Let’s Talk About Mimes

Broken Box Mime Theater

Broken Box Mime Theater

Tufts University has an amazing mime troupe. The troupe is called “Hype!” and during my time as an undergrad, I was lucky enough to see nearly a dozen of their shows. Each performance was amazing and left me with a sense of awe as I witnessed my peers create something out of nothing. Now, when most people hear about mimes they immediately think about street performers locked in invisible boxes and, don’t get me wrong, this skill can be pretty impressive. However, the thing that was most stunning about Hype! was the collaborative creativity that they displayed.

I’ll admit, I attended a few Hype! workshops to see if I had what it took to join the team. It turns out, I didn’t (even though the mimes were thoroughly impressed by my ability to pantomime getting beat up). Regardless, I picked up a few tricks that helped me to understand what goes into the craft. First and foremost, it’s important to know that pantomime is essentially creating illusions by using the imagination. Through cultivating their imaginations, mimes can clearly picture the world that they wish to create before using their bodies to portray it to others. Next, mimes use a series of fixed points to create the illusion of invisible objects in a space. The more fixed points that the mime adds, the more believable the object becomes. For instance, if a mime portrays all six sides of a box you can picture it much clearer than if they only touch two sides. This relatively simple point is what makes troupes so impressive.

Just as with collaboration in the workplace, when multiple mimes create an object or space together, the result is inspiring. As an audience member you witness the performers jump into a shared illusion and develop it. They add walls and furniture, then props—and since there are many minds at play, it’s a far more dynamic scene than any invisible box. Best of all, the mimes interact with things that other mimes created. They forget any sense of ownership over the ideas and merely focus on turning their shared dream into a reality. It’s a skill that every team aiming to create needs to embrace.

If your company is launching a new brand, business practice, or cultural initiative, then I think the most effective way to make it a reality is to follow the same process as Tufts’ mime troupe. To start, it’s important that your entire team has a clear picture of what you aim to create. This way, everyone is able to contribute their “fixed points” and develop the idea. For businesses, fixed points can be anything from brand tone and design elements to policies and procedures. However, the impact of these points is only noticeable when they interact with one another. Therefore, it’s important that you align each point so that no one accidentally undermines the idea of another team member or department (e.g. walking through an invisible wall that's already been established). When you’re finally able to enter a shared illusion and develop it as a team, you’ve hit your mark.

How’s that for thinking outside the box?