Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Moment of Silence


I was exposed to theater at an early age, but of all the performers I saw live or on television, Marcel Marceau, who died on Saturday, is the first one I remember by name.

I think that because Marcel Marceau became such a cultural icon, in some ways he has become almost invisible. When you think "mime" his characters are the ones that spring to mind, and yet, I wonder if most people understand the depth of his work.

Like so, so many of his generation, Marcel Marceau was affected by the Holocaust. His father was killed in Auschwitz, and Marcel and his brother Alain were active in the French Resistance.

I was struck by something I heard recently, that how in the not-so-terribly-distant-future, there will be nobody alive who lived through the Second World War, and our understanding of it will no longer be transmitted by people who experienced it, first-hand.

Will we understand the powerful, political and poignant work of Marcel Marceau, or will we only be vaguely aware of him as a some guy in a black and white costume who struggled to escape from an invisible cage?


Gina said...

Beautifully put, Lisa. If it's alright by you I'm linking to your post on my new silence blog ( By the way, did you know that Marcel named Charlie Chaplain as his biggest influence?

A moment of silence seems more than fitting...


Anonymous said...

I was very sad to see Marcel had died. I studied mime in high school and our teacher showed us "In the Park" wherein Marcel was all different characters in a park.

I remember being so impressed by an elderly man, sitting on a bench with his hands on top of his cane, slowly standing up. The catch? No cane, of course, it was mimed.

Think of this: sit with your hands on top of a cane chin/chest level, then slowly stand up. Now, think of doing that without a cane, yet keeping your hands totally still and rooted. I swear, I was leaning sideways, looking for the cane THAT WASN'T THERE!

What an extrodinary talent we had in Monsieur Marceau.

For anybody who dislikes mime because of what you have seen, check out one of Marcel's films, and then try to tell me pantomime is not an art form, is not entertaining, is not heartwarming, poignant, uplifting. You won't be able to . . .


Ryan said...

I recently finished reading Citizen Soldiers, about the life of the fighting men (and women nurses) of WWII. While it's true it won't be long before there aren't any folks around who remember WWII, it won't lessen the impact of the war. The last Civil War soldier died decades ago (in the 1950s, I think it was), but our understanding of what happened during those turbulent times continues to increase with new writings being found.

I'm not sure if there are any WWI soldiers still around or not--I remember reading years ago that they were dieing off by the tens of thousands each year. That war ended in 1918, 89 years ago. Even a younger 18 year old then would be 107 today. Not out of the realm of possibility, but there's certainly not many of them running around anymore. Even ten years ago, they probably numbered in the tens of thousands of WWI vets.

The folks who lived to tell first hand accounts of the events are largely gone, but their stories will be around forever. That won't change once the WWII vets are gone either.

More interesting, consider that we'll probably be dead long before the last Gulf War soldier kicks the bucket. =)


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