Shhh!! – The UTEP Mime Troupe

By on January 10, 2013

The University Players Mime Troupe rehearses for a performance in October 1982.

Founded in 1972, the Somos Mime Troupe was a student organization that performed pantomime and “impressionistic dances” during the 1970s – 1980s.  Under the direction of the drama department and faculty advisor Dr. C.L. Etheridge, the group performed regularly at the Union building, Bassett Center, and Madeline Park.   According to the November 8, 1973 Prospector, the troupe also staged performances at “Thomason General Hospital’s pediatric ward once a month.”  The Somos Mime Troupe practiced on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a Liberal Arts building classroom and was originally comprised of sixteen drama department students.  Led by student manager John Flynn, the troupe created original skits that were “American oriented” in style.   The group’s skits were primarily comical in nature, but several featured socially significant subject matter, such as drug use.   In addition to their regular performances, the troupe  participated in University events, such as the University Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s “Spring Dance Celebration” in April 1975. 

Because the mime troupe relied on specialized student interest, the group disbanded – usually after members graduated – and re-formed several times in its history.  For example, after discontinuing performances in late 1975, the group reemerged in fall 1977 under the name “The University Players Mime Troupe.”  The mime troupe formed again in fall 1982 due to the efforts of its student director, Alex Herndon.  This new reincarnation of the mime troupe focused primarily on social issues.  Its first show featured the “plight of the working class.”  Interestingly, the troupe departed from “traditional mime which is stylized movement without musical background,” and, instead, used music, such as John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” and “tunes of the Talking Heads” in their performance. 

[Sources: The Prospector (November 8, 1973; April 25, 1975; October 28, 1982); El Paso Herald-Post, October 31, 1977]

Abbie Weiser is the processing archivist at the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library. She earned a BA in history from George Washington University, a MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin, and a MA in history from UTEP. She is certified by the Academy of Certified Archivists.