Roblin Davis: existential clown and corporeal mime

Arts Profile

Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2000

Some background: Roblin Davis, 31, created and directed ``Fry Tales,'' a production on stage at Perseverance Theatre. The play, which he wrote with the cast members, draws upon his unusual background in performing arts.

Davis' specialty is physical theater, which includes mime, clowning and mask theater. He's studied mask making, acrobatics, drama and improvisation in the United States and Europe. In conversation, he's quick to jump up and press his palms flat against an invisible wall or walk like a 90-year-old man to illustrate a point.

Davis was born and raised in Anchorage. His mother is from Sitka, and he spent summers there visiting family and attending the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, a long-running regional summer arts program. He was introduced to mask making and performing there, and liked it so well he pursued it at the Dell'arte International School of Physical Theater in California.

The illusion of life: Performing with masks led to puppet theater, and Davis studied puppetry and worked with the Tears of Joy Puppet Theater in Portland, Ore. He called puppetry an extension of mask theater.

``A puppet is a form of mask -- not just the face, the whole body,'' he said. ``How you can create the illusion of life and breath and living is a very interesting pursuit.''

He went on to study corporeal mime in England. Corporeal mime is the root of illusion mime, the style people most often see.

``Corporeal mime looks more at trying to express the thoughts and feelings of the performer -- what's on the inside and less the outside -- more what it is you're pulling and how you feel about it,'' he said. First he mimed pulling on a rope to illustrate illusion mime. Then he furrowed his brow, tensed his muscles and struggled, peering in revulsion and amazement at the invisible object at the end of the rope.

Existential Clown: Davis also studied circus acrobatics and clowning, and wrote and developed a solo performance piece called ``Mumble in Numbskull, an Existential Clown Show.''

He also earned a bachelor's degree in political science and environmental studies at Fairhaven College, which is part of Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Teacher and performer: Davis performed with regional theater companies on the east and west coasts before coming to Juneau two years ago. He's supported himself working with Perseverance Theatre, as an artist-in-residence in Juneau schools and by teaching puppetry and mask theater workshops in Juneau and Anchorage. He performed in ``How I Learned To Drive,'' at Perseverance Theatre this winter, playing five different supporting roles.

Davis is getting married on Sunday to Dawn Pisel, a Juneau woman he first met 20 years ago at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Pisel is also in the cast of ``Fry Tales.''

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