Deciphering emotions


Theatre buffs had a chance to experience something new on August 18 with the talented mime artist Olivia Harris from New York taking centrestage at Gurukul.

For the last five years Harris has been studying mime and this August afternoon she was able to capture the interest of the people and tell her stories. Besides the fact that the performance was something new for us, what made it even more appealing was the interaction between Harris and the audience.

After every few minutes she stopped her act and waited for suggestions from the audience and performed accordingly. From suggestions like running around town, having lunch at a restaurant, going on a holiday to turning herself in

for theft and then writing a book about her experiences, she seamlessly carried all the suggestions out, giving an easy flow to the entire performance.

It was not only the body language but the facial expressions that added so much more to Harris’ act.

Harris had already started exhibiting her acting skills when she was just four. “My elder sister is an actress and whenever a child was needed, I was called in. So I got into theatre accidentally, but I really liked it.”

However, there were times when she had her doubts and even took a break. “But I kept going back to it. I guess when it’s in your blood, you really can’t run away from it,” she said.

And though she cried a little at that time, she feels all the crying and hardships have really been worth it. She was trained in a formal school in theatre when she was 13 and is currently studying theatre at the Drew University.

Harris chose miming as her medium of expression. “I think in theatre you take what works for you and create your own style. For me it was mime. The beauty of it is that you can go to any part of the world and people will understand you, it is more universal.”

And if you think miming is easy, then think again.

“I guess saying what you have to only through facial expressions is even harder. But I like the fact that the audience is deciphering what you are trying to say, instead of you saying it directly,” she said.

And it is this challenge that keeps her going. “There are times when I feel I can’t exactly say what the audience has asked for, so I work on it so that it is sharper and better the next time. There is always room for improvement.”

The best part about theatre for Harris is the theatre community itself. “No matter where I go, I’ve found that this community is just as accepting as anywhere.”

Harris has been in Nepal for the last two months helping students at Gurukul. “I think the students are quite imaginative, and came up with great ideas,” said Harris.

Of the Nepali theatre scene, she opined, “I think the stories are more complex maybe because people are looking for some change.”