San Francisco Mime Troupe

San Francisco Mime Troupe

The San Francisco Mime Troupe is a theatre of political satire which performs free shows in various parks in the San Francisco Bay Area and around California. The Troupe does not, however, perform silent mime, but each year creates an original musical comedy that combines aspects of Commedia dell'Arte, melodrama, and broad farce with topical political themes.

The group was founded in 1959 by R. G. Davis as a medium of expression of his divergent theatrical concepts. The group debuted with "Mime and Word" (1959) and "The 11th Hour Mime Show" (1960). However, by 1961, the group transitioned to the Commedia dell'Arte format to more thoroughly comment on perceived political repression in the United States of America, the growing American Civil Rights Movement and military and covert intervention abroad. In the mid-1960s the group started to rely less on the direct Commedia dell'Arte format and transitioned into a more rambunctious, satirical style. It also began integrating elements of Jazz into its musical composition, eventually leading to the inclusion of a jazz band within the troupe. The group gained significant notoriety for its free performances in Golden Gate Park and numerous altercations with law enforcement.

The group was awarded the Regional Theatre Award at the 41st Tony Awards.


In the early 70s Mr. Davis left the Troupe when it re-formed as a Collective, the members of which operate as the Artistic Director, at which time the Troupe produced one of its most successful shows, "The Independent Female" (1970). In the 1980s, the group's productions retaliated against the Reagan administration with a number of socialist-angled productions. In "Factwino meets The Moral Majority" (1981), Factwino, an alcoholic superhero that became a recurring protagonist, bestowed wisdom upon prominent icons, such as Jerry Falwell. "Steel Town" (1984) characterized the plight of steel workers and the need for union solidarity. For this production, the troupe toured the Midwest, primarily in factory cities. In 1987, the troupe's style of guerrilla, Brechtian theater earned them a special Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater.

Some of the Troupe's more recent popular shows include "Seeing Double," about a two-state solution in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, "Offshore," about the real cost of Globalization, "Eating It," about genetic engineering and profit driven science, "1600 Transylvania Avenue," about corporate government feeding on public wealth, "GodFellas," a farce exposing the dangers of Fundamentalism to Democracy, and "Making a Killing," about war propaganda, and the plight of Iraqis contaminated by depleted uranium. The 2008 show, "Red State," is a fable about a small Midwest town that, after years of being ignored, demands accountability for their tax dollars.

As well as the park-based shows, the Mime Troupe also tours nationally and internationally, having performed throughout Europe, Asia, South and Central America, and has won several awards, including the 1987 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The group also facilitates community workshops. They are a nonprofit making organization. The season traditionally starts on Fourth of July weekend and ends on Labor Day weekend.

Early Mime Troupers include Saul Landau, Nina Serrano, Steve Reich, Robert Nelson, William T. Wiley, Sandra Archer, Robert Hudson, Walley Hedrick, Judy North.

Later veterans include Peter Coyote, Luis Valdez, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bruce Barthol, Joan Holden, Jim Haynie and Bill Graham.

The current San Francisco Mime Troupe Collective: Velina Brown, Ellen Callas, Christian Cagigal, Michael Carreiro, Ed Holmes, Lisa Hori-Garcia, Will McCandless, Pat Moran, Keiko Shimosato, Michael Gene Sullivan, and Victor Toman.


* 1959: "Mime And Word
* 1960: "11th Hour Mime Show"
* 1961: "Act without Words"
* 1961: "Event I"
* 1961: "Purgatory and Krapp's Last Tape"
* 1962: "The Dowry"
* 1963: "Ubu King"
* 1963: "Event II"
* 1963: "Film: Plastic Haircut"
* 1963: "Ruzante's Maneuvers"
* 1963: "The Root"
* 1964: "Chorizos"
* 1964: "Event III"
* 1964: "Mimes and Movie"
* 1965: "Tartuffe"
* 1965: "The Exception and the Rule"
* 1965: "Candelaio"
* 1965: "Chronicles of Hell"
* 1965: "Civil Rights"
* 1966: "The Miser"
* 1966: "Film: Mirage And Centerman"
* 1966: "Jack Off!"
* 1966: "Olive Pits"
* 1966: "Search & Seizure"
* 1966: "What's That Ahead?"
* 1967: "L'Amant Militaire"
* 1967: "The Condemned"
* 1967: "The Minstrel Show or Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel"
* 1967: "The Vaudeville Show"
* 1968: "Gutter Puppets (Meter Maid)"
* 1968: "Little Black Panther"
* 1968: "Ruzzante or the Veteran Gorilla Marching Band is Formed"
* 1969: "The Congress of Whitewashers or Turandot"
* 1969: "The Third Estate"
* 1970: "Ecoman"
* 1970: "Los Siete"
* 1970: "Seize the Time"
* 1970: "Telephone Man or Ripping off Ma Bell"
* 1970: "The Independent Female"
* 1971: "Clown Show"
* 1971: "The Dragon Lady's Revenge"
* 1972: "American Dreamer"
* 1972: "Frozen Wages"
* 1972: "High Rises"
* 1972: "The Dragon Lady's Revenge"
* 1973: "The Mother"
* 1973: "San Francisco Scandals of 1973"
* 1974: "The Great Air Robbery"
* 1975: "Frijoles or Beans To You"
* 1975: "Power Play"
* 1976: "False Promises"
* 1976: "Nos Enganaron"
* 1977: "Hotel Universe"
* 1978: "Elektrobucks"
* 1979: "We Can't Pay, We Won't Pay"
* 1979: "Squash"
* 1979: "T.V. Dinner"
* 1980: "Fact Person"
* 1981: "Americans or Last Tango in Huahuatenango"
* 1981: "Factwino Meets the Moral Majority"
* 1981: "Ghosts"
* 1982: "Factwino vs. Armagoddonman"
* 1983: "Secrets in the Sand"
* 1983: "The Uprising At Fuente Ovejuna"
* 1984: "Steeltown"
* 1985: "Crossing Borders"
* 1985: "Factwino: The Opera"
* 1986: "Hotel Universe"
* 1986: "Spain/36"
* 1986: "The Mozamgola Caper"
* 1987: "The Dragon Lady's Revenge"
* 1988: "Ripped Van Winkle"
* 1989: "Secrets in the Sand"
* 1989: "Seeing Double"
* 1990: "Rats"
* 1990: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
* 1991: "Back to Normal"
* 1991: "I Ain't Yo Uncle"
* 1992: "Social Work"
* 1993: "Offshore"
* 1994: "Big Wind"
* 1995: "Coast City Confidential"
* 1995: "Escape to Cyberia"
* 1996: "Gotta Get A Life"
* 1996: "Soul Suckers from Outer Space"
* 1997: "13 Days / Trece Dias"
* 1997: "Killing Time"
* 1997: "La Hembra Independencia / The Independent Female"
* 1997: "Revenger Rat Meets the Merchant of Death"
* 1997: "Teen City"
* 1999: "City For Sale"
* 1999: "Damaged Care"
* 1999: "The First Forty Years"
* 2000: "Eating it"
* 2001: "1600 Transylvania Avenue"
* 2002: "Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan"
* 2003: "Veronique of the Mounties"
* 2004: "Showdown at Crawford Gulch"
* 2005: "Doing Good"
* 2006: "Godfellas"
* 2007: "Making a Killing"
* 2008: "Red State"

ee also

*Living Theater
*Bread & Puppet
*Teatro Campesino
*Political theatre


*cite book | last=Mason | first=Susan Vaneta | title=The San Francisco Mime Troupe Reader | location=Ann Arbor | publisher=University of Michigan Press | year=2005 | isbn=047209842X
*cite book | last=Davis | first=R.G. | title=The San Francisco Mime Troupe: The First Ten Years | location=Palo Alto, CA | publisher=Ramparts Press | year=1975 | isbn=0878670599
*cite book | last=Orenstein | first=Claudia | title=Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe | location=Jackson, MS | publisher=University Press of Mississippi | year=1998 | isbn=1578060796 |url= | accessdate=2008-05-30

External links

* [ The San Francisco Mime Troupe official website]
* [ "Staging the Revolution: Guerrilla Theater as a Countercultural Practice, 1965-1968"]

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