Performance artist Lisa Kotin began her career as a mime–“Don’t mention that. I’m informed by it, but I’m anti-mime at the same time. Please don’t mention the word mime”–in a tony suburb of San Francisco. You have to mention the word mime: in fact, one of Kotin’s most popular pieces is called “I Was a Teenage Mime.” In this somewhat autobiographical tale, a manic young mime discovers that miming can be used to inflict emotional distress on people, notably parents. “I was the youngest in a very loud family,” says Kotin. “I had to find a way to talk back to my father.”

But mime also remains a key element of her style of performance, which includes films, performance pieces, and a lot of silent acting to voice- overs. Kotin is bringing her new, full- length piece Temporary Girl to Lower Links this weekend.

The spindly 34-year-old has a manic and expressive face dominated by an extravagant aquiline nose. She’s spent the last 12 years of her life in New York, as a student (in drama at NYU; “I put on three shows. No teachers came”) and as a neurotic but scrappy performer working as a temp to pay for her shows and films. Temporary Girl is a film and performance cycle that presents a kaleidoscopic portrait of–surprise–a neurotic but scrappy young actress working as a temp. Five films alternate with five performance pieces, limning everything from the way the temp feeds off her job (sometimes literally, by stealing doughnuts) to her desperate lunch-hour auditions. A variety of office denizens populate the piece as well, each of them quite different from our heroine, whose feelings of alienation only increase when the woman she’s replacing comes in to show off her new baby. In one film, the temp is surrounded by male dancers who strip to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Will she ever make it, ever be a dramatic success? Don’t count on it: “You gotta do something about that hair,” says the theatrical agent.

Temporary Girl, being presented as part of Lower Links’ Out of Towners series Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 9, 10, and 11, is directed by Chicago actor Michael Shepperd and New Yorker Lisa LoCicero. Shows start at 9 PM at Lower Links, 954 W. Newport. Tickets are $8. Call 248-5238.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.