Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Marcel Marceau, the world’s most famous mime was coming to perform at my high school, and I had snagged a free ticket through the drama department. There were a handful of free tickets available to those of us in the Drama Club, Mr. Pia, our director, called them “Meems,” I winced every time he said it. “Meems,” “Mimes,” whatever, I would be going that Saturday night, for free.

I put on a dress and some eye-shadow and made it to the high school theater, excitement filled the air. The stage was usually reserved for high school productions, but occasionally world famous talent would appear. The house was packed, I took my orchestra seat next to a pretty girl with long blond hair accented with a black velvet headband. I couldn’t tell if she was a girl or a woman, she was somewhere in between. She spoke very eloquently about Marcel Marceau’s talents, she was a long time fan – so much so that she had become almost a friend, she explained – she had been to so many of his shows that she had lost count. I listened and nodded, I wondered where she’d learned to speak so prettily; maybe at some private school in Switzerland or someplace like that. She sat with her hands folded in her lap, securing her program ever so lightly, as not to mar or bend the pristine cover that was graced by the great Marcel. I told her that I had only seen mimes on 5th Avenue in the city, that they scared me – how they would follow you, making fun or you without your knowledge. She scoffed, shaking her head with an adamant, “no.” There was only one Marcel Marceau, she assured me, I was in for a night I would never forget. She seemed to be warming up to me – her haughty tone relaxed a bit as she offered to take me backstage to meet The Master, himself. Luck was with me, first the comp. ticket, and now being seated next to a personal friend of the greatest meem of all time. As the theater lights dimmed, she reached over and squeezed my hand in anticipation, and ssh’d the audience who had not yet piped down.

The show was spellbinding. Marcel was much better than those hacks in New York City, you could hear a pin drop between the audiences “oo’s and ah’s,” chuckles and eventual guffaws.

As the lights came up, my new friend beat everyone to the punch of the standing ovation, carefully balancing her program on the seat’s edge as it sprung back to its folded position. She was the last one to stop clapping, and gestured that we take our seats again as the audience lolygagged out of the theater to find their cars.

“What a treat,” she said breathlessly! “I have seen him a hundred times, and could see him a hundred times more.” She sounded like a fairytale princess, her eyes were fixed on the closed curtain as though he was still standing there. “Let’s give him a moment, and then I’ll take you backstage,” she finally turned to me, eyes full of anticipation. “Where’s your program,” she said in an urgent, panicked voice – her eyes nervously scanning my lap. I opened my purse and showed her I had tucked it away to safety. “Oh, thank GOODNESS,” she exhaled, “you’ll want to save that forever.”

Soon, we were the only ones left in the theater, it seemed the time was right. She looked around from left to right, and a quick check behind, then turned to me and whispered, “NOW!!”

She gracefully led me to the stage door, and opened it quietly, waving me inside. One of the tech people was busy sweeping the concrete floor.

“Excuse me,” she said as though addressing a servant, “we’re here to see Monsieur Marceau, I’m a personal friend.” The backstage sweeper was casually attentive and told us to wait as she put the broom down to deliver the message to The Great Marceau. My new friend smoothed her perfect blond hair with one hand, while the other hand held her program in its pristine state.

Mr. Marceau appeared out of the darkness, his whiteface eerily glowing as he walked gracefully towards us until something froze him in his tracks.

“Monsieur Marceau,” my friend exclaimed, “what a triumph, as always!” The King of Mimes looked nervously around him, he spoke with a slight voice, as he quickly started to back away.

“Oui, oui,” he said stepping back, being careful not to have his back towards us, “oui, Merci,” he grabbed the arm of another Frenchman who had appeared out of the darkness where Marcel had emerged. The chalked-faced mime scurried off behind the folds of curtain, his manager said a brusque, “Bonsoir, Madame,” to my velvet headbanded friend. “Eef you wait here une minute, Monsieur Marceau will sign your programs!”
My friend nodded gracefully, looking over at me to see if I was impressed.

“How about that,” she said, “you have met The Great Marcel Marceau, now he’s off to fetch a pen!” The manager had rushed off in the same direction as Marceau, we stood there in the wings, I would have wandered out the stage door and out to my car if it weren’t for the fact that we were told to wait right there.

After a few minutes two Police Officers came through the stage door. They flanked Marcel’s fan, each taking an arm as though escorting her to a procession or formal ball. Marcel’s moonglow face peered out between the curtains at the activity, seeing if the coast was clear. The officers walked her out, she didn’t seem alarmed, “Gentleman, I will ask you to wait, Monsieur Marceau will wonder where I’ve disappeared to,” she was insistent as they gingerly walked her out the door. “What a momentous evening,” she heralded in my direction as the metal door slammed shut behind her and the men in blue.

Marcel’s manager appeared again, demanding to know how I knew the refined young woman. I told him that I had just happened to be seated next to her, and that she was kind enough to extend an invitation backstage. “She is an unfortunate young woman, we have had many encounters before. We have been assured that she is not dangerous, but she has escaped the facility many times to see Monsieur Marceau,” He gave a polite snap of his head bidding me adieu.

Apparently, the refined escape artist had traveled far and sometimes across state lines to catch Marceau’s show. This time being the shortest voyage, she had left the great mansion, the local mental institution where only the wealthiest mental cases were welcome. She had dressed herself prettily, snuck out a window, glided across the great front lawn of the impressive estate where they shocked people’s brains back to some state of sanity. From there she had a quarter mile stroll to the high school where Marcel would be delighting the Connecticut locals, with more than enough time before curtain to secure herself a program, take an empty seat, and to compose herself before The Great Master Mime would take the stage and give us a night we would never forget.

No comments:

Post a Comment