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Guerrilla Theater
Risk/Assault

Have You Heard of the San Francisco Mime Troupe?

Praxis of Change

One of the most important influences on the Diggers was R.G. "Ronnie" Davis, the founder of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. The experiences that many of the original Diggers took from their involvement with the Mime Troupe were the foundation for the idea of "life acting" in the service of social change. Ron was the consummate theoretician of radical change. In his essay "Guerrilla Theater" he called for theater collectives to "teach / direct toward change / be an example of change." In a nutshell, this is the definition of 'lifestyle as change agent'—the contribution of the Sixties Counterculture to social protest history. Later feminist theory would propose "the personal is the political"—a slight reformulation of Davis' concept of guerrilla theater.

Here, with Ron's permission, is the full version of a 1968 film that the Mime Troupe sanctioned and which has footage of many of the actors and writers who would go on to join the Digger movement. But even more relevant, it shows the early workings of a collective of women and men struggling to make sense of the social and political situation of the Sixties and to formulate personal and collective responses that were congruent with their beliefs.

Have You Heard of the SF Mime Troupe?

A film by Don Lenzer and Fred Wardenburg, narrated by Paul Herlinger* (1966**)

*Full credits: Produced and directed by Don Lenzer and Fred Wardenburg, Photographed by Don Lenzer, Edited by Don Lenzer and Fred Wardenburg, Narrated by Paul Herlinger, Assistant Editor and Soundman Charles Horman, Assistant Cameraman Richard Chew, Executive Producer Robert G. McBride.
**The official release of the film is not yet known. However, it received the Silver Award at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1967. In dating the footage, the opening scene of the Mime Troupe performance of Moliere's "The Miser" in Washington Square can be dated to Sep 3 & 4, 1966.
 
L: Audience member

R: Pantalone (Bill Lindyn); Dottore (Peter Cohon)

L: Pantalone (Bill Lindyn); Dottore (Peter Cohon)

R: Audience, Washington Square Park

L: Gayle Pearl, Roger Guy-Bray (playing lovers in "The Miser")

R: Becky Jenkins (daughter of Dave Jenkins)

L: Close-up of Dottore (Peter Cohon) in "The Miser"

R: Audience member, Washington Square Park

L: Audience member, Washington Square Park

R: Jason Marc-Alexander in dressing room with Peter Cohon (in background)

L: Peter Cohon affecting "Breathless" pose for the camera

R: C.W. ("Chuck") Herrick,  Tech and Stage Manager for "The Miser" etc.

L: R.G. Davis

R: "Minstrel Show" cop killing scene: unknown actor; Jason Marc-Alexander; Peter Cohon

L: Willie B. Hart in a rehearsal for the "Minstrel Show"

R: Peter Cohon and Jason Marc-Alexander

L & R: Jason Marc-Alexander

L: "Minstrel Show" final bathroom scene written by Saul Landau: Jason Marc-Alexander; Interlocutor Kent Minault; Peter Cohon

R: Peter Cohon

L: Lover (Ann Willock); Pantalone (Bill Lindyn)

R: Ditto

L: Mime Troupe stage for "The Miser" in Washington Square Park, Pantalone (Bill Lindyn)

R: Dottore without mask (Peter Cohon)

L: R.G. Davis at a company meeting

R: R.G. Davis arguing with Becky Jenkins

L: Peter Berg

R: R.G. Davis

L: Sandra Archer, bookkeeper and actress

R: Performance of "The Miser" in Washington Square Park, North Beach. Peter-Paul Church (background)

L: Performance of "The Miser" in Washington Square Park, North Beach. Peter-Paul Church (background)

R: Dottore (Peter Cohon)

L & R: Chuck Herrick
L: SFMT business meeting, 1966.  Anne Bernstein, R.G. Davis, unnamed secretary, Archer’s shoulder

R: Secretary (name?)

L: Poster for "Minstrel Show" with John Broderick (who was in the original cast and replaced by Cohon) holding tambourine.

R: Anne Bernstein, actress

L: The "Minstrel Show" with the minstrels performing the opening "Cakewalk" set

R: Willie B. Hart; Kent Minault (as Interlocutor)

L: Kent Minault (as "Interlocutor"); Jason Marc-Alexander (as “Gimme”)

R: Peter Cohon without mask

L: Willie B. Hart

R: John Condron (bartender at the M&M Tavern) in "Minstrel Show" (as temporary replacement for Kai Spiegel)

L: John Condron; Willie B. Hart

R: "Minstrel Show" cop killing scene (with unnamed actor)

L: Chuck Herrick; Sandra Archer (smoking)

R: Sandra Archer (in the end of film speech)

L: Chuck Herrick (wearing his Vietnam Special Rangers beret)

R: Audience inside Mason Building

L: Street marching before the show (not usually done except for this film)

R: Kent Minault (as Interlocutor) and Jason Marc-Alexander in the opening “cross fire”

L: Ann Willock and Bill Lindyn

R: Bill Lindyn (as Pantalone in "The Miser")

 

 
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