Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brain Specks and Toilet Paper Masks



You know those images from childhood that float around your brain like doodles sitting on your desk that don't have a file to go into?  They're important and they mean something, but every time you grab for them, they float away like a speck in your water glass.  I have a bunch of those.  Every now and then, I try to identify them so I can file them away for future reference. 

One of my floating specks is a mysterious figure in black wearing a mask made of notepads.  Chew on that.  I decided to find out what it is so I can share it with you because every time I think about it; I get the feeling that it was one of my favorite Sesame Street memories.  So, it must be good.

Have you ever tried to search online for an image that has no labels?  I started with a Google Image search because, duh.  I searched and searched and searched with all the words I could imagine to describe this mask-wearing mime whom I saw only a handful of times, thirty-something years ago... sesame street, mime, performers, black leotards, 70s, performance artists, note pads.  No dice.  I almost gave up until I remembered another floating speck: the toilet paper mask.




Finally, the search for "sesame street performers toilet paper masks" produced this photo which contained the magic word, Mummenschanz

So, I found out that my mysterious mime is part of Mummenschanz, an acting/pantomime group from Switzerland founded in 1972, and the great news is they're still around and still perform around the world.  They've been called the "granddaddy of wordless, whimsical nonsense spectacles" by the New York Times.  I imagine they inspired groups like Blue Man Group.  But remember, folks--they did it first.  Maybe I'll get to see them one day.  Until then, I'm happy to report that they are filed under Sesame Street, right next to the Yip Yips.

And so for your viewing pleasure, my chickadees, I give you Mummenschanz:

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