Silence is Golden: An Interview With Serendipity Tynker of Clan Tynker
If you live in New Mexico, and if you don’t live underneath a rock, then at one point or other over the course of the past fifteen years you have either been to see or at least heard of the Clan Tynker, the torch-juggling, unicycle-stunting, stilt-walking and singing vaudevillian entertainment troupe hailing from Santa Fe. You know that they’re tremendous fun. You also likely know that among that group that features the hi-jinx of Sam, Santiago, Elijah, and Rebekah there’s one more member of that family who, unforgettably, contributes so much to the merriment and tumult with her arresting gaze, intriguing dance and fire play, and, of course, her enigmatic, bewitching silence. All the members of Clan Tynker are quite well-versed in the art of carnival barking and getting the attention of a crowd with their trumpeting projection, but throughout it all, Serendipity doesn’t say a word. We thought it would be a fun idea to interview her, and ask her the questions we thought many of you would like to ask her – one of the best things about getting to do this interview is that it proves that you don’t need to hear her voice, but if your mind just happens to give her one as you read this interview, we imagine she’d be okay with that, too. During the course of this interview, we touch on matters of family life and living on tour, faith in theater and the theater of faith, and also about playing with fire. There’s a seat right up front for you; come join us.
Rich Boucher: I’m just going to start right off with the question that I think most people would ask you first if they had the chance, since you have been so kind to give me that chance: Is it a vow of silence? Why don’t you speak?
Serendipity Tynker: I was told that when I was very young, I stared up at the moon and it stole my voice away. There are so many mysteries in life.
RB: I’m talking now to the mortal living inside the person we know as Serendipity: How long does it take you to go from your mortal guise to becoming full-on “Serendipity”?
ST: To physically prepare for a performance, it takes approximately two hours; one for make up and one for hot tea.
RB: You and the rest of Clan Tynker have traveled and performed all around the world. How does New Mexico compare to idyllic locations such as you’ve found in England, Scotland, Turkey and Egypt? How on Earth can it compare?
ST: Even with all these travels, New Mexico holds a very unique place in my heart. When I am away I miss the crisp bright air, the smell of fresh rain on dusty clay earth, the countless stars that shine so brilliantly and, of course, the flavor of green chili with melted cheese. I absolutely love traveling. Not only does it give me perspective on different people, cultures, food and geography, it also shows our similarities and how truly connected we all are.
RB: How young does one have to be to enjoy a Clan Tynker show?
ST: I feel grateful that our show appeals to most. I believe it captures a sense of timelessness. Grandparents have told me that our show made them feel young again and children say they loved not being talked down to.
RB: Do you consider yourself a mime? Is that what this is? Describe your art for us.
ST: I do not consider myself a classical mime although we share many similarities. I am more of a mystic who loves to dance through the music of life. For me speaking is superfluous.
RB: Doesn’t it make you incredibly nervous to use your fire fan? Have you ever caught on fire before?
ST: Fire is a wonderful spirit that certainly needs to be respected. Sometimes I can forget this and, with the help of the pesky wind, it has bitten me several times. Hopefully I will not forget again anytime soon.
RB: And that last question naturally leads to this one: there’s something a bit holy about your attire: are you religious or spiritual?
ST: I very much admire many concepts, faiths, feelings and people around various religions. Life for me is beautifully uncertain. I absolutely love this magical world and the “Magician.” Yet I do not feel the need to know his/her/its name. I also do not crave to know how the trick is done. At least not yet. <3
RB: Did you go to school to learn how to do what you do? Is there a degree in this? And do you have to practice regularly?
ST: My theatrical education, while not formal, starts as far back as I can remember. My family and I have always been fascinated by entertainment. Beginning with our parents’ teachings and help from library books we got our start. As we grew older our interest only grew greater and I was able to take various classes. I feel blessed to have had the wonderful opportunity to study from many amazing teachers. In particular, learning dance has been my passion.
RB: How do you make the time for all your gigs with Clan Tynker? Where does family life fit in – how do you make that work?
ST: I feel what Clan Tynker does is less of a career and more of a lifestyle. We are a family circus. A circus for families but also composed of a real family. While many performers on the road leave their loved ones behind, I feel blessed that I get to travel and work with mine.
RB: So now we come full-circle and I have to ask you this: Have you ever spoken onstage before? Has it ever happened? Has there ever been a temptation so strong that you came this close to breaking your silence?
ST: I have had such a wonderful opportunity to have nonverbal communication be my occupation. It could not be any other way. I find that most children have no trouble understanding me and perhaps, even prefer it. It is a huge benefit when traveling in foreign countries. Throughout my time performing I have had the honor of meeting other mutes. Such a fantastically special experience.
Interested in checking out a performance by Serendipity and the rest of the Clan Tynker? Click here.
Rich Boucher is Associate Editor at Elbow Room Magazine.