Professional mime gives acting clinic during youth theater workshop

BROWNSTOWN — Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre will present a play next month but in the meantime some budding young actors and actresses received training from a bona fide expert.

Reed Steele, a professional mime based in Toledo, Ohio, visited the group’s acting workshop last week at Royal Off-the-Square Theatre in Brownstown.

At the end of the week, workshop attendees could audition for JCYAT’s production of “The Enchanted Bookshop,” which will be presented July 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23.

Steele performed sketches, answered questions from the aspiring actors and conducted acting exercises with them.

Before Steele performed for the workshop, JCYAT Director Steve Deweese explained to those in attendance what to expect.

“Anybody can memorize lines and regurgitate them, but acting is what happens when you’re not saying anything,” he said.

Deweese said Steele was teaching “absolute home run lessons on how to act without saying a word.”

Steele’s sketches had a heavy emphasis on body movements. He only spoke after a sketch was finished.

One mind-boggling display of body movement had Steele in a NASA jumpsuit constricting all around a folding chair as if gravity didn’t exist.

Audience participation was another element of Steele’s performance with kids being chosen to act for a “silent movie” that was being put on.

Steele took questions from the audience about his craft and rarely boring career.

Even though he performed as a mime for the workshop, he said he also is a puppeteer, actor, director, producer, stuntman, magician, musician, educator, zip line instructor, astronomer and astrophysicist.

“The reason why I bring all of this up is because whenever you want to learn something, when you see something and think ‘Oh, that’s really cool,’ take the time to try it out,” he said.

His favorite job was working as a puppeteer for The Muppets and on the sets of Jim Henson films “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal.”

While many of Steele’s jobs involve performance art, he said he used to be an aerospace education specialist for NASA and considers himself to be both “left-brained and right-brained.”

Steele said repetition and getting a lot of experience in performing are key to improvement.

He had jobs as a stuntman and performer at amusement parks like Kings Island and Universal Studios and said from April to October one year, he did just more than 800 performances of a Western stunt show.

Steele said he was able to work on the Western stunt show after an actor got injured sliding off of a horse and was asked by the show’s director if he could fill the role after he was working as a stagehand on the set.

Versatility was a skill emphasized by Steele.

“The more versatile you are in your skills, the more you have to offer somebody, the more opportunities to work, the better you’re at it, the more they’ll pay you,” he said.

When asked about how he learned about all of the job opportunities he came across, Steele said the trick is being prepared.

“Any time you go out and do something, you want to be prepared,” he said. “You want to be ready. You want to have all of your ducks in a row, even if they aren’t buying ducks that day. Get your ducks in a row because someday, someone will be buying ducks and you’re going to be there and you’re going to be ready.”

Dayton Smith, 14, said he thought watching and working with Steele was really helpful.

“He helped us really hone our craft and narrow down exactly what to do for audition,” he said.

The lesson from Steele that stuck with Smith from Steele was learning how important body movements are for a character.

Sam Dyer, 13, said he thought Steele’s visit was amazing and thought he was really good at being a mime.

“Making us laugh came so easily for him,” he said.

Dyer said he admired Steele’s confidence and said he looked good when covering for any mistakes he may have made.

Destiny Long, 17, said she thought Steele’s skills were outstanding and said she will remember miming with the rope the most from the workshop.