“Oil and Water” - 

Interview with Pat Moran - Music Director, Writer:

San Francisco Mime Troupe

by Willi Paul, PlanetShifter.com Magazine



The San Francisco Mime Troupe

July 4 thru Sept. 2, 2013

“political satire and anything but silent

“Climate Change, pollution, water scarcity and fossil fuel dependence and issues too big to be dealt with in just one story, so this year’s Mime Troupe production presents two one act musicals linked by environmental themes depicting the abusive relationships society has with our natural resources and the lengths we go to satisfy our thirsts (done in their characteristic quick-change, singing & dancing, Commedia dell’Arte political style). A poisoned rainforest river, a senator mysteriously murdered in his office, a sinister criminal conspiracy, and an oil refinery ablaze in the Bay Area – with the survival of the human race in question, the stakes could not be any higher.

All park shows are free and open to the public. Additional, ticketed indoor shows will be in Alameda, Point Arena and Redway. For a complete schedule and more information, the public may call 415-285-1717 or visit http://www.sfmt.org. Additional info on SFMT and community organizations is made available at information tables at each of our park shows.

In partnership with environmental activists, over the next few months SFMT will host lectures and discussions, at shows, and in their studio – 855 Treat St. (btwn. 21st & 22ndSts.) in SF 94110. (Street parking is hard to find, public transportation is encouraged.)

The purpose of these forums is to have an open discussion on environmental issues with people from around the bay area. Environment activists will speak for about 20 or 30 minutes, followed by a conversation. The dates for the forums are on Thursdays: May 23, June 13, June 27 and Aug. 22 and will be held from 7:00 – 9:00 pm in the SFMT studio, with the guest speaker starting at 7:30 pm. To attend any of the Community Forum events – RSVP: 415-285-1717 / sfmtinsolidarity @ gmail.comPast speakers may also be viewed.

The guest speaker for the June 27, 2013 forum is Cecile Pineda, author of “Devil’s Tango: How I learned the Fukushima Step by Step“.  She will be talking to the SF Mime Troupe and their friends about the nuclear industry, and about how the energy and the weaponry aspects are inextricably linked. At the same time, she’ll be addressing the harms to the environment that the industry presents in terms of soil, water, and air contamination through leakage in nuclear waste sites; and permanent contamination to soils of countries where DU has been used by The US and its NATIO surrogates. Read herBlog, follow her on Twitter or LIKE her on Facebook.”

– SFMT Press Release

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Interview with Pat by Willi

Is there a foundation of values that set each stage for SFMT?

Yes. First of all there has to be a sense of optimism. We believe that people can make changes in the world that will affect things in a positive way. We are a collective run organization and it is important that all members of the company have an influence over the message we are putting out in our shows. We do a lot of research before and during our writing process and feel that it is important to do more than just complain about things- we look for solutions. We stand in solidarity with oppressed people world-wide and work toward a future where resources are allocated in a fair sustainable manner and people all treated with fairness and compassion.

What kind of community would you like to build with the Troupe?

We look for a future where people are treated fairly, respected, and compensated fairly for their labor, an end to exploitation of people, and a move to a sustainable culture.

Tell me about your vision and commitment of the future? what’s your part?

As an artist (writer, musician) I think that the most important role I can play is to help people believe that positive change is possible. There are other ways of doing things that are better than how we are doing them now and we can work towards them.

Do you think that sustainability is like a new religion?

I think that sustainability is a concept that was a fundamental basis of many old religions. The idea of respecting life, maintaining balance, and preserving the good things in life for future generations is both an old and new idea.  It certainly is possible to use the concept of sustainability as a starting point for ethics and a source of meaning and direction in life.

How is live theater competing with electronically mediated sources?

There is definitely a movement in mainstream theater circles to incorporate technology and technology-based issues such as:

1) integrating multi-media technology in performances 2) producing shows that focus on topics such as social media, on-line identity, gaming etc..  3) creation of on-line supplemental material that connects to a specific theater piece   4) encouraging audiences to interact with a live theater piece by using Twitter, Instagram, etc…   5) seeking to find more effective ways to market shows through social media   6) presenting pieces that explore storytelling and narrative techniques seen as reflecting our changing concept of technology.

On the other side of things are those who want to use live theater as an alternate to the “modern world” and feel it is most powerful when it is about people on stage telling stories and living lives without electronic enhancement – or with traditional enhancements such as lighting and sound reinforcement.

It’s definitely harder then ever before to get people to come out to see live performance for a number of reasons- increased access to less expensive high quality entertainment in a home environment is certainly one of them. So the question becomes: “What can we give people through theater that they are unable to get from other sources?” and then I suppose it’s important to figure out if this thing that they can only get from theater is something that is important for the audience.

Who isn’t attending your shows and how do you get them to show up?

No matter what you do there are going to be people who come and people who don’t. Some of the obvious groups that don’t attend our shows would probably be- people who don’t like theater, people who don’t like to sit outside in parks, people who are very close minded in the ultra-conservative manner, etc… Those people have a good reason for not coming to our shows. For me the first question is “Are there people who would come to our shows if they knew about them?”. The answer to this one is definitely yes. The bay area is extremely transient so even though some circles of people see the Mime Troupe as a venerable institution, the majority of people don’t know who we are or think that we do silent mime. Every year we have a number of audience members who stumble upon us by accident and are pleasantly surprised to find out what we do.  We are always trying to find new ways to improve our publicity. Often the best ways are the most obvious- people bringing friends to shows, media coverage, etc.

What are the main musical and graphic symbols in oil and water?

On a very basic level we are looking at water as the fundamental fluid of life (life blood) and oil as the fundamental fluid of industrial society.

The music in this piece was not conceived in a symbolic manner- I’m sure that it could be interpreted that way, but that is not my personal process of composition or analysis so I don’t feel that I can really answer that question.  From a visual aspect we did not intentionally focus on graphic symbolism while creating this piece, so this question might be better answered by an outside source.

Do you think that you are mostly preaching to the “alt choir?”

We get all asked this all the time and I think the question raises a whole bunch of issues.

Audiences tend to choose to attend things they think they will enjoy and often like to surround themselves with people who have similar views. So yes, often our audience members will generally agree with a good percentage of things we address- this would be expected. Most people who go to baseball games tend to like baseball- for example.

However, within that “alt choir” group there is a great diversity of opinions- democrats, socialists, anarchists, etc….   who disagree with one another on many issues and every year we get people who say we went to far and others who say we didn’t go far enough.

The term “preaching” might suggest that we are just spouting out dogma We try to provide information that people might not be aware of in our shows each year. No one can be an expert on everything, and we hope to educate our audience and leave them with some questions that they can follow up with after the show. and we obviously try to be entertaining as well. I have friends who disagree with the politics of some (or all) of our shows but come anyways because they have fun.

Some of feedback we get each year is from people who are working hard for change. They tell us that they look forward to our shows each year because they find them reinvigorating. We feel that this is extremely important- we all go through lots of ups and downs in life- to use the choir metaphor- just because someone joins the choir doesn’t mean that they are going to stick with it. It takes great stamina to remain active and it is our responsibility to support one another.

And of course, we’re always attract new viewers and present our point of view in a fun and fair way.

Is the Troupe building a new mythology of tales and songs and messages?

Historically the mime troupe has tended to base our style in traditional character archetypes from Italian Commedia and American Melodrama. We look to see the parallels in storytelling traditions throughout the world and also see how these concepts are reflected in popular culture. In that way we see ourselves as part of a continuum strongly based in mythology. We look at our work as part of the bigger social justice movement, as well.

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Pat Moran Bio –

(SFMT Collective, Music Director, Writer, Composer, Lyricist, Musician)began his involvement with the Mime Troupe during 2005′s Doing Good and sometimes feels like he hasn’t left the building since. He has been an artist in residence at The University of San Francisco, The University of Miami (Ohio), and CSU Fresno. In addition to his work with theater, Pat is an active performing musician, and ASCAP member composer for film and television. He has been a lead teacher with the Mime Troupe’s Youth Theater Project and Summer Workshop and is also a private guitar instructor. Pat received a BFA in Philosophy with a Concentration in Ethics and Public Policy from Clark University, and an MFA Performer Composer degree from California Institute for the Arts.

Contact the Troupe –


lhelman @ sbcglobal.net

Tel. 415 /661- 1260


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