"We all universally speak body language…and when working with mime, we have to hone our ability to speak that language," says BKBX 's artistic director Becky Baumwoll. The company recently opened their newest Off-Broadway show, Above Below Oct. 5 at HERE Arts Centre, running through Oct. 25.
Founded in 2011, BKBX is an ensemble company of 12 (members include Fun Home's Joel Perez) dedicated to performing short plays through mime. Brought together by the belief that great theatre requires little ornamentation, only great vision, the group's mission is to tell stories that range from the realistic to metaphorical, devastating to the hilarious.
"Mime distils theatre down to the most essential palate…The power of my body and expressions to tell the story," continues Baumwoll. "I think this medium is needed right now because of this simplicity."
"I think it's nice to have the ultimate in unplugged…it's like, 'Put away every screen and remember when you played make-believe as a kid.' That stuff is relevant now. It won't make you feel like a child again; it will make you remember the joy of using your imagination." For Baumwoll and the ensemble, mime allows the audience to participate in the show without ever leaving their seats.
"The audience projects their own ideas onto what we're miming. So if I play a grandma and I put on an apron, the audience is going to see their grandmother's apron… I think when people come to our show, they leave having their imagination empowered."
Baumwoll also speaks to how performing mime has significantly improved her skills as an actor in general.
"We're all speaking actors outside of Broken Box and we find that this work really affects us in the other work that we do. Because when you walk on stage you're suddenly aware that every expression tells the audience something, every gesture, every movement," she says.
"It applies to work outside of mime: your body is completely powerful and you need so little to tell so much."
Performing mime also requires the ability to communicate expertly both within the ensemble and with the audience, another skill essential to actors. "I feel a huge sense of connection with everyone in the room," says Baumwoll.
BKBX is devoted to not only making mime enjoyable and entertaining, its mission is also to modernize it as an art form. "It has this connotation of being antiquated," says Baumwoll. "But what we're doing with it is creating stories that are relevant for us as contemporary artists. What we're doing aren't tricks or clowning, we're doing narratives."
"One thing that you would get from a Broken Box show that I don't think you would expect is that you're going to laugh, and you're going to cry. You're going to have a very dramatic piece followed by a very abstract piece followed by a totally absurd, comedic piece."
Tickets to Above Below are $20. Visit HERE.org for more information.