Dear 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

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.

  1. We use mime in our daily interactions, particularly when we are not allowed to speak. Ask students to mime looking attentive for you!
  2. Challenge them to identify feelings they express using only their bodies.
  3. Have students imitate someone's walk or mime the stance of particular personality, a tough guy or a nervous or enthusiastic person.
  4. Discuss the circumstances under which mime would be useful.

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.

  1. Identify other examples of movement theater.
  2. Identify a movie or T.V. actor who works with exaggerated body movement.

Discussion Questions Regarding Specific Pieces

(Two street-smart tough guys sharing the same park bench illustrate issues about pretenses, sharing, and getting along.)

  1. How "tough" were those guys?
  2. Do you find yourself in situations in which you put on a facade, only to be discovered for who you really are?
  3. Can you think of someone you know who is tough on the outside to hide a vulnerability on the inside?
  4. 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.)

  1. Which of the two characters do you relate to?
  2. Can you recognize behaviors that are typical of majority and minority cultures?
  3. 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.

  1. Which character did you feel sympathy for at first and why?
  2. What changed in the way the two characters related to each other?
  3. Do you know anyone who has "grown apart from you"?
  4. The character in green was passive in observing his friend's increasingly selfish behavior. How would you behave?
  5. How do you feel when you know that a friend is making self-destructive choices?
  6. 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.

  1. Do you know people who are similarly ruled by their work?
  2. 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.

  1. Do you relate to the woman? to the briefcase?
  2. How could the woman have avoided ending up on the floor?
  3. Name a situation in which small compromises lead to big problems?
  4. Under what circumstances are compromises appropriate?
  5. In what ways might the woman be strengthened by her negative experience?

(In this humorous exploration of animal behavior – both human and canine – two characters interchange roles between dog and owner.)

  1. What are some other similarities between animal and human behavior that the piece didn't touch on?
  2. Why do you think people keep pets?
  3. Are humans really more "refined" than animals?
  4. Compare how animals and humans treat our earth and each other.

(Characters portray three common adolescent courting scenes within the school setting.)

  1. How is the physical interaction between the two girls a metaphor for the way we converse?
  2. Why do young people and even adults have such a hard time speaking directly to a person they "like"? What makes it so awkward?
  3. 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 fashion industry.)

  1. How is this piece a metaphor for our tendency to want to follow fashionable trends whether they suit us or not?
  2. How do you think the costume was made to grow like it does?
  3. How is costuming important to theater?
  4. 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.)

  1. 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?
  2. 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.)

  1. Have you ever eaten or drunk too much of a good thing - like Halloween candy or soda - and felt stuffed or sick?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.)

  1. Have you ever failed to accomplish something you wanted? Did you enjoy the process rather than fixate on the results?
  2. Are there things that you pursue that are not based in reality? Does it matter?
  3. Who do you think the lady in black represented, and why do you think the artists chose to have her in the play?

Camel Dances
(Clarice Camel wants to become a ballet dancer but is discouraged by her peers.)

  1. How do you think the actors worked inside the camel costumes?
  2. Have you ever been discouraged from following a dream? How do you feel when you do something that is fulfilling to you?
  3. Notice how easy it is to change your mind about something just because someone has a different opinion.

Rude Kangaroo
(Young Roo is rude to his classmate Pig because he is different.)

  1. Have you ever not liked someone just because he or she was different from you?
  2. 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.)

  1. What could the doll represent besides a doll (e.g. a magazine image, a TV star, a media role model)?
  2. Have you ever looked at a person in a magazine or on T.V. and wanted to be just like him or her?
  3. 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.)

White Suits
(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.)

Novelty Sweater
(A woman buys a novelty sweater in this vignette examining advertising and the fashion industry).

  1. Discuss the use of metaphor in these pieces.
  2. Are you able to identify with any of the characters or their situations?
  3. Identify the use of the three art forms within the work (dance, mime, and acting).
  4. 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?
  5. 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 person).
  6. Discuss the use of surrealism in these pieces.

Frame of Mind
(The Monk guides the Inquisitor to physically explore more and more possibilities.)

  1. What was your response to the two characters in this piece?
  2. Were you able to make a connection between the text and the actions?
  3. 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)?
  4. What thoughts about choice did this piece bring up for you?

Mixed Media
(A girl is torn between wanting to be like the images in magazines and the"tape" in her head.)