“Mummenschanz,” the masked Swiss theatrical troupe that has dazzled audiences on Broadway and worldwide with its whimsical moves, returns to New York this week with a show that looks back on four decades of surreal success.
Floriana Frassetto, the troupe’s Italian-born creator who founded the troupe with Bernie Schürch and Andres Bossard in 1972, calls the show, which hits the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University on Nov. 20, a “visual, ironic, interactive and playful” piece which “seduces and charms” with its diverse sketches.
In honor of their new tour’s New York stop, Frassetto spoke wih The Huffington Post, looking back on “Mummenschanz,” also known as "the musicians of silence," and its global achievements.
The Huffington Post: How has the show evolved since its inception in 1972?
Frasetto: We started out in the 1970s with the expectation that we’d be around for a couple of months. We performed in warehouses, in front of stores and every so often, we’d get a small engagement in a theater. We started out because we loved our work, and we just wanted to share it with an audience.
We never expected that we would have the success that we’ve had. Our first major success was in North America. And then we were on Broadway for three years, also not expecting to stick around that long.
What’s the most exciting thing about performing in New York City?
New York is very special because it’s a melting pot of cultures. You have all of these people who maybe don’t agree politically or with each other outside of the theater, but when they’re sitting in our show, they bring out their inner child. That’s so extraordinary at every performance. It’s fantastic.
The show is really determined by its audience…
We’re totally for the audience! We have no music, so you are our conductors. We have to tune into your rhythms, to your responses, and that’s why our show is always different. That’s very essential for our work.
How would you describe the ultimate message or vision of a “Mummenschanz” performance?
We don’t change anyone’s life, but we help you to let go for a couple of hours, with a lot of love and a lot of passion. Each one of you has to put in their personalized vision and emotion for the story to work. We [really believe] that less is more. We aim for the essence of communication, so that everyone can identify with our work very freely. That’s very important.
What’s your hope for “Mummenschanz,” looking forward?
I don’t think we’ll ever become a big show; I don’t think we’d ever do a musical. We’ll never be like Cirque du Soleil, but we want to have an intimacy with our audience. That was our choice in the beginning and I believe that’s how we’ll continue [but] we’re open to new experiences.
"Mummenschanz" performs at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University from Nov. 20 through 30. Head here for more information.