My Chance Encounter with Marcel Marceau in Moscow

There is a funny story about my chance encounter with Marcel Marceau in Moscow in 1973. I was performing in a Greek play, “Prometheus Unbound,” with the Moscow Theatre of Gesture and Mime. Marceau took me to a feast celebrating the tenth anniversary of that theatre. There were 12 Russian mimes at a long table, and all each had a small glass filled with vodka. There were many bottles of vodka on the table, and each one of the mimes, including Marceau, took turns in proposing a toast. We all drank vodka in one gulp after each speech. All of their speeches were oral — a Russian translator sat between Marceau and me. She spoke in French for Marceau and wrote in English for me, both almost simultaneously. When Marceau ended his oration (the longest of all), he asked me to write a note in English for the translator to speak to the group on my behalf. I shook my head and stood up. I then gave the shortest speech of them all – and it was enacted entirely in mime!

I started by pointing my index finger at each mime at the table and then “collecting” all of them together by bringing my hands together slowly and gently. I then kneaded an imaginary ball of dough, squeezing and rolling the dough into what seemed like an golf-sized ball. I looked at the ball lovingly, held it high in the air, brought it down to where my heart was, and covered it with both hands. I did all that with sincere feeling, and my face showed it, really and truly.

My piece stunned everyone around that table. Marceau stood up and pronounced my toast the best toast of all, and declared that I was true to the Art of Mime. I humbly accepted his praise with a bowed head. It was one of the greatest compliments of my life.

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