story & photos by Jennifer Russo, Contributing Writer
Have you ever imagined what it might be like to wear a hat that weighs a thousand pounds? What about how it might feel to fly away holding a giant balloon? What would you do if you found a rope and at the end of it was an elephant?
Robert Rivest, a talented comic mime artist, invited a group of kids at the Bellingham library to open their minds as he joked his way into their hearts and funny bones. Through a series of stories and motions, he taught the kids that using their imaginations can make anything possible.
Robert introduced himself to the chatty group of kids by showing them how he shows different emotions as a mime and how different facial expressions, illusions, and even stillness are all able to show what his character is doing or feeling. He showed them how he could be “sunshine,” a “mountain” and an “erupting volcano” through body language. It was when he mimicked how parents act, though, that the children burst into uncontrollable giggles. The laughter grew louder still when Robert became a grouchy old man walking with a cane.
Parents didn’t hold back smiles either when Robert became an exaggerated and dramatic teenager, texting and taking selfies, or when one child innocently asked him during a later act if he was still the old guy, to which he replied, “No—well kind of, but don’t tell anyone.”
There was no shortage of raised hands when he asked for volunteers. He asked Brody Varner and a young girl to come up and walked them through miming a baseball game, with Brody pitching. To make things more interesting, he asked him to pitch the game Cat in the Hat style, with some wind-ups, some hopping, a little dancing and more. The imaginary ball got stuck on the wall and in one mother’s ear, and even bounced off poor Robert’s head.
Things got even funnier when a hat was introduced into the mix. Anything but an ordinary hat, it went from barking like a dog to meowing like a cat and suddenly weighing too much to hold. Then, when Robert put it on his head, it managed to take full control of his body, causing leg shaking, excessive hand waving, and other things that made the children laugh hysterically, advising him that he should “take that hat off” so he could be back to normal. Finally, the hat fell from his head and the kids clapped.
To show that it is still possible to act out a character without showing his face or talking, Robert put on a theater mask and became the grumpy old man again, a rap star, a mom with many kids, the dramatic teenager and the astronaut, all without uttering a word.
At the end of his program, Robert invited all of the children up to join him as he showed them how he did everything from pulling a rope to blowing up a balloon, to leaning on a wall and drawing a door to get out of a room. He showed them how to be happy, sad, angry, scared, confused and compassionate all in a matter of a minute. He closed by saying how lucky it is that when you exercise your brain by reading many books your head doesn’t get bigger and bigger as your muscles do when you exercise those. He then, of course, acted it out as he filled his head with more and more knowledge, then promptly sneezed it out all over the crowd. I think we were all grateful that that was imaginary too.
With over 30 years of experience and 8,000+ shows now under his belt, Robert studied under Marcel Marceau in Paris and has since traveled the world performing for groups of all ages, using various performing arts and laughter to remind people not to take life too seriously. His delightful program concluded this year’s summer reading program at the Bellingham Library.
For more information about Robert and to view his online videos, visit RobertRivest.com.