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Jackie Davis began studying mime in 1975 at age 13. Her teacher deemed her a prodigy, and by 15 she had moved to New York City to join his company, La Compagnie du Mime. She was just 16 when she began teaching mime to drama students at New York University, and in her 20s she was able to study with mime messiah Marcel Marceau. Today, from her base in Wilton, she usually performs as her clown alter ego, Mimi, but those early experiences as student and teacher of mime continue to inform her artistry and are a reminder that clowning, for all its colorful levity, requires serious dedication.

Photo by Kendal J. Bush

In Her Own Words:

  • There is still a lot of mime in my clowning. I’m a hybrid.
  • The mime, through movement, gesture, and her relationship to the space around her, can portray universal ideas, feelings, and characters that embody “every man/woman,” in any moment of time past, present or future.
  • The clown is a very particular person right here, right now, grappling with real objects that pose a very immediate problem.
  • In 1983 I got a contract as a mime at Walt Disney World’s new Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. I performed over 4,000 shows there at the French Pavilion.
  • I had my first awareness of my clown back in 1980.
  • I was on an artists’ retreat and took my first clown workshop with the Bond Street Theatre Coalition. I’d been a very serious mime student until then — and suddenly my inner clown popped out!
  • It was amazing and freeing and totally fun!
  • I started performing for free at nursing homes so I could develop my clown more.
  • Clowning pulls you out of yourself — in a good way.
  • To be in a clowning space is to be fully in the moment, fully engaged with a prop or the people around you, fully engrossed with what is happening right now.
  • It’s like a meditation: “clown mindfulness.”
  • It’s a misnomer to say that clowns paint on a happy face. Makeup simply enhances, amplifies, the face that is there.
  • The act of putting on the makeup is transformative — or should be — so whatever you brought with you that day is transmuted into your clown state before you go on stage or out into the crowd.
  • We need clowns. They’re really not here to sell hamburgers or to creep you out.
  • We’re creating a space where we can feel like we’re a community — where everybody laughs together at the same time.

Jackie Davis is the author of “DIY Circus Lab for Kids.” It’s a family-friendly guide for juggling, balancing, clowning and show-making. The book includes a secret link to online video tutorials for beginners.

Says Davis, “My daughter Ellie is one of the clowns demonstrating the hat tricks and the little clown acts. But there’s so much more in the book. Please buy several, today! And while you’re at it, check out my website: diycircuslab.com. Shameless plug!”

Categories: Q&A