If they leave the same and are just entertained, the show is an abysmal failure." And how should they leave a Mime Troupe show exactly? "I want them to rush right out and overthrow capitalism," says Sullivan, the collective's head writer since 2000, when he took the baton from longtime head writer Joan Holden. "That would be a good day."
At the same time, the challenges facing the company in 2009 are very real, most of them economic. Sullivan, with other members, points to the recent drastic yet financially necessary scaling-back of tours as a serious frustration. Bay Area living costs have also impinged on the day-to-day business of the organization, according to Ellen Callas. "People have had to take more and more outside work to fill in the gaps. It's harder and harder to have a critical mass, even at meetings where important decisions are made," explains Callas, a member of the collective since 1986, "[But] none of us are willing to give up the dream of the Mime Troupe."
With their own building in the Mission District (purchased in the 1970s), unusual dedication, and commitments that include a teaching program for at-risk teens and workshop internships, the Mime Troupe does seem happily determined to press forward. Arthur Holden, veteran Trouper from the early 1960s until the 1990s, suggests it's the collective structure of the Troupe itself that is key to its longevity and no doubt part of its larger appeal too. "It's what distinguishes the Mime Troupe from most other theaters: a sense of the collective members that they are really controlling their existence. That's very important and it isn't too easily found, in the theater or generally in the world."
TOO BIG TO FAIL
Various Bay Area venues through Sept. 24
(415) 285-1717, www.sfmt.org