Written for The Argo by Rachel Rolle
The Mummenschanz act celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Stockton Performing Arts Center on Friday, October 21st. The play used a variety of fabrics to create personified characters; words were completely omitted, and only gestures elicited laughter.
Floriana Frassetto, Andres Bossard, and Bernie Schürch, the three Swiss founders of this brilliant play, shared this innovative work throughout the world, performing over 100 shows. The children in the audience laughed at the silliest of the on-stage enactments, and the adults understood the underlying poetic messages the group artfully depicted.
One act that reflected the artists’ imaginations was the plastic faces seemingly propped up by air. Most of the poetic pieces followed the trend of having pairs. In this particular story, the paired plastic characters were able to see each other perfectly because fans were blowing in the east and west. Without notice, the fan from the east cut off and ruined the dynamic of the lovers. Chaos hit; They ran forward, backward, and in circles to get that “feeling” back, but their efforts were unsuccessful. One of the lovers ran away, unable to withstand the resistance, and the other, not knowing the one left, kept trying but then realized the other had fled. In this realization, the remnant ran after their lover. Silence and remembrance of heartbreak replaced laughter.
The word Mummenschanz is German broken into “mummen” meaning to conceal or to mask. “Schanz” means to play on chance. From the writer’s interpretation, the play lives up to its name.