GUIDE FOR TEACHERS
SILENT PARTNERS is pleased to be
a part of your cultural arts program. You may want your students simply to enjoy
the program and be free to draw their own conclusions about what they have seen.
If, however, you choose to use the performance as a basis for class discussion
or a writing exercise, the following discussion questions and activities are
intended to help you. Because we perform for a wide range of ages and interests,
we have tailored this guide for teachers of all grades.
General Discussion Questions
1. WHAT IS MIME?
A broad definition of the art of mime is "acting without speaking."
Mimes transform themselves into characters and act out situations using highly
stylized movements. They have to train their bodies like dancers and their minds
like actors. As an art form mime has been around a very long time. The ancient
Greeks performed mime in huge amphitheaters in front of thousands of people.
Without the technological ability to amplify their voices to their entire audience,
the actors used exaggerated movements and costuming to convey their meaning.
- We use mime in our daily interactions,
particularly when we are not allowed to speak. Ask students to mime looking
attentive for you!
- Challenge them to identify feelings
they express using only their bodies.
- Have students imitate someone's
walk or mime the stance of particular personality, a tough guy or a nervous
or enthusiastic person.
- Discuss the circumstances under
which mime would be useful.
2. WHAT IS MOVEMENT THEATER ?
Many mimes are also speaking actors, who often feel limited by either art form.
This feeling is what brought about a form of theater called movement theater,
whose performers are not limited by the silence of mime, or by the lack of physically
stylized expression of traditional theater. Movement theater encompasses mime,
dance, and speaking theater all in one art form. SILENT PARTNERS considers themselves
a mime and movement theater company.
- Identify other examples of movement
- Identify a movie or T.V. actor
who works with exaggerated body movement.
Discussion Questions Regarding
(Two street-smart tough guys sharing the same park bench illustrate issues about
pretenses, sharing, and getting along.)
- How "tough" were those
- Do you find yourself in situations
in which you put on a facade, only to be discovered for who you really are?
- Can you think of someone you know
who is tough on the outside to hide a vulnerability on the inside?
- How did the tough guys resolve
their problem without fighting?
(Two characters in contrasting costumes abstractly reflect the complex interactions
between majority and minority cultures.)
- Which of the two characters do
you relate to?
- Can you recognize behaviors that
are typical of majority and minority cultures?
- When the artists developed the
choreography for this piece they used words like forced friendship, opportunistic,
disenfranchisement, hypocritical, acquiescence.How do you see these ideas
in the piece, and what other words would you use?
(This sketch, involving children playing with large blocks, explores issues
of competition, unconditional love, and greed.) This piece can be interpreted
on many levels. Young children recognize the confidence that blooms into greed
and ultimate demise. Older children are more aware of the changes that occur
in the relationship between the two characters and the rejection and hurt that
comes from one character's increasingly self-centered behavior. Adults recognize
the pitfalls of becoming obsessed and isolated by one's work.
- Which character did you feel
sympathy for at first and why?
- What changed in the way the two
characters related to each other?
- Do you know anyone who has "grown
apart from you"?
- The character in green was passive
in observing his friend's increasingly selfish behavior. How would you behave?
- How do you feel when you know
that a friend is making self-destructive choices?
- Name a situation in which something
harmless and fun can get out of hand.
(A woman's briefcase comes alive and makes advances toward her.) This piece
prompts consideration of many situations in which our personal needs can be
twisted into our own oppression. The briefcase can be seen as a metaphor for
many things. One interpretation is that the briefcase represents the woman's
obsession with her job. Her preoccupation with and attraction to her job eventually
smothers her freedom.
- Do you know people who are similarly
ruled by their work?
- What might this cause? How might
they avoid this?
Another interpretation is that the
briefcase symbolizes the male/female power model: helpless-woman-is-taken-advantage-of-by-overpowering-man.
- Do you relate to the woman? to
- How could the woman have avoided
ending up on the floor?
- Name a situation in which small
compromises lead to big problems?
- Under what circumstances are compromises
- In what ways might the woman be
strengthened by her negative experience?
DON'T BITE THE DOG THAT FEEDS
(In this humorous exploration of animal behavior both human and canine
two characters interchange roles between dog and owner.)
- What are some other similarities
between animal and human behavior that the piece didn't touch on?
- Why do you think people keep pets?
- Are humans really more "refined"
- Compare how animals and humans
treat our earth and each other.
(Characters portray three common adolescent courting scenes within the school
- How is the physical interaction
between the two girls a metaphor for the way we converse?
- Why do young people and even adults
have such a hard time speaking directly to a person they "like"?
What makes it so awkward?
- How is the use of the large letter
a metaphor for this situation?
(A woman buys a novelty sweater in this vignette examining advertising and the
- How is this piece a metaphor
for our tendency to want to follow fashionable trends whether they suit us
- How do you think the costume was
made to grow like it does?
- How is costuming important to
- What other things do you try to
like only because everyone else wears or uses them. Think of an item that
would only hinder your lifestyle rather than help it (e.g. very high-heeled
shoes, or very heavy boots).
Bear and Crow
(Mr. Bear loses self-confidence when Mrs. Crow criticizes the way he is dressed.)
- How easily are you influenced
by other people's opinions about you? If you are proud of something you have
done and a friend says it's silly, how do you feel?
- Do you think you have to be "in
style" to look good?
Hippo At Dinner
(Mr. Hippo eats so much food that he can no longer move.)
- Have you ever eaten or drunk
too much of a good thing - like Halloween candy or soda - and felt stuffed
- What other fun things could hurt
you if you did them too often? How about watching too much TV or maybe talking
or shouting so much you lose your voice?
- How can we tell when our bodies
or minds have had enough of something we like?
Ostrich in Love
(Lorenzo Ostrich learns his shy nature prevents him from fulfilling his plans,
but nevertheless enjoys his efforts.)
- Have you ever failed to accomplish
something you wanted? Did you enjoy the process rather than fixate on the
- Are there things that you pursue
that are not based in reality? Does it matter?
- Who do you think the lady in black
represented, and why do you think the artists chose to have her in the play?
(Clarice Camel wants to become a ballet dancer but is discouraged by her peers.)
- How do you think the actors worked
inside the camel costumes?
- Have you ever been discouraged
from following a dream? How do you feel when you do something that is fulfilling
- Notice how easy it is to change
your mind about something just because someone has a different opinion.
(Young Roo is rude to his classmate Pig because he is different.)
- Have you ever not liked someone
just because he or she was different from you?
- Pick a partner and see how many
differences you can find. Then see how many similarities you can find.
(This piece about a mannequin and a little girl addresses the pitfalls of wishing
for what you don't have.)
- What could the doll represent
besides a doll (e.g. a magazine image, a TV star, a media role model)?
- Have you ever looked at a person
in a magazine or on T.V. and wanted to be just like him or her?
- What happens when you change your
own personality to try to be like someone else? Does it make you happier?
(A girl is authoritatively "pushed" around by a gigantic hand - reflecting
the relationship between fitting in and scapegoating in our mass psyche.)
Shopping for Lifestyles
(A woman in a black box, with only head and hands visible, struggles through
life's many options.)
(Two performers in white costumes engage in a movement theater dance that reflects
the obsessive need for attention as well as distance in many relationships.)
(An innocent know-it-all cares for her pet according to expert advice but is
unable to see the pet's real needs.)
(A woman buys a novelty sweater in this vignette examining advertising and the
- Discuss the use of metaphor in
- Are you able to identify with
any of the characters or their situations?
- Identify the use of the three
art forms within the work (dance, mime, and acting).
- Is there a common theme in these
pieces? The artists were exploring how our society tends to always want to
tell others what to do. What other themes do you notice?
- These pieces were written from
the perspective of two middle-class white women. Consider the subject matter
from a different perspective (e.g. that of an American male, an upper-class
or working-class person, an African American, an Asian American, a disabled
- Discuss the use of surrealism
in these pieces.
Frame of Mind
(The Monk guides the Inquisitor to physically explore more and more possibilities.)
- What was your response to the
two characters in this piece?
- Were you able to make a connection
between the text and the actions?
- The character at the bottom of
the frame is called the Monk. What purpose did that character play for the
person at the top of the frame, the Inquisitor. (e.g. the subconscious, a
teacher, a parent)?
- What thoughts about choice did
this piece bring up for you?
(A girl is torn between wanting to be like the images in magazines and the"tape"
in her head.)