Without words

Mimes steal the show
at art festival
Sunday, September 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:28 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The mime talked.

The mime also did the usual mime things: He ran into invisible walls. He acted like a lost baby, looking for his mother. He stomped around like a disgruntled dinosaur.

But the vow of mime silence applies only while Brian Begley, a performer at the Columbia Arts Festival, is on stage.

Begley and his wife, Mary Inman, together make up the Discovery Mime Theatre. They left their home in Vermillion, S.D., at 4 p.m. Friday to drive 440 miles to Columbia for festival performances Saturday and today.

Begley and Inman, both 40, entertained visitors Saturday afternoon with a 30-minute performance of brief sketches.

Begley estimated they spend 10 hours preparing for each minute of a finalized sketch. That means they put in 20 to 30 hours for an average three-minute sketch, he said. While they may have an act pretty solidly composed in a couple of weeks, it takes two months to perfect the rhythm and nuances, Inman said.

“We have 50 different vignettes that we can choose from,” Inman said. The mimes find inspiration for these acts in everything around them. Sometimes they find it in a piece of music, Inman said. “Sometimes we just sit and watch people,” Begley added.

While Begley was always interested in mime, it took Inman a bit longer.

“I knew theater was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know mime,” she said. Inman said she found mime opened new theatrical outlets for her, because “the illusions really enable you to tell the story.”

Inman and Begley studied theater at the University of South Dakota and started performing together shortly thereafter. They have been married for 21 of the 22 years they’ve performed. One of their three children is in high school and performs with them during winter and summer vacations.

Besides canvassing the Great Plains states, Inman and Begley have traveled to Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. In all these places, Begley said, “We haven’t had any negative interactions during a performance.” In smaller Midwest towns where they have had repeat performances, the audiences usually just keep getting bigger, he said. “Especially small towns, everybody gets to know you.”

But Begley and Inman are understanding of those who feel wary of mimes. “There are people who hate mime, and I don’t blame them,” Begley said.

“There are some really bad mimes,” Inman said.

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