Mime Mania: Not The Beatles, But Crowds Act Like It

January 20, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

SILVER RUN — If David Geyer had a dime for every time a child squealed, laughed or smiled during his silent antics, he'd be, well, a rich mime.

Performing his Imagimime routine recently at Charles Carroll Elementary School, the Westminster resident elicited laughter from children the way the clean-cut boys of New Kids on the Block evoke screams from prepubescent girls.

"You take risks when you put underwear on your head," Geyer explained. "You're telling the kids it's OK to act out."

The underwear-on-the-head routine was part of an act Geyer and his assistant J.L. Darrah performed about children at home without their parents. From ared Western Flyer wagon, the child-like mimes threw toys and socks around the stage and into a screaming sea of kids.

Geyer hinted at this craziness beforehand.

"This is going to be a command performance," he said, while setting props on a stage in the school gym. "This is the fourth year in a row we've performed here. It will be wild."

Geyer described his act, which he has been performing since 1976,as a combination of classical mime -- white face, illusion and music-- and contemporary theater, using characters, props and audience.

"The objective is interaction," he explained. "There's a lot of audience participation. We try to create an atmosphere."

The atmosphere in the school gym, filled with 300 students, approached chaos.

It began with Geyer and Darrah performing a motorcycle routine, in which they pressed students and even teachers to join them on a trail through the gym on an imaginary motorcycle.

They were not hard-pressed to find volunteers. A wave of hands greeted their every move.

"Yeah, I wanted to be picked," sighed fifth-grader Warren Ball, who raised his hand continuously throughout the 45-minute performance. "It's a lot of fun. I like it."

Although the audience seemed out of hand at times, Geyer, who has taken his act to schools throughout Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, insisted he maintains control.

"I try to give them a lot of freedom," he said. "Through gestures,I bring them into the action or scatter them away. We get them to follow directions."

Principal Pam Ayres said Geyer's mime performance always lends itself to involving children. The principal, though, takes the unleashing of energy in stride, noting that it's OK as long as "we can bring them back down again."

Usually, Geyer closes his act with a routine involving classical music. Time constraints, however, caused him to end the Charles Carroll performance with the popular "Tortoise and the Hare" skit.

"They do get active in the 'Tortoise and the Hare,' " he said. "Everybody knows the story, and they want the tortoise to win. It creates mayhem."

Imagimime is not just pure entertainment. It's also education.

Before the event, Geyer and his assistant usually visit a kindergarten classroom to alleviate fears about the white face and to explain mime to the youngsters.

"It makes them more comfortable," said Pat Hyde, whose kindergarten class received the guests before the act. "It gets rid of that fear of the mask."

And Darrah noted the message of the "Tortoise and the Hare" story.

"The story has a moral," said Darrah, dressed in an oversized turtle shell. "If you work really hard and believe in a big word -- perseverance -- big things will happen in your life."

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