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Without a word, mime teaches values to youth

The man in the black vest and pants paints his face so white his features become almost unrecognizable. He steps before his audience refusing to say a word. Yet his message roars with importance.

And its message of character-building is what elementary students will hear when Mark Abbati brings his mime show to Ironton Elementary and St. Lawrence schools.

“It is a positive character building program,” Abbati said in a phone interview from his office in Columbus. “It deals with the simple items like caring, cooperating, teamwork, giving.”

All concepts that are presented through mime skits.

“These skits are never a command to the viewer,” he said. “When you view a mime skit, it is non-threatening. It is not a directive. It is not ‘You must do this.’ When the students see these skits, it simply offers them a option. It gives them the answer without pointing a finger and telling them you must do this.”

Abbati will perform at three shows, Wednesday, Oct. 12 — two at Ironton Elementary and the third at St. Lawrence. The shows are sponsored by the Friends of Ironton.

Abbati was drawn to mime when he was a young teen after seeing the internationally renowned practitioner of the art, Marcel Marceau.

“I saw him in a show and I was amazed,” Abbati said. “He could do two things. He could communicate to me without a word and the illusions he was doing grabbed my attention as a young boy.”

For months afterward Abbati would practice what he saw in front of a mirror. Soon he was taking his amateur shows on the road.

When he was a marketing student at Ohio State University, he had the chance to see Marceau again. This time he got a resume of his amateur work to Marceau, who responded with a handwritten letter inviting him to his international workshop at Ann Arbor, Mich.

Abbati took what he learned from Marceau to expand the community outreach shows he had developed.

“It was either I can go into business or I can pursue this drama,” he said. “I would like to do both. Business will pay better, but I had heard from so many people it is much better to pursue your passion than to cause yourself to be frustrated.”

Today with his production company, “Joy Unspeakable,” Abbati performs at schools, trade schools nursing homes, churches, correctional facilities and halfway houses.

“I like teaching and bringing positive messages to the schools,” he said.