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Mime troupe off to Obscuristan

The award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe presents "Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan" in Grass Valley.
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As autumnal whispers begin to fill the air and leaves of green slowly fade into shades of gold and auburn, the sounds of fall can be heard.

Sounds of school bells ringing, the wind chimes singing, and the sounds of – yes – the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

Wednesday and Thursday mark the annual return of the Bay Area theater company to Nevada County. The company’s political satire shows provide the audience with live music – something not generally associated with a mime troupe.



Founded in 1959 by R.G. Davis, the troupe’s initial performances were indeed silent. However, by 1961, Davis began to experiment with the spoken word.

After catching on with Bay Area audiences, the company gained acclaim on the international stage. Since then, the troupe has continued to tour the globe presenting its views on modern culture and politics, collecting plenty of recognition along the way.




The San Francisco Mime Troupe won its first of three OBIE Awards in 1968 for “uniting theater and revolution and grooving in the parks.” The troupe was awarded a TONY Award (for excellence in regional theater) in 1987, the Bay Area Media Alliance Golden Gadfly Award for lifetime achievement in 1993, and was recognized as the best local theater company by the San Francisco Weekly in 1999 … to name a few.

So what will the troupe bring to Nevada County during its 41st year of summer touring?

“The play we are presenting is ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan.’ It is loosely based on the classic play ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’… and I mean very loosely,” said stage manager Toni Ostini.

Like all the plays performed by the troupe, it deals with some of the absurdities and craziness in public policy. Yet, according to Ostini, she wouldn’t have it any other way. When asked if she enjoyed the themes, sound and music that the troupe performs, she responded, “Thank God. (If there weren’t any sound or music), it wouldn’t be interesting. What’s great about the political satire is that it makes the play more accessible to the audiences.”

And, much like the acclaim the troupe’s plays have received in the past, the summer audiences have so far been eating it up, according to Ostini.

“The reactions have been really great. The audiences have been really getting the jokes and the dry humor,” says Ostini.

Perhaps it is appropriate that Ostini’s summary of her two-year relationship with the troupe is similar to the plays themselves: “… a colorful, chaotic, fun and exhausting experience.”

Comedy is not the only element that the troupe will present to its audiences here. Beyond the nightly performances, the troupe will offer a theatrical workshop from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday.

“They are mostly workshops in physical theater. It really depends on who’s running them … sometimes they even teach their students real pantomime,” Ostini said. “They are really about teaching people how to open themselves up on the stage.”

In addition, a potluck dinner-lecture by Mime Troupe members Amos Glick and Ed Holmes will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Call Center for the Arts at 274-8384 to register for the potluck-lecture or workshop.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: San Francisco Mime Troupe presents 3Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan.²

WHEN: Wednesday and Thursday. Live jazz performance starts at 7 p.m., followed by show at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

ADMISSION: $12. Tickets at Foggy Mountain, BriarPatch, Herb Shop Records and at the door

INFORMATION: 274-8384 or http://www.sfmt.org

What it is

3Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan² is an original political musical satire influenced by the world-shattering events of Sept. 11.

In the latest musical presented by the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the president of the United States has a dilemma: His well-earned reputation of using the war on terrorism to advance corporate interests is getting in the way of his actual foreign policy<which is advancing corporate interests.

The president needs to convince the world that democracy is placed before profits and an 3unimportant² country is needed as an example. So when the president-for-life of the tiny country of Obscuristan announces its first elections ever, the United States sends Sept. 11 firefighter hero Jeff Smith as its official adviser. Smith vows to help Obscuristan achieve American-style democracy … that is, until oil is discovered overseas and an Obscuristani presidential candidate promises to keep the oil wealth at home.


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