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Monday, 28 March 2011

The Day I Became a Mosquito

By Celia Jones

My first year at UC Berkeley had a significant impact on me emotionally as I adjusted from my small-town high school to a cosmopolitan university community. I wanted to embrace it all.

When I’d heard that the drama faculty had brought in an Italian expert in Commedia dell’Arte to teach a mime class, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for the audition to become one of the 20 privileged students allowed in this course.

Auditions were held in an old hall with a stressed wooden floor that smelled of sweaty sneakers and peanuts. Interested students who wanted to join the class had to perform a solo mime in front of the rest of the applicants.

On the spur of the moment, I could only think of one mime I did as an exercise in one of my high school drama classes, where we had to become an animal that embodied certain character traits.

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence’s poem, The Mosquito, I thought a mosquito would embody the qualities of rapaciousness and sneakiness. Chosen to audition first, I started my mime by turning my head towards my tail with a greedy smile and waved my arms as I “floated” lightly toward my victim.

As I sighted my victim, I mimed grabbing hold of my snout-like shank. Then I hunched over, pulled up the snout and jabbed it into my victim’s skin. Sucking the delicious blood, my stomach protruded in swollen satisfaction, I finished off with rubbing my legs together and floating away slowly flapping my arms.

The audience was totally silent; maybe it was an unwritten rule that you don’t clap aloud for a mime performance. I started to wonder if this was the right sort of mime to do for this audition. In high school, I told myself I was being “creative” when I was really making a spectacle of myself.

The next person to audition was an Angelina Jolie look-a-like — a raven-haired, pouty-mouthed, long-limbed girl with large brown eyes. I remembered her from one of my other drama classes. I think she came from New York.

With smooth, graceful movements, she performed a mime about a girl sitting on a beach. She walked onto the stage carrying a large invisible towel and large bag, which she placed on the sand. Then she looked around, checking out the other sunbathers and smelling the salty air.

Sitting down on her towel she took out of the bag some suntan lotion and slowly rubbed it into her legs. This was followed by an adjustment of her bikini before lying down sensually, to enjoy the warmth of the sun.

She was beautiful and her mime was so real that I could almost smell the coconut suntan oil.

The audience clapped out loud when she finished. I cringed when I thought of how bizarre my mosquito mime must have seemed compared to hers. A wave of heated embarrassment flooded over me when I thought of how I must have looked doing my mosquito imitation. What was I thinking of?

So the next morning it wasn’t too much of a surprise when my name didn’t appear on the posted list of successful mime students.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Enjoyed your story very much,Celia.Sorry you weren't chosen but you probably did well in your other courses.

Speaking of mimes,I have always wanted to know something.

If a policeman arrests a mime does he still say,"You have the right to remain silent?"

But you were so brave, Celia! I froze onstage at age 15 the first time I was supposed to impersonate our kooky camp counselor, thus ending my acting career forever.

I think your mosquito mime sounded much more interesting than a pretty girl just miming pretty. It was their loss.

I agree with Marcia. Your mime was much more creative. Maybe they thought you were a fly or a mean fairy. Anyhow, the beauties won in those days. Life was not fair.

Oh, gosh, how funny trying to picture that! And how awful, to still be cringing all these years later at the memory...I know that feeling. Like you did here, I've been known to dive in first and hope I'd come up with an idea later...

Great writing, I could see you flitting about and stabbing the victims...I never had the nerve to compete for anything other than writing, where at least you and the audience never meet, except, of course, in spirit..I just got to visit Berkeley as gift from my kids for 70th so I guess I thought you made the class...wonder what happened to the sunbather? We are all still buzzing around for sure...

Celia - Good story!

Last Spring we sold our home of 40 years, and purchased an historic sea captain's house in Salem, MA. Our realtor was great, but also super-persistent. So much so that I nicknamed her "La Zanzara" (Italian for 'The Mosquito')

My guess is that your mime was so realistic that it made them squirm! - Sandy

Celia sorry you did not win the contest you were very creative. Most people would not think to do a mime that complacted. Keep up the good work.

Thank you all for your comments.
I thought the mosquito was creative, but obviously the tutor had other ideas. Just part of my university experience.
(Character building.)

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