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Yoga Korunta

Life & Politics

Location: United States

One learns, as nothing endures but change.

26 June 2007

Tuesday's Word: Pantomime

Pantomime (informally, panto) refers to a theatrical genre, traditionally found in Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland.

The performance of pantomime originates at its earliest in ancient Greece, but exploded in popularity during the reign of Augustus in ancient Rome. The name is taken from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus. The style and content of modern pantomime has very clear and strong links with the Commedia dell'arte, a form of popular theatre that arose in Italy in the early middle ages, and which reached England by the 16th century. A "comedy of professional artists" traveling from province to province in Italy and then France, they improvised and told stories which told lessons to the crowd and changed the main character depending on where they were performing. The great clown Grimaldi transformed the format. Each story had the same fixed characters: the lovers, father, servants (one being crafty and the other stupid), etc. These roles/characters can be found in today's pantomimes.
The gender role reversal resembles the old festival of Twelfth Night, a combination of Epiphany and midwinter feast, when it was customary for the natural order of things to be reversed. This tradition can be traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as Samhain and Saturnalia.
In Restoration England, a pantomime was considered a low form of opera, rather like the Commedia dell'arte but without Harlequin (rather like the French Vaudeville). In 1717, actor and manager John Rich introduced Harlequin to the British stage under the name of "Lun" (for "lunatic") and began performing wildly popular pantomimes. These pantomimes gradually became more topical and comic, often involving as many special theatrical effects as possible. Colley Cibber and his colleagues competed with Rich and produced their own pantomimes, and pantomime was a substantial (if decried) subgenre in Augustan drama. This form had virtually died out by the end of the 19th century.

Pantomime in the United States of America
Pantomime, as described in this article is not commonly performed in the United States of America, as a consequence, the word "pantomime" is more commonly understood to refer to the art of mime, as practised by Marcel Marceau or Mummenschanz and is often assumed to be a solo performance seen as often on street corners as on stage.

Bloggers, I've seen Marcel Marceau and can attest that his was an outstanding performance. The young woman who mimed in New Orleans was also quite talented when she mimed the way I needed to go to find my way about the French Quarter. Merci beaucoup!



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