Mime Delights Audience
With Medley Of Characters - Animal And Human Alike

by Kay Liss,
The Lincoln County News

Monday, March 2nd, 2009
Mime Delights Image
(Photo Right) Mime-dancer Karen Montanaro
entertained a full house last
weekend at the Parker B. Poe Theater.

To be able to portray a lizard as convincingly as an aging gunslinger, without any sounds or words, is undeniably a feat of great imagination. Karen Montanaro, an internationally known mime-dancer, entertained a full house with such diverse characterizations last Friday at the Parker B. Poe Theater, Lincoln Academy, in Newcastle.

A former ballet dancer who said she had struggled with the rigors of ballet, which demands such perfection of the body, Montanaro related that when she first discovered mime at the age of 27, she had a liberating epiphany: "I always thought movement came from the body and then I realized it comes more from the imagination."

"Ballet is supposed to be beautiful. I spent the first 10 years of my career trying to be beautiful. Now I don't care about that.... I can be anything I want to be."

And she certainly can. The lizard was one of the most impressive depictions among a whole wide-ranging fabulous cast of characters. She had the slow motion, pigeon-toed gait down to perfection, along with the extended neck, tautly alert facial muscles and darting little tongue.

The tiger was another amazing animal portrayal: the fluid gait of this elegant, regal cat was captivating. In a demonstration of how fertile her imagination is, she twirled and flicked her foot to portray the tiger's tail.

How such a relatively petite and delicately featured red-haired woman could portray an aging gunslinger and a baseball player was no less impressive. All of the movements we remember from classic westerns, with a touch of added flourish to give a solo performance more weight, were presented. What gave the performance even more dramatic substance was the pathos Montanaro managed to create in this character, still waving his guns and throwing his lasso determinedly but almost pathetic in his stiff-limbed and diminished capacity.

In the baseball player, she played all of the roles - hitter, catcher, and pitcher, a sketch she said she learned from Tony Montanaro, her mentor and husband. It was the pitcher that really stole the show, however, complete with all the gestures of tobacco-chewing and a truly remarkable body-twisting wind-up.

The babysitter sketch, a more involved story than most of the others in which she also played all the roles - the baby, the sitter, and the parents - was hilarious.

Although many of the mime skits involved some dance as well, the second and shorter part of the program was devoted purely to dance pieces.

They were well-done and interesting, especially her attempt to combine belly dancing with dancing on point, almost impossible to pull off in a coherent fashion, but they were not as impressive as the mime pieces. Nevertheless, they demonstrated her solid ability as a dancer and added a dimension to her performance.

Tony Montanaro was a famous mime who studied with Marcel Marceau and introduced Karen to the art of mime. She told the audience afterward that when she met him, she was "depressed" about her life as a ballerina and, with one demonstration of mime, her life changed: "Then I became happy."

They married, she in her 20s and he 60. They had 15 wonderful years together, she said. He passed away about six years ago, but it's abundantly clear that the spirit of creativity and playfulness he inspired in her continues to live through her work.

In addition to the public performance presented by Heartwood Regional Theater Company, Montanaro taught mime classes at Great Salt Bay School in Damariscotta as part of the company's Heartwood Goes to School program.

One sixth grader, Angus Fake, said he really enjoyed the class, learning how to "moon walk" and how to imagine climbing an invisible ladder. He said he's looking forward to Montanaro coming back this summer for Heartwood's summer camp classes.

Perhaps the community will also be treated to another performance of this immensely talented mime-dancer.

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