Portraits

By Don L. Searle


Cesar Aedo: Storyteller without Words

He draws himself up to his full five-feet-five-inches, squares his slim shoulders, puts on a fierce scowl, and becomes the proud, hulking Goliath, defying the Hebrew armies. The next second, he is young David, tripping lightly over the hillside with his sling.

Then, just as quickly, he becomes a weary pioneer drawing his heavily loaded handcart across the American plains. The straining, flexed biceps and every labored step of his muscular legs bespeak struggle.

No words are spoken, but one hears in the heart, and understands.

Cesar Aedo is a mime, rapidly becoming well-known in Europe. A former pupil of French master Marcel Marceau, he has performed publicly and on television in Germany, France, and Switzerland, as well as in several countries of South and Central America. In May of 1984, he made his American debut. Now he has signed a contract with one of western Europe’s top circuses, Circus KNIE.

On and offstage, he seems energetic, spontaneous, intense. It becomes apparent in hearing him talk of his background that the intensity he puts into performing is typical of the commitment he has put into all the other things he considers worthwhile in life.

Brother Aedo is a returned missionary, a native of Lima, Peru. It was a struggle for his father, a tailor, to provide basic necessities for his large family. But young Cesar was very eager to obtain an education, and to obey the prophet’s counsel that he should go on a mission. He knew it would require his own effort to enjoy these blessings. So—as the story was told in a 1982 Primary manual—he worked washing and polishing cars near his school to pay for his own schooling and, afterward, for the mission. The mission meant so much to him that he would not allow a bout with appendicitis to keep him down for long. Five days after surgery, he was back teaching and tracting. “I have work to do. I am a missionary,” he explained matter-of-factly.

After his mission, he studied sociology at Villareal University in Lima. But his first love was the performing arts, so he studied those too. In fact, his study of performing had begun much earlier, at age six. He faithfully attended religious instruction classes in the church to which he then belonged because afterward there were old movies for the youngsters, and he was enthralled by the silent film comedy of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd. Cesar was nine when missionaries brought the gospel to his family. By age eleven, he was performing in his LDS branch’s talent shows.

After studying at Villareal University, Brother Aedo wanted to go to Europe for more advanced schooling in political science. He worked his way through several South and Central American countries performing as a mime until he had saved enough money to fly to Europe. “I went to Europe on my talent, nothing more,” he recalls.

A series of events he considers providential prevented him from enrolling immediately. He spent several weeks in late 1979 and early 1980 visiting with his sister in Geneva, Switzerland—long enough to determine that instead of political science he wanted to study mime with the man who is widely recognized as the master. Brother Aedo knew that through his faith it would happen, if he persevered. So he returned to Paris and was persistent enough that he was finally able to see Marcel Marceau and become one of his pupils.

He spent three years studying with Monsieur Marceau—not only the art of mime, but also dramatic art, classical and modern dance, acrobatics, and fencing. He was one of the few pupils able to earn his tuition and expenses through weekend performances and summer touring. Now he is studying with the man who taught the master, Monsieur Marceau’s eighty-six-year-old mentor, Etienne Decroux. He is also continuing his study of classical dance.

Comedy is a major part of his art. One of his distinctive sketches depicts a traveler who cannot leave because his overloaded suitcase will not budge. The suitcase hangs in air at the end of the mime’s arm, all the exertions of his body seemingly unable to move it—until he opens the bag and throws out one handkerchief!

His art also has its serious side. “I have much faith in Christ,” he emphasized in his imperfect English, adding that talent is given to us on earth to help others, as the Savior taught. Brother Aedo uses his talent to help in obvious ways, by bringing cheer to others and, he hopes, by portraying uplifting aspects of life.

He likes to dramatize some of the stories of the scriptures. Typically, he illustrates with a demonstration. First, he is the humble, saintly brother making his offering to God, and then he is the proud, jealous, cruel one. An observer can feel the piety of Abel and the wrath of Cain.

Cesar Aedo’s art has also helped others in some very tangible ways. Through performing, he has been able to support one of his brothers on a mission to Canada and to bring two other brothers to Paris for schooling.

“I have been able to help all my family. I don’t want to praise myself; I owe thanks to God that I have been able to do this.”

Now thirty, he attends the Paris Singles Ward. Though his life to this point has been full of work, study, and service to others, he looks forward to marrying and building a family.

“Ya viene,” is his expression, common in Spanish-speaking countries. “It will come.”

Carla Bateman: Never Weary in Well-Doing

Christmas Eve 1933 in Lovell, Wyoming, was uncomfortably cold. Snow piled itself in immovable mounds around the Carlton farmhouse. Six-year-old Carla sat by the frosted window alternating her interest between the holiday evergreen, adorned with decorations she had helped make, and the brilliant fire in the fireplace.

Her contentment was interrupted by the ringing kitchen phone. It was a call to her mother the ward Relief Society president: a family with five small children had moved into the abandoned shack in the foothills outside the town limits. They had arrived with next to nothing and no way to obtain the items they badly needed.

Now, more than fifty years later, Carla Carlton Bateman still remembers spending that Christmas Eve with her mother visiting ward members and neighbors, gathering food, clothing, and bedding to take to the family.

“The expression of love and service offered by my mother that night has been unforgettable,” she says. “All my life I watched my mother and father hand out unconditional service. We got involved because of the teachings of the Church, and it became a family thing. It has since become a way of life for me.”

Carla Bateman has made it so by actively seeking opportunities to serve. Today her name means compassionate service to hundreds of residents of Plano, Texas, a community near Dallas that is now her home. The city named her 1982 “Volunteer of the Year.”

“She does an outstanding job of being there when others need her,” her daughter Marsha comments. One of her many friends adds: “She looks beyond the mechanics of service and gets involved with mental and emotional needs as well.”

When Carla and her husband, Bryce, moved to Plano, the youngest of their three children was in first grade and she could see time in her life that could be given to others. “I immediately began doing several small things to let others in the community know I was available. I joined the school’s parent-teacher organization, managed the school carnival, and helped the teachers and librarians.”

Soon her volunteer efforts were recognized by school administration officials and she was offered a full-time position as a school nurse (a position she still holds). The appointment led her to “the longest-running and most rewarding project I have been involved with,” she says. Her supervisor, the director of Health Services for the school district, ran a program called People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH)—a Christmas service program—out of her own living room. “She provided the entire Christmas for many of the poor” in Plano, which was then much smaller, Sister Bateman recalls. It was not long until Carla Bateman was involved in the program. Currently cochairman of PUSH, she notes gratefully that it draws hundreds of volunteers from throughout the community, including many Latter-day Saints. PUSH now provides gifts, trees, and meals for more than 250 needy families at Christmastime.

Sister Bateman is also treasurer and secretary of the Plano Salvation Army, a founding board member of the Plano Crisis Center, a board member of the Collin County American Heart Association, and a volunteer at local nursing homes.

“People are her hobby,” commented Julia Grenier, Plano’s 1981 “Volunteer of the Year,” at the ceremony honoring Sister Bateman as the 1982 recipient of the award. “I have never heard her say she is too busy.”

Being widely known for volunteer work enables her to accomplish things that otherwise might not be possible. Once, for example, she received a call about a young mother who had been abandoned by her husband at a nearby motel, without money or food for her children. Through her contacts, Sister Bateman obtained money for food and bus tickets home.

In everything she does, Sister Bateman, who is Relief Society president in her ward, calls on principles she has learned through years of Church service. “I have worked in every program of the Church and have been taught the effective use of delegation, leadership, lines of authority, and, most important, the necessity of order in all things,” she reflects.

Inevitably, she has sometimes been the focus of public attention (though she would rather see the spotlight turned on her projects). One newspaper article called her an “efficient angel of mercy.” The fact that she is a Latter-day Saint comes up frequently. She makes no secret of her love for the gospel. “The Savior taught love and service through his words and his actions,” Sister Bateman explains. “I try to emulate his example by reaching out to anyone who expresses a need, even to those who are in need but remain silent.”

Her example is not lost on others. One non-LDS friend who runs a clothing store for the needy comments, “Carla lives her religion better than anyone I know.”

[photos] Photos courtesy of the Plano Star Courier.

Susan C. Cobb, mother of two, serves as a regional public communications assistant and as a visiting teaching supervisor in her Plano, Texas, ward.