Jef the Mime has been working to make sure mime has a voice in the Lowcountry. Well, maybe not a voice. But a presence, nonetheless.
The North Carolinian is a frequent performer at local festivals and schools. The Island School Council for the Arts sponsored him for an artist-in-residence program at Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center and Hilton Head Island Elementary School the past two weeks.
He also will perform Saturday at the Celadon Fine Arts Festival.
Jef the Mime, aka Jeff Lambdin, talks about his 35-year career in mime.
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Question. How do you teach young people mime?
Answer. What I try to get them to understand is that mime is a language, just like the language they're learning with letters.
It's their world of play and make believe. This is what they do. They act things out all the time. They catch on real quick. They end up teaching me.
Q. How did you get into business?
A. When I was in college I worked with students who brought entertainment to campus. One weekend we brought in a mime troupe and they blew me away. I took a few workshops, and I got serious. I found a teacher and became his apprentice. That's still the only real way to get training. There is no real university that you can go to. There are private schools. But to study with one teacher you have to be an apprentice.
Q. I saw you were also the mascot for the Durham (N.C.) Bulls (minor league baseball team).
A. I invented the mascot for them. I got a call from the (Bulls') general manager (in the mid-'90s), who knew me. For about four years I was Wool E. Bull. I was a bull in a baseball suit. I wrote the manual for him, which they still use. I worked to design the suit. Wool E. would juggle, tumble, he rode a unicycle, he did all this stuff. You have to think about that when you design the suit.
Q. How often are you traveling?
A. That's what I do. I'm on the road 200 days a year. For 17 years I was with a troupe, and we traveled the United States. I don't have to do that anymore. I mainly perform in North and South Carolina. My bread and butter is fairs and festivals. I come down to (Beaufort County) about four times a year.
Q. How do kids react to the workshops?
A. The kids get a lot of it. I was at Fiesta Fresh the other night, and I don't know what the father was thinking at first but his son just walked up and said, "I had so much fun in your class." Of course I had to introduce myself to the father because here his son had walked over to this table where this strange guy was. What can I say, I'm a matinee idol for 6-year-olds (laughs).
Q. I have to say, this is the first time I've spoken to a mime.
A. That's fine. I don't think we'll get in trouble.