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Unspoken praise

West Virginia woman delves into the art of mimestry

April 24, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Cherise Garrido of Martinsburg, W.Va., performs mimestry, which means she mimes to gospel songs.
Photo by Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Mime Cherise Garrido said the point of "mimestry" is to spread the gospel without saying a single word.

"What I do is inspired by God," said Garrido, 43, of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Garrido is part of a growing Christian subculture of gospel mimes, performers who mime to gospel songs. Online "Mime Ministries" are well represented in social networking sites such as Ning, where they can be found categorized by state. Garrido plans to attend a world-wide gospel mime convention in Pittsburgh, from July 15 to 17. The conference is hosted by K&K Mime Ministries, the brainchild of two Pittsburgh brothers whom Garrido called the "fathers of gospel miming."

What started off as a string of performances during church functions has since evolved into a business venture. Perhaps its best to think of her as a "mimepreneur," as she puts it on her Web site Mime4Jesus.com, the focal point for her business Mime in Motion Entertainment (or MIME).

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But to be clear, Garrido said what she does is something different from what most gospel mimes do. For one, she mimes every word. "Not just the beat," Garrido said.

The biggest distinction, Garrido said, is that she improvises. She relates to the songs through personal experience.

The resulting performance is something she calls "mimestry."

"The song and I become one," she said.

Garrido didn't set out to become a mime. "I wanted to be a journalist," she said. "Or a tailor."

She grew up in a rough part of Chicago's South Side, graduating from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School in the 1980s. Shortly afterward she enlisted in the Army. After eight years in the military, Garrido ended up at Fort Ritchie, Md.

She attended cosmetology school in Baltimore, later landing jobs in Hagerstown, Waynesboro, Pa., and eventually the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Miming, however, still wasn't on Garrido's radar, but church soon would be.

Garrido started attending a Baptist church in Martinsburg, and got involved with the youth ministry there.

"I felt that was a calling," Garrido said. "I wasn't that far from a youth myself. I didn't want to see them make the same mistakes I made - graduate from high school and have nothing to show for it."

She saw her first gospel mime performance while attending church service with friends in Florida. Garrido said she hadn't seen anything like that before, but she knew immediately that she wanted to bring it back to her own church.

Initially, it was a self-taught art form. Her first performance was to Fred Hammond's song, "Jesus Be a Fence Around Me."

She researched the late Marcel Marceau, who was credited with bringing the ancient art of miming into modern culture. She practiced moves in the parking lot of her job.

"When you've got a craft and a gift, you need to sharpen your tools," Garrido said.

She eventually got invited to do more performances at churches. She wants to share the art of miming with others.

"This is a craft that is not being taught," Garrido said, who on top of teaching others the art of mimestry, has considered creating a mime cartoon and writing a book.

Garrido and her husband, Jose, live in Martinsburg, W.Va., with their two children and attend Kingdom Life Cathedral Ministries in Ranson, W.Va.

Garrido said the kids like mimestry, but they don't want to be performers.

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