Wandering through an art museum or gallery, it's easy to understand - and feel the power of - the saying that "a picture is worth a 1,000 words." The way an artist captures a sunset, a smile or a blossoming sunflower in a photo or on a canvas can illicit an emotion, evoke a treasured memory, or take you to another place in time. I've felt that power and have been in awe after viewing many works of arts. And, now after being lucky enough to catch one of two 40th anniversary shows the Swiss physical theater company MUMMENSCHANZ performed in Chicago this past weekend, I have a new appreciation for that fine art as well. And, I have a new saying of my own... A "silent sketch performed by MUMMENSCHANZ's talented troupe brings out a 1,000 loud, boisterous and contagious laughs." Just like a painting, it's all done without hearing a single word or music note, and that to me is simply amazing.
One Cohesive Wave of Emotion Among the Crowd at MUMMENSCHANZ
I have to admit that when I usually take my seat at a performance, I typically don't pay that much attention to everyone else around me in the theater. Once the lights go down and the curtain goes up, I am solely focused on the story unfolding in front of me. But, I was surprised that that was not the case at all when I saw MUMMENSCHANZ. I'm not sure if it was the silence upon the stage or just the pure power of the motions evoked by something as simple as a comic, very personable tube or a undulating sheet of fabric, but something made me feel more connected to, and aware of, the people around me than ever before. And, I found myself gasping, cheering and laughing right along with them - and that made it all the more remarkable.
The sounds around me in the Harris Theater that day didn't distract me at all. Rather, it made me more clearly focus on the pure, shared emotions of my fellow theatre-goers. The loud laughter of an adult woman behind me just got me laughing a little louder. And, the shriek of joy from a child up in the front made me smiler even bigger. Together, the sights and sounds of the pure emotion around me just added to the experience. We all seemed to cheer together as one for the triangle, circle and square trying so hard to find a way to make a totem pole-like form. We all were amazed by the ability of one "masked" actor to mold the clay upon his head into a realistic elephant head. We were thrilled when the "blue" toilet-paper character won over the "pink" one. And, we all laughed with delight when a tube was able to catch a giant balloon sent back on stage by the audience. The experience was a never-ending roller coaster of fun emotions that didn't end until the performance group came on stage for their final bow.
Perfect for All Ages, Cultures and Beliefs
MUMMENSCHANZ is recommended for people age 6 to 106 and that cannot be more true. The sold-out Saturday matinee I caught this weekend was packed with people of all ages, all extracting their own thoughts and emotions from the silent performance up on stage. Everything was completely relatable and totally open to interpretation, making it perfect for anyone and everyone.
I spoke with Floriana Frassetto, a founding member of MUMMENSCHANZ, before she bid farewell to New York City and headed out for the Midwest leg of their 40th anniversary tour. During our conversation, she mentioned that the animated world the show creates helps to bring out the inner, playful child in all of us. And, now I know what she means. To me, MUMMENSCHANZ awakened my inner child who tends to be way too dormant these days as I stay focused on my family, work and life. But, I am so glad I had the chance to embrace it and witness it emerging in the adults around me too.
The children in the audience, who are so lucky to still be in synch with their inner, playful child, just shined even brighter as they took in the performance. And, their innocent laughter and the questions they whispered to their parents during the performance, only helped me welcome the visit from my own inner, playful child even more.
When we spoke, Ms. Frassetto also mentioned to me that because there are no spoken words, MUMMENSCHANZ performances appeal and are appropriate to virtually everyone around the world. After the hour I spent immersed in their performance, I see the truth and the beauty in that. And, to me, that makes it all the more powerful. It was nice for me to know that I most likely laughed at the same time or in the same place in the performance as another person half way around the world - no matter their age, background or beliefs.
Experience the Power of MUMMENSCHANZ and the Unspoken Word for Yourself
While the 40th anniversary tour of MUMMENSCHANZ has left Chicago, moving on to the rest of the remaining cities in its North American tour, I am sure the group will be back. I'm sure I'm not the only one that hopes the group has got at least another 40 years ahead of it.
If you didn't catch MUMMENSCHANZ here in Chicago last weekend, I encourage you to go online and watch the videos - by yourself, with your children, or others around you - and let the power of the unspoken word wash over you (and your inner child too). It's just that good.
Here's to world citizens - and the power of the unspoken word!
Filed under: Arts and Culture