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Theatre Students Experience Mime

Alli Sanderson’s Theatre students recently welcomed a professional mime to their class. Not only was the guest a professional mime, but she was a deaf mime. Tamara Koehler has studied mime for 14 years, and she worked with drama students to teach them how to use their body language, facial expressions, and gestures to change characters in a scene.

Koehler was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and graduated from Central Piedmont Community College with degrees in Fine Arts and Dance. She is a mother of three and is the only deaf person in her family. Koehler was not born deaf but rather became deaf at the age of one after a bout with spinal meningitis. She became interested in mime after taking a drama class in high school and then auditioned for roles in her church youth group. Since she was deaf, the drama leader did not know what to do with her. It was this scenario that prompted the pastor’s wife, who was a sign language interpreter, to encourage Koeler to try pantomime, a form of acting without words. So she did just that! She subsequently joined a mime team and embarked on a mission trip to New York City.  She then studied and performed at various places such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. She has performed internationally as well in countries such as England, Croatia, Haiti, and Honduras. Her mime team has been invited to perform at Carolina Panthers Stadium and at the Billy Graham Crusade. When asked if there were any challenges to being deaf on a professional mime team, Koehler replied, “I always find another way to work around any communication issues. The team has learned how to cue me or let me know when to start or when to stop like tapping me on the shoulder, moving a pinky finger, or winking.”

Sanderson expressed the importance of studying mime for beginning theatre students as it teaches students to use their body to create characters instead of just vocal characteristics. Students who use mime are forced to take dialogue and language out of the situation and thus have to learn to tell a story with their body. According to one theatre student, “She was very detailed and helpful with what we did wrong. We did a performance while she was there and after we performed, she told us exactly what we needed to fix. She was very specific and it helped us improve.”

Senior Jesse Arnold, a deaf student who is a member of the Theatre I class, was thrilled to see a professional deaf actress who does not let her inability to hear stop her from doing what she loves. When Koehler was asked if she had any advice for the aspiring young actors, she stated, “I suggest you read and watch people in crowded places such as in the movies or on TV shows. Watch their behavior, temperament, walk, actions, and movements. Play with objects and memorize how they feel, their weight, thickness, and dimensions. It is also helpful to act in front of a mirror to see expressions and how your movements look in relation to the real thing.”

Written by: Donna Helms, Web Editor
Posted: Oct 08, 2014 by Donna Helms

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