Seal Created by Micheal Watt who created most of the "image" of Mimeistry
People have asked me about “Mimeistry,” I’d like to tell you a bit about its history: the history of a mime and ministry. Its early history is my own, for it was birthed out of my own life’s blood and experience. It was to become a history that was to cross land and seas, was joined by hundreds of other personal histories to become a movement. And like many things touched by humanity, it passes on, changes shape and faces…but never truly dies.
The Simple Beginning: 1978-1982
It was the mid-70’s, mime was popular and Sheilds and Yarnelle had their own television show doing “the robot” and other American style mime illusions. I had returned from Hawaii and was still speaking “pigeon English” but wanted to share my faith with others, when the church I went to (The Grandview Christian Center: Grandview Washington) started a mime troupe, I was selected to participate in the original troupe: I was only 13 years old. From 1978-1980 I travelled with the “Rainbow Players” (perhaps it is God’s sense of humor that my minister would start and end with “rainbows”), we travelled the west-coast with the Pastor as the lead mime! It was a time of wonder and delight for me. I was a “minister of mime!” There was not politics or arguments, it was clear that the arts belonged in the church and were ministry—it wasn’t until years later that I found out that “mime” and the arts were a controversy in the Church world.
In 1980 I attend Greg Goldston’s school of mime in Salt Lake City, Utah. My step-mom was largely responsible for setting up an audition with Greg which lead to my acceptance in the college class with only 12 others: it was an honor as I was only 15 years old. When I returned to Washington, I toured for another 3 months with the Rainbow Players before tragedy struck and the Church split—and I was on the outside. This difficult situation forced me to create my first solo show and in January of 1980 I choreographed Moses; Ananias; Demons on Assignment; He’s Alive and others. I began to tour the “show”— or what I referred to as the “ministry,” with regularity. It is interesting that it was in a Dutch Reformed Church that I received my first “honorarium” and it was to the Reformed Church that I would return years later.
In 1982 I graduated from High School one year early, using credits from the college classes I began in 1976. I moved to Arizona and began teaching first at Peoples Bible College then Gospel Echoes. These two churches provided the seminal work on my teaching of “Biblical Foundations for the Ministering Arts.” Soon after entering into “Full time ministry” I had discovered that mime and the arts were controversial in the Church and therefore needed to a Biblical apologetic. From 1982-1984 I lived in Arizona—it was during this time that I first met Kelly Smith (who later would mime and work with Mimiestry (90’s), through her ministry family who became dear friends (especially Pam and Carolyn Smith: sister and mother to Kelly). I began to tour the states and during these years: I went to Israel for a month as a dancer for the Feast of Tabernacles, and to the Bahamas where I (with others) ministered in mime at schools and prisons.
Discovery Years 1983-1987
In 1983 I met Larry and Joan Dempsey. They came from the same church fellowship (Revival Fellowship) that I had began ministry with in Grandview Washington. They “adopted” me as their “son of the faith.” And sought to promote my ministry: significantly, by having me minister for the International Worship Symposium hosted at Oral Roberts University in 1984—three thousand worship leaders gathered at what was one of the early leaders in what would become a plethora of Worship Conferences. It was at this Symposium that the Church world at large “discovered” my mime: well, specifically the charismatic churches in relationship with the Symposium: for in England there was already players such as Jeffrey Stevens, and the clown Randall Bane. My unique contribution was my use of classical French mime (Marceau) with contemporary Christian music: my style also incorporated dance and other physical theatre forms—my style (which was to become mimeistry’s core style) is what Marcel Marceau called a “perfect synthesis of mime and dance.”
Marcel Marceau saw me at a workshop in Ann Arbor Michigan, and personally invited me to study with him in Paris. What was unique about that is it was in direct answer to a prayer—I had agreed with Sister Charlotte Baker that I would not go to Paris unless I got a personal invitation directly from Marceau…that invitation happened on the last day of a two week workshop (I knew I wanted to go the first day of the workshop and struggled to not seek out the invitation! It’s actually a funny story.). I therefore studied with Marceau from 1984-1987: three very full years. There are very few of us Americans who student a full three years, though there are hundreds of Americans who have studied for a week or two with Marceau, and can claim to have “studied with Marceau.” The study in Paris was 6 days a week, and also included ballet, jazz, fencing, acrobatics, commedia del arte, drama, physical theatre and more: these influences are still seen in both my personal style and those who studied with me as they continue on from my and Marilyn’s tradition. During my Paris years I travelled through out Europe and America, touring my own program: thanks to the help of Brenda McDowny and Pam Chesbro—and the continued support of the Dempsey’s. I also developed close ministry relationships in England with Covenant Ministries, and in Holland with Debron—so much so, I almost moved to both places after Marilyn and I were married. It is also during my second year (1985) that Mimeistry was really born.
Todd and Jeff
The Concept of Mimeistry started with a Pastor in upstate New York, Nicholas Welch and a young man by the name of Jeffery Welch. Pastor Nic wanted me to “mentor” Jeff, to teach him mime—at the time he was studying dance and didn’t really want to be a mime—and only became one begrudgingly, even though he was one of our best mimes. I developed a study course which was eventually rewritten as “Prophetic Gestures” (1987) and he and then Tamara Welch (not related) were the first “Apprentices” of Todd Farley. Thus, I began what would become Mimeistry’s “apprenticeship” program (later to be called “MAP”…then GMAP…and now I’m not sure what Innovo calls it!). A curious note and little know fact about the apprenticeship/journeyman/masters program…it was modeled after the Dragon Riders of Pern series…which I was reading and fascinated with at the time! Of course apprenticeships are also in other fictions such as Feist’s Magician, however it is clearly historical (a fact upon which I pegged and legitimized the process). It was also during this time that I wrote and videoed the first Mastery of Mimodrame series in Washing ton DC with the infamous intro of “Hi, I’m Taud Fawley” … Kelly Reif and Michael Watt have never let me live that intro down, nor the blue silk outfit I taught it in. Later MOM 1 was reshot in England, with Marilyn included in the new edition created by the Nick and Jacque Hyde: they also produced the full “MOM” series. The series provided the technical foundations for the courses taught at Mimeistry (and now Innovo), as well as numerous other colleges where mime is taught using my style. “Prophetic Gestures” was also re-written at the request of Covenant Ministeries into a new form “The Silent Prophet” (1991). These books became the foundation for Mimeistry’s (now Innovo) Biblical Foundations course. Of course as the years passed I continued to research and incorporate my finding into Mimeistry’s programs, including all my research from my Ph.D, and that knowledge added to by the teachers at Living Waters and now by the teachings found at the Institute of Worship Studies—It branches of knowledge are now many and various, but the roots of Mimeistry are much simpler and cannot be denied without killing any branch based on its rooted foundations.
About the Name Mimeistry
It was in my third year in Paris (1986) that I met Marilyn, who I was to marry in 1989. We have two kids: Malia and Jeremy and were married for 19 years. Marilyn actually created the name of “Mimeistry” while we were in the Ric and Vicki Marchi’s kitchen, it was Marilyn’s pun on mime, ministry and artistry. Mimeistry was so well named that “mimeistry” is used today, by some, as if it were a noun or verb in actual use. Though the ministry 501c3 company called Mimeistry might change its name, there are many world-wide who directly associated “Mimeistry” with excellence in arts ministry and specifically mime. That will never change or die.
The Birth of Mimeistry: 1987-1991
After Paris, I toured with Larry and Joan Dempsey—it was a very successful time of ministry, and a disastrous personal time that almost destroyed relationships—some of which have never fully recovered. However, it was indeed blessed by God and growth happened in the midst of adversity. Most significantly Marilyn and I started to hold international workshops for mime and she coined the word Mimeistry. We toured England and Holland, and continued to work with the International Worship Symposium in its last “international conference years” (at least of note, the last significant one was in 1990). During our honeymoon sixty-four (or some such number) people “came to the Lord.” And immediately, we went on tour in England with an English troupe and Covenant ministries—we did universities, cities and colleges from Cambridge to Edinboruough, Westin to York (the list of some of the places is seen in my resume). We also toured the world: we didn’t have a “house” we had suitcases, and with Michael Watt our administrator we had a “room” at Tony and Phyllis Estrada’s in California. Mimeistry became a “we.”
Mimeistry College is born: The St. Louis Years 1991-1994
Marilyn and I wanted to start a family, we also wanted to start a college, for there was great interest in us doing so. A church (Church Alive) offered us the use of their building (a “pod”) and encouraged us to create a school of the ministering arts. This is what we did! Using the materials I had been teaching from since 1982 we started a 6 week program of study for mime that expanded to include dance and drama. It was a great success, and from that base we created tours (for the US and Europe). From these years comes students such as Kelly and Cary Reif, Ali Grimshaw, Anita Fischer, Darren Stevenson (now of PUSH),and others. The school was called the Centre, we drew in our friends as faculty (like Yvonne and Colin Williams), however, the administration was done by the Church—and this was to become a problem. For the church wanted to run the program their way and to disciple our students in their own way. This caused conflicts that lead to our moving away from Missouri to California. However, though there were struggles, it was also a very blessed time: we started what was to become Mimeistry’s college program and also videoed with Carman, toured and began to establish offices in other nations (England, Holland and France).
The Golden Age of Mimeistry: 1994-2006
Actually, I’d name 1994-2002 as Mimeistry’s Golden years: Starting with our move to California and ending with Marceau’s workshop. The move to California was the best thing that could happen to Mimeistry, for it put Mimeistry in a large accessible world-class city—a city foreign students loved to come to and study in. We also had a great host church: Living Waters Church was a branch of the church fellowship I had begun mime in and also was leaders in the now limited Worship Symposium (by these years, the only visage of the Symposium was the California “regional” symposium—which still drew internationally… but had become one of very many worship conferences). Mimeistry’s participation with Living Waters gave both ministries a very special symbiotic life: specifically the churches Living Word Bible College which was looking like it would close before Mimeistry joined with it—but together they created a dynamic new program that would succeed. Together we created Mimeistry’s School for the Ministering Arts, and from this base we toured the world and influence the use of mime in ministry: in Puerto Rico I was introduced as the “Father of Christian Mime” and Mimiestry students still minister full time on the Island; in Holland “Mimeistry” was considered the “standard” for mimes—to the dismay of some who practiced other legitimate styles!
It was also during these years that I attended Fuller Theological Seminary, were I eventually become Artist in Residence and “Director of the Institute of Dramatic Arts.” I was to finish my M.A.T. (theology and biblical studies) there and my Ph.D (theology and culture). Through Fuller I was to participate with programs at Cambridge and be introduced, study, and work at Princeton. For me Fuller was a delight and I have the greatest love and appreciation for my professors and mentors: Clay Schmit, Ray Anderson, Dotti and Fred Davison –to name only a few. I was also asked to teach at Robert Webber’s Institute of Worship Studies in their Doctoral program: one of my mentored students was Living Waters’ Pastor Joannah Glaeser, who received her Doctorate in Worship Studies. I also introduced Theo and Jolie Williams to the program and they both are well on their way to finishing it. Why was Fuller and education significant to Mimeisty? Why do I bring my and others education up in this history of Mimeistry?
Mimeisty’s artistic legitimacy came from Marilyn and I studying with Marcel Marceau, our academic (theological) legitimacy came from my studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Ok…I know you charismatics are saying “your legitimacy” came from the Lord not Marceau or Fuller, and of course your right, but most of the church wanted the excellence of Marceau and the title of Reverend or Doctor in order for that ministry to be authoritatively received. Without the studies in Bible and Theology, people (including ministers) had the tendency to reducing me and Mimeistry’s students to “mere-mimes.” Touring the world as a Marcel Marceau mime, being ordained by Living Waters, and holding the Ph.d from Fuller combined together to create a standard of validation that was rather too strong to deny—a three-fold cord that withheld the pull of religious skepticism so common in the church world.
Mimeistry enjoyed grand gala’s at one of the world’s best theatres (e.g., the Ambassador) , Marilyn and I toured the world with Malia and Jeremy (South Africa, England, Holland, etc). We also toured with friends such as Yvonne and Colin Williams, Jeff and Jolie Welch, Steve Fry, Melea Brock, and with many of our students who forms troupes which toured the world (especially in Europe under the direction of the Hydes and at Debron). I also continued to toured as a soloist (at houses such as the Sydney Opera House, David’s Citadel, and at universities such as Princeton and Birmingham, etc), and continued to work with popular Christian Artists such as Ray Boltz, Carmen, and the Continental Singers. Each year Mimeistry drew students from no less than 7 nations, and we established new offices and outreaches with and through our students. We grew from a six week program to a three year program (though we eliminated the dance and drama major), we were leaders in the world of mime—especially in ministry.
Of note, I met a young man by the name of Theo Williams in South Africa during a tour with C# and Doxa Deo which Kelly Reif and I participated in 1995. Theo came to a workshop and I gave him a scholarship to Mimeistry (which he didn’t take up until 1998!). Theo’s classmates at Mimeistry were amongst some of our finest, but I saw the potential in Theo to be a protégé (and Marilyn saw one in Jolie). I worked personally with Theo and we even travelled together on limited tours, he was also my best friend. Soon Theo and Jolie were positioned to take over Mimeistry in the future and to lead it onward—this came to pass in 2006.
The Years of Struggle: 2002-2006
9/11 changed the world. 9/11 also changed itinerate ministries such as Mimeistry: churches weren’t booking extra events and foreign students had difficulty getting into the USA—some were even denied visas or turned back at the border. Mimeistry’s school enrollment seriously dropped. Living Waters was also in a building crisis. I was busy at Fuller, but still had to tour and teach for Mimeistry. Thus, Marceau was the last big event Workshop that Mimeistry hosted, thereafter the workshops and Gala’s were small—though arguably “successful.” In some ways, mime had become known enough that there were many others doing it, conducting workshops, concerts and tours—the market was saturated—and though “Mimeistry” was still the standard, it wasn’t alone. “Mime” in the world market had also changed: Marceau was not touring as much, Shields and Yarnelle were a thing of the forgotten past, and mime was mocked as a think of the yesterday (evidenced in the fact that Innovo is not called “Mime theatre” but rather “Physical theatre”—which is much more acceptable in today’s market). During these years some of our students became famous in their own right and began new programs—some using our model whilst others adapted and augmented ours with their own. The times had changed, Mimeistry entered into financial crisis—so much so that the “Farley’s” were hardly paid for the last year we “worked” for Mimeisty; rather, I was better supported by Fuller, loans and my personal projects. I believed it was time to turn Mimeistry over to someone who didn’t need as much as the “Farley’s”, who had simpler needs and who could lead a rebirth: the young Theo and Jolie looked like good candidates. I believed Marilyn and I could continue to bless Mimeistry as its “Founders at Large” and continue to open new doors for Mimeistry in the academic world and new denominational ties (especially with the denominational churches with which I was working).
The Twilight of Mimeistry…a shooting star: 2006-2008
In 2005 my brother Joshua was murdered and a reign of death began, on top of that Marilyn and I began the process that would lead to our divorce in 2008. In 2006, we left California as a family. We thought it would be for a 2 year sabbatical at Calvin College—but it was the end of age for us. I kept ministry events to a bare minimum: however, though out 2006-2007 I continued to visit the college in California. This all came to an end in 2008 when Marilyn moved toward divorce and I announced that I was “open and affirming,” or to say it in plain speech, that I believe that partnered gays could still be in ministry. Outside of my personal situation, the idea of me supporting homosexuality as a viable and honorable (godly) lifestyle was unsupportable by Mimeistry and I was strongly denounced by leaders of the old Worship Symposium. First Mimeistry’s American office then the European office denounce involvement with me, and since Mimeistry was intimately involved with my and Marilyn’s name it was thought best to change it to another…and Innovo was created. 2008 was the worst year of my life, full of my deepest sorrows; death, doom and despair.
The Future of Mime.
Marceau correctly identified us all as “the future of mime,” in answer to Theo’s question on that day at Fuller Theological Seminary. Personally, I don’t know the future, but it looks bright—really, it does. I have found a home in the United Church of Christ, Theo and Jolie have renamed Mimeistry Innovo…and the other offices have followed his leadership lead, and I wish to bless them in this venture. Theo and Jolie are incredibly talented and gifted as writers and performers, I have the greatest of confidence in their gifts. However, with the change of name and the posted “memorial” I have received comments that morn as if Mimeistry is dead. It’s a ideal, a movement—Mimeistry is not dead, there needs to be no morning, its students and concepts live on in people such as Kelly and Cary Reif and so many others, It is only the organization 501c3 has been renamed—it is a continuation not a death, a new branch (a branch free of my associations—though still marked with my foundational theology, style and products): we can celebrate the many branches and shoots that have come from Mimeistry: Darren Stevenson, Ali Grimshaw, Kelly and Cary Rief, Dan Cosset, Beeda, Triflexions, Steve Murry, Barabara Kaser, Mel Kueffner, the new leaders of Innovo who had been leaders in the old “Mimeistry,” and so many more! I continue to write new books and articles and will continue to create, who knows, perhaps I’ll start another school with the United Church of Christ..they do have 1.2 million people and relationship with the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists… (to name a few), and some of the best Colleges in the world including Harvard… hum… interesting possibilities.