Marvelous Marceau

At 78, after leading what can only be called a remarkable life, celebrated mime Marcel Marceau is still on tour. As a child, Marceau--born on March 22, 1923 in Strasbourg, France--would entertain his family and friends with imitations of both the animate and inanimate world around him. He admired the actors of the silent screen like Charlie Chaplin and the Marx brothers. But, in 1939, he fled France with his brother to escape Nazi occupation and changed his name from Mangel to Marceau.

At 20, Marceau enrolled in Charles Dullin's School of Dramatic Art at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris. There, he was given the chance to perform and create his first "mimodrama," called Praxitele and the Golden Fish. In 1947, Marceau created his famous character "Bip," a clown known for his striped pullover and battered top hat.

Since the dawn of his success, Marceau has toured the world with his show over 40 times, written and illustrated several books, produced over 15 "mimodramas" and appeared in countless films, including playing the only speaking role in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie. Marceau has been showered with awards for his excellence in his unique art. He has received the French Government's highest honor (Officier de la Legion d'Honneur), two Emmy Awards, several honorary degrees from prestigious American universities and the distinction of "Marcel Marceau Day" in New York City. The world can also thank Marceau for the dance trends of the O80s. It was his walk against the wind techniques that inspired Michael Jackson to invent the Moonwalk. Apparently, he and Jackson are great friends today.

Durham will have the chance to see Marceau perform next Wednesday evening at the Carolina Theatre downtown. For most Duke students, this will surely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see an artist with such an incredible international reputation and enduring spirit.


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