Swiss company specializing in visual and object theatre, mask and mime. Mummenschanz was established in 1972 and is based in Altstätten in the Canton of Saint-Gall. It was set up by three actors and mime artists: Andres Bossard and Bernie Schürch, both Swiss, and Floriana Frassetto, an Italian American. Bossard and Schürch were trained at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris; Frasseto studied at the Roy Bosier School and the Alessandro Fersen International Academy in Rome.
They presented their first show at the Festival of Avignon in 1972. The completely silent puppet production was entitled Mummenschanz, a title derived from the German and Swiss masquerade tradition. This show, the start of their long partnership, was a great success. They moved to the United States in 1977, launched by a theatre critic who was in total admiration of the impossible-to-classify character of their productions, and retained a place of pride on the playbills of the Bijou Theatre on Broadway for the next three years.
After the death of Andres Bossard in 1992, the company not only continued its work but also enlarged its repertoire when the Danish mime artist, Jakob Bentsen, and the Italian dancer and choreographer, Raffaella Mattioli, joined the troupe. The company travelled widely, playing in Europe, South America and Asia. Their productions without words are a mix of masks, mime, dance and object theatre. The actors are often completely hidden behind the “heads/objects”, or concealed within the “body masks”, over-sized costume puppets made of a coloured foam rubber on a black background. The entire body can actually “inhabit” the costume/mask, which could be a representation, more or less figurative, of a face or of a part of a face. This “live” puppet moves in disconcerting or comical ways that sometimes come within a hair’s breadth of being purely abstract.
In 1988, the troupe established a foundation that allowed it to tap several sources for aid or sponsorship, and also to start puppetry classes and workshops for young people. Among their many productions one must mention Parade (created in 1993 and dedicated to Andres Bossard), Next (1998) and 3 x 11, a retrospective of thirty-three years of creating theatre.
- Kotte, Andreas, Simone Gojan, Joël Aguet, and Pierre Lepori, eds. Theaterlexikon der Schweiz/Dictionnaire du théâtre en Suisse/Dizionario teatrale svizzero/Lexicon da teater svizzer. Berne: Chronos, 2005. (In German, French, Italian, Romansh)