Mummenschanz - A Worldwide Phenomenon Comes to Cumberland County
Mummenschanz. It’s sort of like Jello. Or Windex. Or a Kodak moment. What began in 1972 with three French performers who used masks, full-body costumes and movement—without sound or sets—is now synonymous with the art form they created.
As the Mummenschanz website tells us, “the trio offered an alternative … to the refined white-faced narrative pantomime and to the expressiveness of the classical dance.”
And on January 28, Mummenschanz brings their “wordless universe” to the Frank Guaracini Jr Fine & Performing Arts Center at Cumberland County College in Vineland.
“I had recently started in my position, and the deal to bring Mummenschanz to CCC was set in motion by my predecessor,” said Christopher Totoro, Assistant Director of the Performing Arts Center. “When he said we had a shot at having them here, I made sure we got it tied up.”
Totoro knows that presenting an international act of this stature at a South Jersey college is something of a coup.
“Nowhere on their tour is Mummenschanz playing a theater this size,” Totoro said.
The Performing Arts Center , a 500-seat hall, “is large enough so that we are able to attract bigger acts, but there is not a bad seat in the house.”
This makes the theater an ideal venue for Mummenschanz.
“Their performances are very interactive,” continued Totoro. “And, because our theater has such an intimate feel, they will be able to connect with the audience on a deeply personal level.”
Some might consider this match-up of Mummenschanz and CCC to be unlikely, but Totoro disagrees.
Since the Guaracini Art Center opened in 1995, the theater has continued to expand its offerings. “We always present professional tours,” said Totoro, “and our reputation in the arts community has been steadily growing over the years.”
This year’s schedule includes the five concerts by the Bay Atlantic Symphony, as well as children’s shows; Celtic and folk music; “The Song of Eva Perón” by Tango Buenos Aires; the Russian National Ballet performing “Cinderella;” and Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play (that’s right, the son of THAT Brubeck), a jazz/blues/folk infused group.
“There is no hard-and-fast formula for how acts are chosen,” Totoro explained. “We always do a dance program, different styles of music, a theatre piece, something international or multi-cultural and also the Symphony and family-time programs.”
For next year, Totoro already has heavy-hitters like the Vienna Boys Choir and the Paul Taylor Dance Company on the schedule.
“We try to keep it varied,” Totoro said.
Up until now, the primary source for Arts Center patrons has been the regional community. However, outreach activities like shows for local school students and Master Classes with visiting artists help bring the Arts Center to people’s attention.
And, because the line-up is consistently loaded with high-caliber, professional entertainment, the Arts Center is able to attract audiences from Philadelphia, New York and D.C.
“We have good crowds and our shows are popular,” Totoro said, “but we want to expand our reach.”
Mummenschanz will perform at the Frank Guaracini Jr Fine & Performing Arts Center at Cumberland County College in Vineland on January 28, 2015 7:30 p.m.