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Old 12-15-02, 08:01 PM   #1
Jim
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Default Tony Montanaro 1927-2002

This is from Michael Rosman:

Tony Montanaro passed away this past Friday Dec 13. at his home in Maine. Tony, will be remembered for his great talent and for his many accomplishments. I am grateful for the workshopsspamand performances he gave at MotionFest 2000 and 2001. Please remember him and his family during this difficult time.

Cards, Flowers and Sympathy cards can be sent to:

Karen Montanaro.
5 Riggs Rd.
Casco, ME 04015

http://www.mimetheatre.com/
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For anyone who ever met, watched or had the special experience of taking a class with Tony, this is very sad news. He really will be missed by many people. If you were ever touched by Tony or his work, please take the time and say a few words here. And I'm sure Karen and his family would be grateful for any kind words and condolences sent directly to them at the above address.

Thank you, Tony.

Jim
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Old 12-15-02, 09:30 PM   #2
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I met Tony Montanaro last year at motionfest.
He taught a class I took.
He was an old man with all the frank fearless self inquiry age lends to the brave. He explained the different attitudes and motivations he had applied to teaching performance and in doing so illustrated his own distillation of what was important to him as a teacher.
He enjoyed the prospect of being surprised by interesting developments brought about by him changing or adding new directions in his and otherís work.
He, after so long and illustrious a career, still had that faith that surpassed his otherwise honestly wry outlook.
His curiosity and energy in pursuit of the novel, in spite of his own admission that, Ďvery rarely do I see anything in my classes that truly surprises me anymore Ď (or words to that effect) stuck me as either a canny piece of preemptive calming to deflect overacting, or the words of an honest man still questioning his lot.
He had a humility that seemed only to be able to exist by the conscious stifling of a huge arrogance.
He ,who had mastered abstraction , devoted his life to the production of childish delight tempered by evoking pain and pathos, but ultimately I felt laughter was his goal and message.
I saw him perform and he made me laugh.
I love people who do that for me, and he will always exist as a part of the laughter I emit until I in turn pass away.
Because that's the way it works.
The sadness will never eclipse the enrichment
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Old 12-15-02, 11:07 PM   #3
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I met Tony in 1982, upstairs at The Summit House in Boston ... he brought tears to my eyes ... today, he did the same.
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Old 12-16-02, 01:57 AM   #4
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I was 17 when I took Tony's two week beginers workshop in Maine, and he was my first variety arts teacher. He told me to focus, and he wore me out physicly. It taught me a lot, my first introduction to the basics of performing my own material.
I took the beginers class again the next year and it was still great.
At the time I really didn't know what I was learning.
I wish he could see me now. I wish I could thank him now.
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Old 12-16-02, 06:04 AM   #5
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I never heard from him.
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Old 12-16-02, 07:39 AM   #6
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My four-week stay at The Celebration Barn had been such a positive experience the year before that in 1990, I signed up for all of the workshops spanning the entire summer. I scraped together the tuition, left my wife back in Indiana, and ventured to Maine for workshops in theater, story telling, stage combat, Comedia, voice, and mime. That was the first year that I met Tony Montanaro.

I distinctly remember his first words to me. I was sitting with the rest of the students in the theater seats at the Barn while he was introducing himself to us to start the next week's workshop on mime and story telling. I had heard a great deal about Tony from other people, and in other workshops, and I was so very excited to take his workshops. After all, I felt like I already knew him, because if the workshops that I had taken taught by his students were so successful, imaging how much better it must be with the teacherís teacher!

As we sat there, Tony went around to each of us and told us what he saw in us in spite of having not actually met any of us yet. He would look each student in the eye and give his first impression. I was about sixth or seventh down the line, and although the images that he said he could see in the other students were things like "I see in you a fire...", or "I see you're a nurturer...", he looked straight at me and said "I see in you a challenge."

Little did he know, for I never told him, what an impact that had. After all, hadn't I signed up for every workshop for the entire season? Hadn't I been early for every class for weeks on end? I literally worshiped the Celebration Barn and it's ideals, and here I was working with the man behind all of this and I am perceived as a "challengeĒ? What the hell was it about my disposition that continually put people on the defensive?

For the next three weeks, I embraced Tony's teachings and techniques, all the while trying to be a model student. I wasnít about to give him the satisfaction of proving his first impression correct, for it wasn't possible for there to have been anyone else there at that time who wanted to be working in the Barn more than I did. Tonyís soft-spoken dialogue, and meticulous attention to detail, was just the sort of thing I could relate to. I even enjoyed hearing anticdotal stories over and over. (One of the things that I will never forget about Tony was the stories! Over the years I heard the same tales repeated again and again, sometimes duplicated in the same workshop. Tony taught so many classes, that he would forget what he had said at which one! I never would have dreamed of breaching the teacher/student relationship by pointing this out, so each time I would have to pretend, look interested, and act like I was hearing about Marceau for the first time...)

I wrote, and performed my first mime piece that summer. It was quite a new experience for me as a professional juggler to go on stage without any props and rely on a dramatic through line to carry the audience. My first mime was called "Seasons", and although I was very comfortable telling jokes and juggling for the crowed, this mime piece represented my first attempt to perform anything with a serious message. The student recital came on the Friday night after a week of classes, and at the conclusion of Seasons, I remember Tony coming on stage after me while the audience clapped and announced, "Can you believe that? That was Steve's first mime!" His excitement and glowing support was so contagious that it no longer mattered if the piece I had presented to the audience that night was good or bad. Tony had seen something in it and that was all I needed to know as the audience roared.

I went back to the Barn, and to Tony, several times over the next years. The last time I saw him was at MotionFest in 2000. I had initially signed up for his workshop and someone elseís, but decided to take Tonyís twice. Really, I felt that the opportunity to simply spend time with this great father figure was too good to pass up.

Itís no doubt that Tony had an eye for theater. He could look at anything on the stage and fix it - even when nobody else knew it was broken. But once he would tweak it, everyone would smile that "why didnít I see that?" smile. He was a man who could see the ever-elusive "a-ha!"

I can easily think of quotes that he told to me over the years. I am sure that he had no idea how significant some of these phrases were to me, or how influential they became, because for him, he was just stating what he saw and thought at the time. The stream of wisdom and creative observations that came out of that man's head was non-stop. But rather than list them all, for I think I can recall at least a dozen specific phrases, I will share the most significant, and it is probably something that he said to me only in passing, having no idea that it would change my perspective on my career as a juggler forever.

"A juggler should deal with every prop in his world as a juggler."

We were chatting on the barn stage, I was wearing my black sweat pants and T-shirt, as he casually told me he thought that a juggler should have to deal with every prop that exists on the stage as a juggler. This simple concept has stuck with me, and is one that I hold dear to my heart, for even as simple an idea as it may sound, to me it opened up a vast world of how a juggler and character-work on the stage could be merged. With that idea in mind, there are no prop stands; there arenít even "props"! Everyday objects become things that the juggler uses. The concept pulled me away from thinking about juggling as being the manipulation of objects, to thinking about juggling as being a story about the juggler.

Yes, the most profound idea about my craft was told to me by someone who wasn't even a juggler.

It wouldn't surprise me to hear that this means nothing to anyone else. The fact is, it means a great deal to me, and has influenced my perception of my own performing.

Tony often spoke about the importance of maintaining a circle of friends. Though this lecture (which I heard several times) was geared to creating performing opportunities by networking, I always got the sense that he believed in spreading his circle of friends for spiritual reasons as well. Religious affiliations aside, the man exuded spirituality. I don't know what to call it, whether it is "good karma", or an "enlightened aura", or simply a "rosy disposition", but when Tony walked into the room, everyone felt the energy.

Even in passing, Tony has me thinking again. Although his presence will surely be missed, he has made me consider the significance of leaving a legacy on this earth that outlasts a lifetime.

Tonyís legacy will endure for longer than I will know. In addition to all of the classes that I was privileged to take with him, I have taken as many more again with his students; students who are now great instructors in their own right, heralding in new generations of performers and creators.

To share lifeís energy with an audience from the stage has to be one of the most beautiful things I can think of. The live-theater experience is fleeting; lasting only a short time, yet has such an emotional impact on everyone in the collective experience. When the curtain falls, there is nothing more tangible than the echo of laughter and applause.

Tony shared his lifeís energy, and though the curtain has now drawn to a close, there is so much more left behind than a simple echo. Tonyís legacy lives on in his teachings, his writings, his school, his family, and in me.

Steven Ragatz
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Old 12-18-02, 01:47 PM   #7
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From today's Boston Globe, Thanks to Stephen Baird for finding it...

Tony Montanaro, 75; sought to turn mime into art form
By Tom Long, Globe Staff, 12/18/2002

Tony Montanaro, 75, a mime who helped elevate his medium from entertainment to art, died of stomach cancer Friday in his home in Casco, Maine.


Mr. Montanaro was not a trapped-in-a-telephone booth mime - he had a more artistic vision of the discipline that he sometimes called ''visual music'' or ''eloquent gesture.''

''When most people think of mime, they think of pantomime, like Marcel Marceau, a pantomimist projecting a convention, say: walking against the wind,'' said Paul J. Curtis, founder and director of The American Mime Theater, a group committed to the development of American mime as a separate art form.

''Tony fused acting methods and the science of movement in a way that very few did,'' said Curtis. ''He was among the few people in the 20th century who were actually trying to formulate an indigenous art form.''

So what does that mean to the average theatergoer?

''There was no easy way to put into words what he did,'' said Mr. Montanaro's third wife, ballet dancer and fellow mime Karen Hurll Montanaro, with whom he cowrote the 1996 book ''Mime Spoken Here.'' ''Believe me, if we did [manage to explain his technique], he would have been performing in front of millions, not thousands.

''He had an economy of movement that was magical. He got completely lost in what he was doing. The first time I saw him perform I had a giggle in the deepest part of my body,'' said Mrs. Montanaro, who met her husband in 1987, when she was playing the Sugar Plum Fairy and he was Drosselmeyer in a Portland, Maine, production of ''The Nutcracker.''

''Honesty and believability are the most important elements comprising the art of mime,'' Mr. Montanaro wrote in ''Mime Spoken Here.''

He expanded on the subject in a story published last year in the Portland Phoenix. ''You have to be eloquent physically,'' he said. ''Your legs, everything, has to be eloquent. You can add words or not, I don't give a crap. That's what it's all about.''

Mr. Montanaro was born in Paulsboro, N.J. He earned a degree in theater from Columbia University and began performing in summer stock theater.

''The only way I could get ahold of girls was through the theater,'' he said last year. ''I couldn't do the football thing - I'm no athlete. I was 4-foot-11 as a freshman. My aping around and gesturing got people's attention. I was a mover - I was a funny kid. I got away with it, so I kept doing it.''

Mr. Montanaro became interested in mime after he attended a performance by Marceau in 1956. He studied in France with Marceau and Marceau's teacher, Etienne Decroux.

In the 1960s, he was host of a Philadelphia-based nationally broadcast public TV program, ''Pretendo.'' According to a brochure released by the station, the show's purpose was to ''teach simple techniques that demonstrate that imaginations can be moved from the plane of `I wish' to `I can' and `I do.'''

In 1971, Mr. Montanaro moved to Paris, Maine, where he taught mime in a converted pig barn. Over the years, he taught hundreds, including Sesame Street puppeteers, members of the new vaudeville theatrical movement, and jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant in the big red structure he called Celebration Barn.

He continued to teach and perform sporadically after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in May 2001.

''I can't do some of the things I used to,'' he told the Phoenix. ''I can't do flight. I can't do chickens because I can't get my chest out. I can't do a monkey because I can't do the floor slides.''

Besides his third wife, he leaves his former wife, Pam; and their six children, Christopher, Kavi, Adam, Gabriel, Lisa, and Lara; another former wife, Lahiila-lai; and their two sons, Jovin and Raman; a brother, Joseph; and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned.

This story ran on page A39 of the Boston Globe on 12/18/2002.
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Old 01-09-03, 10:09 AM   #8
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Thanks for posting that Jim....

I took a workshop with Tony in 1995 and it was a great experience. For me, what impressed me most about Tony was his complete mastery and ability to take any subject and create an interesting mime/play about it. In performance, he used to take requests. A subject that would seem ordinary and uninspired, Tony would say Yes to, and make it a brilliant and exciting piece of work. Eating a peach, going up to the attic, applying for a job...Subjects that I would turn up my nose at, and say "Where's the drama, where's the interest, where's the excitement?" Tony could take any of those subjects (and many others) and turn them into works of art.

His endless invention and willingness to perform any subject were just two of his many gifts. But they are the ones that I took home with me, and the ones that have and will continue to serve as inspirations.
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Old 01-29-03, 10:11 AM   #9
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Here is information regarding the memorial service for Tony:

Date: January 31
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: State Street Church 159 State Street, Portland, ME (207-774-6396).

A reception will follow at the Portland Club.

For more info go to http://www.mimetheatre.com
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