If you’ve ever seen a mime walking around Durango, there’s a good chance it’s Ben Dukeminier performing as Jacque the Joker. The 23-year-old Dukeminier has been miming for almost eight years. He has recently performed as a mime with Durango band Hello, Dollface, as well as the Imaginario Circus. We sat down with a stack of mime questions for Dukeminier, before he put on his makeup, before he became Jacque, while he could still answer audibly.
What’s it like performing as a mime?It’s a lot like improv. You just kind of have to take your ego completely out of the equation and then be very good at reading people. Because you can see it in some people’s eyes, they want to play. And then some people are terrified. People who are terrified, maybe (I) do a little thing with them to try and break that barrier – because that is a thing; you can break that barrier. But if they’re just not having it, you leave them alone … People who want to play really want to play because they realize they want to put you in a box, they want you to copy them, they want to dance with you. They just want to have fun.
What is the most challenging thing for you as Ben when you’re playing Jacque?To remain in character at all times and being sure not to vocalize any kind of sound. Sometimes there’s things that are absolutely hilarious and everyone’s laughing, and you’re laughing but you can’t laugh. So you’re holding a laugh in, but you can feel the contraction in your ribs and your abs. Keeping your mouth shut is the hardest part.
Have you ever slipped up and said something?No, I’ve never slipped up and said a word on accident. I’ve had to once for a director, talk to them because they had a very pertinent question that I couldn’t mime to them and it was very important to answer that question. And it freaked me out. I’ll never do it again. Because when you separate the character and the person, they’re two separate things. Like, I feel all emotions: anger, joy, sadness, all of that. Where Jacque only feels joy. He does not know what sadness is; he does not know what anger is; he does not know what envy is … He knows joy. Even if I’m pretending to be sad, (Jacque is) still doing it in a joyful way.
So when I talked – because Jacque doesn’t have his own voice – it was me talking through the character. The way I do acting is very method, so I’m no longer Ben, I’m Jacque. And then for Ben to pop in for a moment, because Jacque was not prepared for that, it rattled me for a good two hours.
How did it make you feel?It made me feel as if I was wearing someone else’s skin pretending to be someone I wasn’t. It was very surreal, kind of out-of-body experience.
How do you get better at your craft?I pretend to hold things all the time. I’ll pick up something and feel its weight and then put it down and pretend to pick it up and feel its weight and put it down so that I get the right measurements so when I move it looks fluid, it looks real, it looks like there’s actually weight in my hand. And then sitting in the mirror for hours doing facial exercises, making sure I’m always smiling, making sure what my eyebrows are doing, making sure what my scowl looks like and what that feels like.
What are some bizarre things that have happened to you while miming?I’ve done everything from sword fighting with people to dance parties in the middle of Main Street to being put in a box to climbing light poles. I mean, everything.
I found, believe it or not, people like to rub butts with mimes. Why? I’m not sure. Every time I go dancing, someone, somewhere wants to rub their butt on my butt. I don’t know why. It’s a thing. I did not realize when I signed up.
A common misconception: People think that mimes can’t touch you. They’re like, “Oh no, he’s not allowed to talk and touch you.” I’m like, “I’m only allowed to not talk … that’s about it. Everything else is free game.”
I’ve been groped. I’ve been slapped. I’ve been carried. I’ve sat down and had dinner with people at a restaurant. … It’s just amazing what you can get away with.
I’ve climbed one of the street light poles while an officer was parked right there just waving at me as I’m King Konging and swatting at invisible planes and they’re all just laughing.