A silent inspiration to others
By DAVID SCOTT
Special to The Star - Nov. 2, & Dec. 7, 2011
James Jones and his daughter, Juliana Jones, met with
Laclotte, a mime artist and teacher in France who
started the first
annual World of Mime to honor Marcel Marceau.
James Jones of Overland Park carries a simple message: People who are deaf
can do anything they want — except hear.
Jones, better known as J.J., is a deaf mime artist. For the past 12 years,
has has taken vacation time from his full-time job as a deaf program manager
at The Whole Person, which helps people with disabilities live
independently, to perform eight to 10 shows a year at area schools.
He took his show in the road with his daughter, Juliana Jones, in September,
for his first overseas performance. They made a trip to France for the World
of Mime festival in Paris to commemorate the first anniversary of Marcel
Marceau’s death. It was a way for him to spread the message of his art form
“Members of the Deaf community tend to view deafness as a difference in
human experience rather than a disability,” Jones said in an email. “Deaf”
is capitalized to refer to the cultural aspects surrounding individuals who
Organizers of the Paris event invited Jones last spring, and visiting France
was a lifetime dream for him. He performed in front of the Eiffel Tower and
then traveled to Bordeaux, France, for “World Deaf Day,” an event that
promoted deaf awareness.
In Bordeaux, Jones said there were people lined up out the door. The show
was delayed for more than 40 minutes as organizers tried to accommodate the
Jones learned to mime at the age of 7 by watching “The Red Skelton Show,”
the only TV program he followed because there was no closed captioning
during that time. He loved Red Skelton and tried to imitate him. A few years
later, an elementary-school teacher suggested he try out for the school’s
talent show. He did, thus beginning his 34-year miming career at the age of
He went on to attend the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in
Rochester, N.Y., and perfected the art. His influences include Skelton and
Marceau, both of whom he has met in person.
Juliana works behind the scenes with her dad as an assistant manager by
contacting schools and building his website. On the bigger, multimedia
shows, she operates the lights, sounds and PowerPoint presentations. As a
little girl, she performed alongside her dad on stage and in mime.
“I’ll never forget when my girl put her first mime makeup on just before we
were getting ready to go to church,” Jones said. “That gave me an idea for
her to join me as a father-daughter mime show, ‘J.J. and Little J.J.’”
Grade school ended the duo, when Juliana became more self-conscious about
wearing the white makeup. She felt awkward as friends teased her about
having a mime for a father.
“The last thing I wanted was to be seen as a mime,” she said. “But, I don’t
even think that way any more. I love the art. I love what my dad does. Maybe
I will do it again with my dad again.”
She has witnessed misconceptions of miming firsthand and understands the
sense of mystery that surrounds the art. But she also knows the power of her
“People think of the person with a white face as trapped in a box, but mime
is so much more than that. It’s a beautiful art and a beautiful language.
It’s being able to express things without words,” she said. “When he goes to
schools for the deaf, he wants to be that inspiration.”