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Chaplin’s Innocent Eyes

Gregg Goldston “The Argument”

Okay everyone knows who Charlie Chaplin was. Well, even if you have not seen his films… (now I start wondering if there is any teenager reading this…)

Marcel Marceau adored Chaplin and he studied Chaplin for many years. That is also a well known story in the world of mime art.

If you have a chance, try to look really closely at Chaplin’s innocent eyes and character. We call that type of character “the cookie” . This term came from Gregg’s funny story about a parrot’s way to ask her owner for a cookie.
She always made the request irresistibly charming.

We study that “cookie” in our class. Because those Chaplin’s eyes can get inside people’s heart, like lovable baby eyes.

I already wrote about some eye muscle exercises to make the perfect frames for strong thoughts. But I would also like to write about something most essential for all artists who deal with thoughts, which is the “inside” of your eyeballs.

A decade ago, Gregg told me this shocking quote:

“Someday in the future, you will have to face how you really see the world. You may avoid facing this for now, but because you are a serious mime, it will eventually come back to you and will beat you.”

What a quote… This made me think deeply for years about the link between my psychological state and performance quality. Overtime, I slowly processed what he meant by “how you see the world”.

This applies to other art forms as well, but especially in mime, because we convey the story mostly through thoughts coming out from our eyes, audience notices if our eyes are not “innocent”. Pure thoughts cannot come through opaque eyes.

If we are holding fears, shyness, insecurity, self consciousness, competitive consciousness, evilness…, or any mental state that shuts our heart, our believable thoughts cannot reach the audience. What the audience sees is a set of empty eyes with no real thoughts inside. And often, the audience unwillingly witnesses the dark shadow in our subconsciousness.

Have you ever watched a well written mime play with very skilled performers, but for some unknown reason you felt sick of watching? That is probably the shadow you accidentally witnessed.

Here is a quote by the jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie saying exactly the same thing in “Dizzy” by Lee Tanner.

“The first thing we must keep in mind about a musician is that the music he plays is a reflection of his true self. His music might not be what you, the listener, thinks he is, but truly, he can no more escape himself through his playing than we can escape the contingent world in which we are placed, except through death. You are what you are; that is reality, you can’t escape it. And the reality of the musician – especially the jazz musicians – is that the music is a continuance of himself.”

Audience is a symbol of your world. And in your subconsciousness, the world you see is a reflection of how you see “yourself”.

How do you see and feel your world? Can you truly love and trust your world, which is a reflection of your true self? Can you share your thoughts as if there is no border (proscenium) between you and your world? Can you freely allow your audience to become “you” and live your emotional moments? Universality in this art form is disturbed if “yourself” is not living in universality.

Therefore, we need to study baby eyes, and their psychological state. There is no border to separate a baby from his world. There is only oneness existing within his eyes.

I was born and raised in Japan, where the society expects everyone to overly humble themselves. I knew it, but I had no idea how much that social system negatively affected my relationship with audience.

Breaking my habit to protect myself within a barrier called “shyness”, has become the toughest challenge I found in my career. After I recognized this barrier, I decided to go back to my forgotten past and reprogram my relationship with self and world step by step.

Shyness is not welcome in art (or life). I used to thi
nk that shyness and innocence were somewhat similar, but later learned that shyness is in fact the opposite side of innocence and too painful to watch on stage.

Shyness is a shadow of disbelief in yourself, everyone holds somewhere deep inside. Contrary, innocence is absence of disbelief in yourself or the world. Thus, confidence and innocence are synonymous. I believe that true confidence we the performers want to gain is the strength to focus on innocence and self-belief until it wins and melts the shadow we unconsciously brought from the past.

I am still working on my challenge every time I enter the stage. It is a long journey for me to acquire real innocent confidence where the shadow of self disbelief does not exist. I dream of reaching the level where I meet my world (audience) with a completely open and relaxed heart, which is sprinkled with the “cookie” charm flavor.

We are building a larger international mime community to support mime artists around the world. Please send us your email address to join our community. We also welcome any personal request for us to discuss and write about in our future posts and/or demonstrate in Gregg’s video series “Goldmime Online”

For more information on The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our 3-week summer program, please contact us at /

Haruka Moriyama,


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Caden Manson is a director, media artist, and teacher. He is co-founder of the media ensemble and network, blog, and publisher, He has co-created, directed, video- and set designed 18 Big Art Group productions. Manson has shown video installations in Austria, Germany, NYC, and Portland; performed PAIN KILLER in Berlin, Singapore and Vietnam; Taught in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Montreal, NYC, and Bern; the ensemble has been co-produced by the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Hebbel Am Ufer, Rome’s La Vie de Festival, PS122, and Wexner Center for The Arts. Caden is a 2001 Foundation For Contemporary Art Fellow, is a 2002 Pew Fellow and a 2011 MacDowell Fellow. Writing has been published in PAJ, Theater Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. Caden is currently an associate professor and graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama.

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