Thursday, September 27, 2007

Marcel Marceau

A Citizen of the World

Marcel Marceau was only 84 when he passed on but he lives brightly in the memories of all who had the joy to see him perform on the world's stages. Poor words are unable to express our loss when he, above all, "spoke" to us in silent Truth.

Like the Munis of India, Marcel Marceau taught in the transcendent discipline and spiritual power of action-in-silence. He was the perenniel Renaissance Man revealing to us, in the darkened theatre, our own unity and universality. We watched him in fascination as he mimed human foibles, tragedies and comedies. He was us, all of us, in his masterly movements, expressions and motives. '
Alone on a bare stage bereft of sets and other actors, using the audience's imagination, he created a silent world of events, both mundane and catastrophic, to which each audience member could relate personally. By revealing in pantomime a fellow human, with wry, gentle humor, he magically erased our vaunted differences. That is genius. Remember that "wall" where he first appeared as a giant, then reappeared as a midget!. Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from his sketch, "Walking Against the Wind." I recall especially the "Immigrant" when, boxed in, his hands desperately "felt" the enclosed cage, then discovered a tiny opening through which he squeezed in ecstatic freedom only to find himself again imprisoned in a larger cage, his bitter disappointment and anguish mirrored in that wonderful plastic face. In one of his most poignant and philosophical acts, "Youth, Maturity, Old Age, Death," he wordlessly showed the passing of an entire life in just minutes.

His presence on stage alone transformed it into a cherished place of reverence, self-revelation and love. One left the theatre somehow fulfilled, feeling better. Indeed, what else does a World Teacher do but reveal the truth? His biggest inspiration, he claimed, was another world citizen, Charlie Chaplin.

The French Government had conferred upon Marceau its highest honor, making him an "Officier de la Legion d'Honneur", and in 1978 he received the Medaille Vermeil de la Ville de Paris. In November of 1998, former President Chirac named him a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit; and he was an elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, the Academie des beaux-arts France and the Institut de France. He held honorary doctorates from Ohio State University, Linfield College, Princeton University, and the University of Michigan, America's way of honoring his creation of a new art form, inherited from an old tradition. In 1999, the city of New York declared March 18 Marcel Marceau Day.

He accepted the honor and responsibilities of serving as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Second World Assembly on Aging, which took place in Madrid, Spain, in April 2002.

Following the death in 1999 of Sir Yehudi Menuhin, who served our world government for many years as Coordinator of its World Cultural Commission, I had the honor and pleasure of appointing Marcel as the new Coordinator of this Commission. He expressed his delight and acceptance at a dinner we shared together during his last tour of the US.

Talking about his universal and lasting appeal, Marceau once said: "Mime, like music, knows neither borders nor nationalities."

I for one am extraordinarily grateful and blessed for having known this inimitable cosmopolitan artist personally since my own Paris days in 1948.

A true lover of humanity has departed our current scene, May his ennobling inspiration continue to guide us.


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