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find: Theatre U.S.A.

Roland Zwicker  

mime, theatre, Brazil / France / U.S.A.

Roland Zwicker, 1992.

I live in Orlando, U.S.A. and currently have a contract with Disney
to perform at the French Pavillion at EPCOT Center.

1996-1999: He performed in diverse Parisian Cabarets such as: "la nouvelle eve", "cesar palace", "le milliardaire" as well as in many Festivals in France and Europe.
For over five years he was a regular performer in the "Parc Asterix", France.

Excerpts from an interview with Sen and Sonja, 1992.

Growing up in southern Brazil, as a kid I used to love to perform for my friends with magic tricks bought in shops. So from an early age performing was always a passion and then from about the age of 16 it became a goal.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a mime artist, actor, or a musician but I loved the idea of being on the stage.

I studied classical piano for five years, and there was a huge stage at my high school, which I loved to perform on!

So it was stage rather than the piano?

Yes, that's right, I never studied at home, only on the stage!
My mother was a singer for local radio programmes before television took over, and so she was very happy when I decided to pursue an artistic career. My father, who was a doctor, wanted me to go to university, but he has seen my shows and is now proud of my lifestyle.

I was 18, I moved to Rio, and after three years of learning as much as I could doing mime on the streets and giving workshops on mime, I moved to Paris. Actually I started doing mime on the streets, in preparation for going to Paris, because I knew that I needed a way to earn an income. So after a year and a half of mime routines on the streets of Rio I had earned enough to come to France to start my studies here. I studied at a marginal drama school in Paris. The director (Phillipe Gaulier) used to be a clown and that shaped the tone of the school. It was similiar to the Jacques Lecoq school in that we studied many different perspectives in the performing arts from the clown to Shakespeare, but in particular with the aim of finding the pleasure or the humanity in the particular character we were playing.

It sounds like a very positive method of working.

Yes it is, and this is why this school is now famous in England. The British Arts Council made them a good offer and the school moved there. Now actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and Complicity Theatre take workshops at this school.
One of the techniques we studied was the Stanislavsky or realist school of acting. Here the focus is examining your own life so that the acting comes out of you as if it is an experience rather than a copied or manifactured performance. It's a more pyschological way of working. You have to find the very pure and basic feeling of pleasure you had as a child, in pretending to be someone else. To give yourself that pleasure and fun and freedom to be someone else. It's very hard, as adults we are very stiff.

I joined the Bahá´í Faith at the same time that I decided to be a performing artist, at the age of 18, while still in southern Brazil. This has influenced me in many and various ways and what is a big influence on me now is not what was when I was 18. What is important to me now is honesty over fake behaviour, particularly in theatre. Being honest with myself as a human being, as a Bahá´í, as an actor. There is a big contradiction between what you think you should be and what you are and what you have to do to deal with this. Of course in deadling with this you have to hide things from other people sometimes, so that you can have room to change.

Sometimes I'm asked why don't I do pieces from Bahá´í history or related to Bahá´í principles. Focussing about the context of a piece is not what the principles of the Bahá´í Faith are about, but in the way you perform, a way that expresses freedom or a particular principle. So you can use any subject matter, it is in the way that you deal with this, in giving part of yourself in the work, that you will show your attitudes (or faith). So a text about a moral lesson by itself is not the point, but rather the way that concept is interpreted and performed.

I do not like art that proselytizes, even if it is for a good cause. When you perform purely to "educate" people, you lose your honesty or spirit as an artist. If I do a piece about the Báb, I have to ask myself, am I doing this because I want to teach people, or am I doing this because I find real pleasure in doing this? If I find more pleasure in doing a piece from Shakespeare than a piece about the Báab's life, then this will touch people a lot more than if I had chosen a subject that is closer to my personal beliefs.

Sometimes Bahá´ís come to me after a show and ask if I give any workshops. I ask them if they are interested in theatre. If their answer is no, they want to use theatre to teach the Bahá´í Faith, my answer is then to ask someone else. I don't believe that someone whose motive for learning theatre is to teach the Faith, can't then perform very well, but it is not a very good reason to do theatre.

Theatre is an art and the motive for working in theatre must come from a genuine desire to do this as an expression of yourself.

Sometimes I hear musicians perform some very beautiful music, but I sense that the motive is because they are touched by the writings to compose and not by the motive to teach. For example, Seals and Crofts produce very beautiful music, but first you hear the beauty of the music which is then inspired by the Bahá´í principles.

If you listen to Bach, you can feel the spirituality in his music. The importance of the artistic impulse is an important issue because even in the Bahá´í community, sometimes there is this idea that the art environment is decadent. Art is only decadent, when the artist is decadent. Medicine or science can be decadent when the practitioners are decadent. Art does not live by itself. Whether the art is inspiring, decadent or depressing depends on the creator. Of course, in drama, narcissism can easily be a problem, but these are a few well-known artists - stereotypes, not the majority. If performers or actors appear to be decadent, it is because of their search for freedom from prejudice.

Have you had any difficulties with Bahá´ís who expect you to perform for free?

No, because I learnt how to say no. If I say yes, it's because I feel like it and if I say no, it's because I don't feel like it, even if I haven't got anything else on. If you say yes because you feel obliged or want to feel at peace with your conscience, then you won't feel at peace. You should only say yes, if you really want to do it.

Generally I have my own show, that I perform, but sometimes I change my show to suit a client, such as a show I did for a French perfume company. I built up a show based on their nine different brands, with characteristics for each perfume. A perfumed show!

Excerpts from the BAFA newsletter, June 1992, pages 9 - 10.

What's Roland Up to Now?
by Sonja van Kerkhoff

...While we were visiting Paris we had the pleasure to see him in action in a park in an outer suburb of Paris, where he along with a group of youthful Bahá´ís was 'contacting' people to invite them to a public meeting and concert. His manner of 'contact' was highly entertaining. He had what looked like an ordinary rope for leading a dog, except that it was rigid. At the end dandled a dog collar, apparently inhabited by an invisible dog! Clad in a long raincoat and scruffy suit, he was led around by this invisible dog...

At times this 'dog' would follow other dogs, dragging Roland along, and it was so convincing and so funny that everyone burst out in laughter. Roland then set up his mime act, on and with his checkered suitcase...

His movements were so clever and yet simple and it put everyone into good humour, and so open towards chatting with us strangers...

His routine for this performance consisted of a sequence of short skits usually lifting weights or being trapped in space. He said that he restricted his performance because he didn't want too much of a crowd, since he didn't have permission to perform there. He has been doing mime for a number of years now, as well as his summer work in the Asterix Park, and so has a lot of different routines at his fingertips. If one routine doesn't work then he switches to another, adapting this to the situation or audience. Each gag is only a few seconds long, and so there isn't any real danger of losing his audience, if he tries something new and it doesn't work.

His current clown character was a not very bright man who was curious about the world, and it is for this character that he tends to be hired. He is constantly working on new adaptions to his routines, and sometimes has to work hard to convince a company to let him do the new stuff. Just as it is for many artists, too much of his time is taken up in administration, organising the technical aspects of his show, and answering publicity requests, and the list goes on...

Excerpts from the BAFA newsletter, December 1993, pages 6 and 7.

  • Illustration & Report: about his mime activities, BAFA newsletter, December 1993.
  • Artist Profile: Arts Dialogue, June 1992

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