Lessons From S.F. Mime Troupe’s Move From Live Events to Radio Plays

Graphic courtesy of the San Francisco Mime Troupe

Graphic courtesy of the San Francisco Mime Troupe

The San Francisco Mime Troupe has been performing socially conscious and often very funny productions in Bay Area parks since 1959 and was preparing for its summer series of live shows when the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible.

Like many live production groups, it was left with a choice — shut down for the year or come up with another way to perform and reach its audience. Some organizations put on Zoom events but the Mime Troupe decided to turn its planned series of plays in the park into good, old-fashioned radio plays. 

The Troupe has been releasing half-hour radio plays for the last 10 weeks and now, with the first series, “Tales of the Resistance,” coming to an end, we wanted to find out how the move from live to radio play has worked out. 

The San Francisco Public Press radio station KSFP has been broadcasting those shows every Saturday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m, on 102.5 FM and on our online stream. 

The transition from highly visual stage plays to audio productions has been a big leap, but director and actor Velina Brown said recording the actors remotely wasn’t the biggest challenge. “It took a lot of time to choose the takes and put them together, none of us had done anything quite like this before.” She added, “A key thing, though, is when you’re recording, you need to have a lot of ideas that you can ask for. Because if you don’t ask them for it, then you don’t have it when it’s time to put the pieces together.”

“Tales of the Resistance” playwright and actor Michael Gene Sullivan said the creation of the radio plays has been a positive change. “We’ve been trying to figure out some way to get into other media for decades. This has been this really, unfortunately, this great opportunity for us. It forced us to make a decision, it forced us to make a change in what was possible. And now everybody in the company and those audience members I’ve heard from really like it. So we’re going to just continue to do it as a parallel thing.”

For the holidays, the Mime Troupe will offer another radio play “Red Carol,” which will also air on KSFP in December. 

A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.

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