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Depicting Objects – The Key to Creating a Visible Environment

Gregg Goldston in “Loves Me Not”

Today, I will write about how to draw the scenery, “Visible Environments” on stage. The entire subject of “Making the Invisible Environment become Visible” is too large to cover in one article, and before I realized it, I caught myself writing an 8-page article. Consequently, I decided to make today’s post concentrate on one of the most essential concepts we use to make an environment become visible on stage.

This concept, developed by Goldston in the early 1980’s and is called: “The Depicting Object.” It is the method of quickly showing the “object” that best “describes” the environment you are showing your audience and today, I will elaborate on this topic.

B) Visible Environments:

B-2) The Depicting Object:

In order for a visible environment to be painted clearly in the audience’s mind, showing a unique object that most typically appear in such an environment (place) is necessary. We call this technique “The Depicting Object.”

“The Depicting Object” follows the proper “Introductory Space Reflection (B-1)” which is to show the general space size and indoor / outdoor information. (Abbreviated here)

Example 1 – Golf Course:

After “Introductory Space Reflection” as outdoor, you can hold and swing a golf club, and put a golf ball and hold the golf club again. The earlier in your play you add a Depicting Object, the sooner the audience will identify the environment, they will quickly “paint in” the rest of the scenery within your place.

Example 2 – Bathroom:

After you give three quick glances (Introductory Space Reflection to show the Indoor space size), you can show a toothbrush, razor, and shower. Note that the fewer objects you use the better. The beauty of the Depicting Object is “Economy”, not to create a guessing game of objects.

Example 3 – Bedroom:

After you give three quick glances (Introductory Space Reflection to show the Indoor space size), you probably need to first show a bed, then a night table, and a night lamp. Those are better objects and better order to show than, let’s say, a book, and a bookshelf, and a bed. Even though those objects may exist in some bedrooms, if you choose an unessential object, it can lead the audience in the wrong direction and confuse your viewers.

The important thing to remember is that, in a mime show, your audience’s mind is working quickly to find the answers to: “what?” plus “what?” plus “what?” to create “where?” and then “who?” Once they understand this information they can move onto WHY? At this point, they can look for the plot in your story. Remember, a human brain will not relax until it solves its’ problem. At the beginning of a mime play, the brain is only thinking: Where! Afterwards, it can think about Who and Why. Those answers are arrived at one hint at a time in the audience’s mind in the exact order you present it to them. If the Objects you show are in the wrong order, it can actually erase the images you’ve already painted in their mind.

Example: “Oh, a book, … and a bookshelf? … it must be a library! Oh wait, … a bed? A bed in a library? I must be wrong. Let’s see what this program says…” See how quickly it is to lose your audience! Never assume that because You know what it is, that They do.

We need to choose objects that quickly and directly create images and ideas of “Where the character is now”. Also the order of objects to establish an environment needs a special care in consideration. If a golf ball appears before a golf club, most people are forced to guess between so many possibilities while you are holding that mysterious little ball. A golf club is a much easier object to identify a golf course than a golf ball, so the golf club should appear first for a faster relief.

And we must care for our audience and approach our public as if they have never seen a mime play before, nor an expert in the field of objects or environments you are creating on stage. Uncertainty in mime is painful for the audience.

That is a difficult part if writing / choreographing mime plays. We always have to start with a blank canvas and draw our play visually and objectively, and give one information at a time, in a correct order. It reminds me of the difficulty I found when I needed to erase my adult knowledge and explain things to a little child. Assumption of being understood is the most common mistakes in this art form. “How would they know that?” should be the most frequently asked question we the choreographers ask ourselves while we write a mime play.

To be continued,

Written by Haruka Moriyama, with additions by Gregg Goldston

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The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime A 3-Week Program in July 2014

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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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