Mummenschanz and abstract choreography

Abstract Swedish theatre group Mummenschanz performed a variety of skits in the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. The group’s performance, called “You and Me,” was a combination of short skits that were aimed to entertain people of all ages. Jacob Summerville/The Lion’s Roar

The Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts welcomed a Swedish physical theatre group for a one-night performance.

Mummenschanz presented a production called “You and Me” on Wednesday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Co-Founder of Mummenschanz Floriana Frassetto explained that the company’s name is also the name of the performance technique. 

 

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Frassetto discussed the reason behind the performance’s title.

“‘You and Me’ is the title of the show, even though we’ve never really chosen titles,” said Frassetto. “There was ‘Next.’ There was ‘Parade.’ There was ‘Evolution.’ ‘You and Me’ this time, I really thought about it because I think you, as an audience, and me, as a creator, and performers can be entering a third dimension together, hand in hand, in which you have to imagine. So, it’s an intimate, emotional and creative world.”

The act started with a man drawing shapes on a projector board to create certain images, and he followed with bending wires into certain images. Following the projection act, a variety of skits followed, which included performers portraying giant hands, a caterpillar and box-shaped characters.

Residents of Baton Rouge Keith and Faye James shared their input of the show.

“I saw them many, many years ago when they came to LSU, and they’re just amazing,” said Keith James.

Faye James enjoyed the first act where the performer was drawing on the projector.

Keith James shared a difference from this act compared to the last Mummenschanz act he attended.

“I’m surprised it’s a silent show,” said Keith James. “I seem to remember long, long ago, there was music, but apparently it’s a totally silent show this tour, so it’s very neat.”

In the second part of the production, characters from the first act, along with new characters, filled the stage with more performances. 

After the show, Teacher of Talented Theater at Midway Elementary School Anna Pfeil shared why she attended this event.

“My husband’s the technical director, but he did the show about 30 years ago at Tulane University, so I was familiar with their work,” said Pfeil. “I was very, very excited that they were coming to the Columbia Theatre because their level of artistry is just amazing.”

Frassetto described the type of performance style one could see at their shows.

“It’s like watching a comic strip come alive,” said Frassetto. “It’s poetic. It’s interactive, and it’s knowledge. You can read it on so many levels that it’s not necessarily a reactionary thing. It’s something you have to analyze, and you have to want to play.”

Pfeil explained how choreography connected Mummenschanz to contemporary, American theatre while key differences differentiated the two.

“You’ve got choreography in both,” said Pfeil. “Even though it looks like they walk on stage and just are randomly doing things, it’s totally choreographed. It makes you focus on what they’re doing and not just the images but the thought that went behind it because there is no music to distract you. There are no big light changes or things like that. The lighting is very specific for the action that’s taking place on stage, and it’s thought provoking.”

Despite traveling very frequently, Frassetto stated that she is proud of the impact of her work.

“It’s not always easy to be on tour,” said Frassetto. “It’s not always fun to be away from home, to grow a child on the phone, but it’s something that you don’t forget easily, Mummenschanz, because it’s very abstract. It’s very quintessential, and there’s people who remember our show 40 years later that will come with their nieces and nephews and grandchildren, and I think that’s fantastic.”

Frassetto believes there are few shows able to entertain people of all ages, and she recalled an experience with an attendee after her previous performance.

“I had one gentleman come after the show,” said Frassetto. “He must have been in his eighties or so, and he said, ‘You know which was my favorite?’ and I said ‘No. The cube display? The worm?’ ‘No, the hoodies.’ So, it’s fantastic if you’re able to reach different nationalities and different ages. It’s an achievement.”

Deriving her choreography from sculpture, Frassetto stated that the company has lasted far beyond her expectations.

“We thought we would never last more than six days, and here we are 47 years later,” said Frassetto. 

 

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