It’s hard to describe a performance of the live puppetry theater group Mummenschanz and truly capture the oddball physicality and playful creativity of the everyday objects and abstract shapes they animate. Given that there are no words or music, it’s only physical expression that makes these creatures come alive. But that’s also what makes the performances so universally entertaining.
Swiss-American artist Floriana Frassetto is a founding member of the theater group, which has been touring the world for almost four decades.
“Our music is the ‘ooohs and ahhhs’ and laughter and comments,” she explains. “There are different rhythms to the different audiences throughout the world — who of course are reflecting their culture. Americans, they are very quick at bringing out their playfulness and finding that playful child within them. Germans might be a little bit slower and Iranians will be quieter — it will be a little more intense.”
One thing that can be universal, however, is the reaction children have at the end of each performance when Frassetto and cohort Bernie Schurch reveal themselves.
“We’re still very agile,” Frassetto says with a smile in her voice. “It’s interesting when we take off our hoods at the end of the show and the kids see that we have white hair, they look like, ‘Oh my god! She looks like my grandmother! He looks like my grandfather! And they’re still rolling around and jumping around like kids!’ It’s our life, so we enjoy doing it.”