Jim Meskimen by Ray Kachatorian
I had to check my iCal calendar, but I was right- this last weekend marked the one year anniversary of live performances of JIMPRESSIONS, my one-man journey through my obsession with celebrity voices.
(Actually, it’s more a strong professional interest, but “Obsession” is much more compelling, don’t you agree? Who would watch a movie called “Strong Professional Interest”?)
I have performed JIMPRESSIONS at least twice a month, sometimes as many as eight times a month since it premiered on March 25, 2011, and as I have noted elsewhere, in cities all over the U.S., as well as Sydney, Australia, Toronto, Canada and London, England.
As you might imagine, I’ve learned a lot along the way.
The best thing about being in a one-man show, particularly one that you have also written, is that you can make ceaseless changes and updates, which with luck are improvements. I haven’t felt the need to ask anyone’s permission, and every show was a learning experience for me, as all live theatre is.
I owe a lot to my friend and director, Tait Ruppert, who has made many invaluable suggestions along the way and knows the show backwards and forwards.
It has also been rewarding to listen first hand to what people have to say about the show, which is always gratifying, particularly when it had some special resonance for them.
One woman thanked me very warmly for directing her attention to the fact that one can always draw forth in memory the sound of a loved one’s laughter; she had recently lost her mother and found a lot of relief by doing that.
Others have remarked that they had no knowledge of particular actors that now they felt interested to seek out in films and enjoy first hand. That’s cool.
Quite a lot of people remark that they think it it entertaining to observe the transitions I go through to rapidly become another person… this seems to be one of the favorite parts of the performance, and that has made me think about what it is that people find so fascinating about this style of entertainment.
I think there is something very helpful to audiences, even perhaps mildly therapeutic, with watching someone adopt different personas and identities. Of course, it’s a sort of magic trick, but it also speaks to a basic ability that anybody has, however un-exercised, to BE someone else on one’s own whim.
It’s akin to watching a dancer and realizing that one has the same physical parts, and that expressing oneself with arms, legs, hands and feet, instead of just thru the voice or the keyboard, is an unexploited possibility.
Of course, actors know how satisfying and pleasant it can be to shuffle off our own personalities and become someone great or stylish or interesting… in many cases it’s that sensation that got us interested in acting in the first place.
In the case of impersonating celebrities, our desires for a better, more fulfilling life come into play I think, in that these individuals symbolize not only the characters they portray, but also, as movie stars or leaders in some walk of life, they come to represent an advance into a state that is closer to immortality. If somebody can BE a movie star, even only for a few seconds, that person seemingly is sipping from some fountain that a lot of us wish we could drink deeply from.
I realize of course that I’m speaking in a very formal way about something which, after all, owes more to the Las Vegas Strip than the Veda, but still…
It just amazes me, having done this kind of entertaining now on and off for almost thirty years, that people are dazzled by the art of impersonation as much as they are.
But then, I’m being hypocritical, too, because I am equally dazzled by brilliant impressionists when I see them. And I’m lucky to know quite a few that are much more talented than I.
But as JIMPRESSIONS is about MY journey, I guess nobody would be able to do a better job of this particular angle of the story as I can, even if some of my renditions leave something to be desired.
Anyway, that’s all very sober and psuedo-academic, but the point is, it’s been a year, I have had a blast doing JIMPRESSIONS, and, as people seem to enjoy watching me doing my “Infinity of Celebrity Voices,… I have no intention of stopping.
See you at a performace soon, I hope!
If you are interested in the DVD of my live JIMPRESSIONS show at the historic Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida, visit this site: http://appliedsilliness.com/jimpressionsdvd.html