Charlie Cronk is a suit.
As the business assistance specialist for the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce, Cronk spends his days in shirt and tie. He is called upon daily to assist local businesses on such issues as financing and recruitment. His expertise guides people through government forms, complicated databases and local ordinances.
Charlie Cronk is also an artist.
For more than 20 years, Cronk, 56, of Dunedin has been a professional mime.
"Since they know me as a suit-and-tie kind of guy, most people would think being a mime was the last thing they expect," Cronk said.
As an acting student at the University of Wisconsin, Cronk got hooked on the illusions created by mimes. He went on to study under prominent mimes in both New York and California.
Cronk believes his skills as a mime paved the way for his graduate work at Florida State University.
"I auditioned for the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. There were 2,000 people auditioned for the master's program and they accepted 18," Cronk said. "Along with my monologue, I performed a mime. I was one of the 18 and I got a scholarship. I believe that got me in."
After receiving his master's degree in acting, Cronk performed in several films and television shows. But he ultimately decided he wasn't interested in the New York City lifestyle. He was hired to work in marketing for the Asolo Theatre, which led to his career in chambers of commerce.
Cronk continues his professional miming at festivals, dinner events and parties throughout Central Florida. He is often hired as a wandering mime.
"I enjoy that because it is interactive and improvisational," Cronk said.
Citing the fact that we all communicate nonverbally, Cronk believes that "everyone is a mime. They just don't have the techniques."
In a partnership with the Largo Community Center, Cronk will soon be offering local residents the opportunity to learn the techniques.
Beginning Saturday, the community center will feature an eight-week class on miming skills for high school students and adults. The class will culminate in a show for students to display their skills.
"When Charlie came to me with this idea, I said, 'I've been waiting for you,'" said Warren Ankerberg, the community center's director. "I've wanted to do this for a long time. It's a great addition to our clown school."
Clowns aren't the only people who are interested in learning mime.
"I've had senior citizens and acting students," Cronk said. "And I've even had bodybuilders take the class to improve their posedowns."