Michael Cooper would tell you that behind every mask is a story. The talented storyteller and crafter of handmade masks has built a career on that premise. He will bring his one-man show, “Masked Marvels and Wondertales,” to the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Owens Community College at 2 p.m. Jan. 27.
The Maine native spent years honing his craft, including six years of theater training with a number of renowned mime teachers such as Etienne Decroux and Tony Montanaro. His show has been referred to as physical comedy, sometimes literally in the form of dance and also theater. He said he likes to think of it as a “moving sculpture.”
“I want to create wholesome uplifting entertainment that appeals to my audience’s sense of humanity,” he said.
In the past, Cooper has offered teaching residencies and workshops in mime, as well as beginner and master classes in mask making. Cooper’s basic techniques and illusions include “The Wall,” “The Finger Ripple,” “Walking In Place,” “Leaning on a Cane,” “The Stairs,” “The Ladder” and “Sitting in Air.” He received his degree in Peace Studies from Goddard College in Vermont.
He has taken his act to venues all over the world, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Hong Kong International Children’s Festival, The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the Dublin Theater Festival, Great Woods, the Eugene O’Neill Theater, Bass Performance Hall and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Cooper, who can spend as much as 300 hours crafting a single mask for his show out of paper or cloth, also asks himself a series of educational questions before each performance.
These can deal with things such as the impact his dance routine will have on kids and if he has put in enough rehearsal time. While he does want to bring a sense of awe and wonder to his audience, he said he also likes to remind himself that he doesn’t do what he does merely to impress, but also share the true sense of joy he feels every time performs for an audience.
“Masked Marvels and Wondertales” is a WGTE-sponsored event and is part of Owens 2007-08 Family Fun Sunday Series. Tickets are $10. For a full schedule of Michael Cooper’s upcoming shows, visit www.
For more information, call (567) 661-2787 or visit www.owens.edu/arts/index.html.