themselves a mime troupe?

"It's a common question folks have," said cast member Andre Amarotico in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. Amarotico plays two roles in the show.

"The word mime comes from the Latin 'mimus,' in turn from the Greek 'mimos,' meaning mimic," he said. "When we say mime we mean it in the classical sense. The ancient mimes often spoke aloud, and mocked the powerful with words as we do. Silent mime is an unspoken variety that has been popularized by great artists like Marcel Marceau, to the point that the word is almost synonymous with silence. That being said, we are not that kind of mime. We are certainly the outspoken variety. Always radical, never silent."

Amarotico's first character in the show is Harold, a MAGA fanatic who resents the rise of political correctness and woke culture. He has a tendency to indulge in dark, far right behaviors. His second character is Oliver, an environmentally minded tech worker. He is part of the economic machine pushing society towards A.I. and away from human intelligence. The show poses the question, can these characters be redeemed?

Actor Andre Amarotico  

Topical challenges
Amarotico spoke of the challenges in playing two distinct characters in one show.

"On a technical level, we actors have to distinguish our individual characters with unique physical and vocal attributes," he said. "Costumes help a great deal, but it's on the actors in a Mime Troupe show to make it clear to the audience that they are observing two different people.

"We have a lot of tools for this, including how our characters walk, where they lead from in their bodies, the registers of our voices, even sometimes accents. The challenge, and the simultaneous joy in this, is that we have to flip the switch constantly and have those tools ready to be wielded with some agility. The effect is one of the most satisfying aspects of theater for audience and performer."

SF Mime Troupe shows are known for being topical, which Amarotico feels makes them a unique company. He noted that the company does an original musical each year that speaks to the issues of the day.

"That's one of the reasons I'm proud to call the Troupe an artistic home," said Amarotico. "We talk about issues of consequence. We talk about the national and global states of injustice through art because we have to. And the fun thing is, we do it in a way that should always make you laugh and entertain you. But we hope it also makes you think, and inspires action."

As with all SF Mime Troupe shows, "American Dreams" will appeal to the company's fellow leftists. According to Amarotico, the show is a rallying cry for the like-minded.

"It's also true that our shows rarely pull punches on the powerful, regardless of what political party they belong to," he said. "We do our best to give you, the audience, information and package it in a comedic and satirical way. All are welcome in that endeavor."

San Francisco Mime Troupe's 'American Dreams,' playing at various venues through September 8. Free-$20. Some venues require RSVP. www.sfmt.org

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