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12-04-02: He's saying it all without words
The Daily Standard
    Toma's art of mime and a couple hundred student-authors' words teamed up for an hour of silent but animated performance at Celina Middle School gymnasium Tuesday afternoon.
    Toma, a.k.a. Tom Johnson of Traverse City, Mich., has been touring his mime workshops in schools throughout the country since 1986.
    "Young Authors Day, which is what I'm doing in Celina today, calls on the kids to work in teams writing short stories, which I'll perform this afternoon. Kids always get a kick out of seeing their ideas translated into mime," Johnson told The Daily Standard on Tuesday morning at the middle school as the students worked on their stories.
    Toma, the stage name chosen by Johnson when he studied with world famous mime Marcel Marceau in Paris in the early 1980s, said he traveled with the master mime throughout the nation as his assistant.
    "It was a great experience. But so is bringing the art of mime to young students," said Johnson, who added it's always difficult to choose which stories he'll perform because kids "come up with some great stuff."
    In the interim between his morning and afternoon performances, Johnson toured the various classrooms where the students worked on their stories and answered questions and told the kids how he developed his art.
    Later, dressed in black pants, red-striped T-shirt and white face, Toma talked with his audience of young authors in the gymnasium standing beside his only prop, a folding chair.
    After complimenting them on their stories, the mime read from his selections and then performed in mime.
    A guy with his hand stuck in a bowling ball, a woman trying on a tight skirt, meeting a bear, a skunk on a camping trip and a tennis lesson with a jammed ball machine were among the 10 stories Johnson performed to the delight of author teams and general audience alike.
    "It's quite an opportunity for students to see, hear and watch their ideas being presented. They always find it interesting on some level to see how changing the written word into actions is accomplished," he said.


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