This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "San Francisco Mime Troupe" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
San Francisco Mime Troupe
San Francisco Mime Troupe logo.png
TypeTheatre group
Purposepolitical satire

The San Francisco Mime Troupe is a theatre of political satire which performs free shows in various parks in the San Francisco Bay Area Coordinates: 37°45′23″N 112°24′47″W / 37.7565°N 112.4131°W / 37.7565; -112.4131 (SF Mime Troupe HQ) and around California. The Troupe does not, however, perform silent mime, but each year creates an original musical comedy that combines aspects of Commedia dell'Arte, melodrama, and broad farce with topical political themes. The group was awarded the Regional Theatre Award at the 41st Tony Awards.



The group was founded in 1959 by R. G. Davis as a medium of expression of his divergent theatrical concepts.[citation needed] The group debuted with Mime and Word (1959) and The 11th Hour Mime Show (1960).[citation needed] However, by 1961, the group transitioned to the Commedia dell'Arte format to more thoroughly comment on perceived political repression in the United States of America, the growing American Civil Rights Movement and military and covert intervention abroad. In the mid-1960s the group started to rely less on the direct Commedia dell'Arte format and transitioned into a more rambunctious, satirical style.[citation needed] It also began integrating elements of jazz into its musical composition, eventually leading to the inclusion of a jazz band within the troupe. The group gained significant notoriety for its free performances in Golden Gate Park and numerous altercations with law enforcement. They also travelled to Canada and played at Simon Fraser University on Nov. 9, 1966 with “A Minstrel Show or Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel" by Gary Davis and Saul Landau (SFU Archives Library).The 'Minstrel Show' made its public debut in April 1965 at the Encore Theater on Powell Street in san Francisco, produced by Bill Graham. Its cast included John Broderick, Willie B. Hart Jr., George Matthews, Jason Marc Alexander, Julio Martinez, Malachi Spicer (Kai Spiegel) as the minstrels and Robert Slattery at Interlocutor.[citation needed]

The music for “Minstrel Show” was composed and performed by Steve Reich, who worked with the Troupe for at least two seasons. The Troupe has always been known to employ the best composers and musicians in the area, who work intimately with the actors, writers, and whole theatrical operation.

By the early 1970s, the Troupe had earned a reputation for opposing capitalism, sexism, and war.[1]

Post-Davis history

2006 performance of Godfellas
2006 performance of Godfellas

In the early '70s Davis left the Troupe when it re-formed as a collective, the members of which operate as the Artistic Director, at which time the Troupe produced one of its most successful shows, The Independent Female (1970). In the 1980s, the group's productions retaliated against the Reagan administration.

Some of the Troupe's popular shows include:

As well as the park-based shows, the Mime Troupe also tours nationally and internationally, having performed throughout Europe, Asia, South and Central America, and has won several awards. The group also facilitates community workshops. They are a nonprofit organization. The season traditionally starts on Fourth of July weekend and ends on Labor Day weekend.

Early Mime Troupers include Joe Bellan, Saul Landau, Arthur Holden, Nina Serrano, Steve Reich, John Connell, Robert Nelson, William T. Wiley, Sandra Archer, Robert Hudson, Wally Hedrick, Judy North, Jerry Jump, Fred Hayden, Victoria Hochberg, Joaquin Aranda, Esteban Oropezo and John Broderick. Posters for several of the 1970s productions were designed by Jane Norling, and are accessible online.[3]

Later veterans include Arthur Holden, Sharon Lockwood, Peter Coyote, Luis Valdez, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bruce Barthol, Joan Holden, Joan Mankin, Melody James, Andrea Snow, Daniel Chumley, Marie Acosta, Jael Weisman, Jim Haynie, John Robb, Emmett Grogan, Bill Graham, and Ed Holmes.

The current San Francisco Mime Troupe Collective comprises Rotimi Agbabiaka, Michael Bello, Velina Brown, Ellen Callas, Hugo E Carbajal, Michael Carreiro, Marie Cartier, Lisa Hori-Garcia, Taylor Gonzalez, Keiko Shimosato Carreiro, Daniel Savio, Michael Gene Sullivan.[4]


In 1987, the troupe's Brechtian style of guerrilla theatre earned them a special Tony Award for Excellence in Regional Theater.[citation needed] Red State, the Troupe's 2008 fable about a small Midwest town that, after years of being ignored, demands accountability for their tax dollars, was nominated for a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best New Script, as was their 2009 production, Too Big to Fail, which detailed how credit and the philosophy of profit at all costs trap mesmerized citizens in a cycle of debt, while endlessly enriching the capitalists who cast the spell.[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Bernstein, Lee (2010). "The Age of Jackson: George Jackson and the Radical Critique of Incarceration". America is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 52. ISBN 9780807871171. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  2. ^ Which, when professor Keith Fowler booked it into Massachusetts' Williams College in 1968, elicited comments from the opening night crowd of "I've been raped!" The next day a panel discussion was held in which professor Paul Gray of Bennington College thrust a KKK hood over his head and shouted, "If any of them M--F--s comes near my wife, I'll kill him!"
  3. ^ "Show Archive - San Francisco Mime Troupe - America's Theater of Political Comedy". Retrieved 2017-03-25.
  4. ^ "Collective Bios". SFMT. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  5. ^ SF Mime Troupe takes on 'Treasure Island'