The San Francisco Mime Troupe performs free in parks across northern California all summer. Their current performance satirizes what is called “education reform.”
In “Schooled,” the San Francisco Mime Troupe argues that the purpose of education is to build citizens, to prepare young adults to make informed decisions in their civic life. The company’s free summer show of its 57th season also makes a compelling case that art is foundational to a healthy democracy.
As is tradition, the troupe will stage this show in parks throughout Northern California until Labor Day, so the context of each performance will vary greatly. But as performed in Dolores Park on the Fourth of July, “Schooled” juxtaposed stark extremes.
The Mime Troupe is run as a collective, with “The Communist Manifesto” required reading for all members. All its shows impart that work’s philosophy. “Schooled” is no different. It pillories the flaws in the U.S. education system, especially its dependency on digital technology as a Band-Aid for deeper structural problems — underfunding, the achievement gap — and, in tandem, its overreliance on the corporations that profit from that technology.
In “Schooled,” the evil corporation is Learning Academy of Virtual Achievement, or LAVA, which seeks to “spread” to Eleanor Roosevelt High School. LAVA’s emissary is Fredersen J. Babbit (Lisa Hori-Garcia), a dead ringer for Donald Trump, complete with the hair and mucus-ridden vocal cords. He peddles learning tablets, cleverly rendered by the props department with an iridescent surface, so that as an actor rotates one, its screen shimmers in the sun.
Public schooling is not a Communist idea; it is a democratic idea. It is the way the entire community takes responsibility for the learning of the children of the community.
The bad guys are not just the guys peddling technology and wanting to make a buck. The bad guys are the ones who insist on privatizing what belongs to the public and use their money to buy support.