The sights and sounds of silence: Swiss performance group takes Van Meter’s stage

Mummenschanz, a Swiss performance group, were a part of the Cultural Enhancement Series in Van Meter Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015.


Creativity and imagination are two fundamental ideas present in a Mummenschanz production. On stage, lights and shapes tell a story – a story with no words, but plenty of heart.

Following Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent visit to campus last week, the WKU Cultural Enhancement Series brought another performance to the stage of Van Meter Hall on Feb. 10, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.

Mummenschanz describes itself as Swiss Mime-Masque Theater and uses several shapes, masks and lights to tell their stories.

Over the course of the group’s 40-year history, they have been featured on programs like the “Muppet Show,” and later even appeared on Broadway for three years. 

David Lee, chair of the Cultural Enhancement Series Committee and dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters, was excited for the group to visit WKU.

“They’re a really unique troupe,” he said. “Nobody else in the world really does anything quite like what they do.”

Shannon Quigley, a theatre major from Louisville, was happy to have the opportunity to see something new.

“I’ve never seen a show like this,” she said before the performance. “I’ve only seen straight plays and musicals, so I’m interested in what kind of style this will be.”

When the lights began to dim, the audience fell silent.

The silence did not last long, though.

While the performance featured no musical accompaniment, the reactions of the audience filled the theater as children giggled and adults chuckled.

To begin the performance, two stagehands – literally – pulled the curtains open.

Two life-size hands made their entrance, pointing and high-fiving each other. From that point on, the group proceeded to bring life to several seemingly inanimate objects.

Ultimately, each scene typically had an underlying meaning behind it.

Haley Reed, a junior studying political science and international affairs, enjoyed the social commentary in the performance.

“I thought it was really interesting and creative,” she said. “I thought the relationship with the toilet paper people was interesting. That one was my favorite.”

The scene in question involved two people with heads made from toilet paper rings. One individual had blue toilet paper, while the other possessed pink. From there, the audience watched the pair’s relationship develop through the use of toilet paper to indicate their thoughts and emotions.

Some of the messages throughout the night involved teamwork and overcoming obstacles. At one point, a square, circle and triangle rolled onto the stage. Working together, they managed to climb on top of each other despite the difficult angles.

Identity was another common theme in the night’s performance. At several intervals, the characters on stage would reshape themselves to compete with others rather than preserving their own concept of self.

Additionally, one of the concluding images featured a spark of light being captured.

At the conclusion of the performance, after the members of Mummenschanz took their final bows, the audience was left to interpret what they had seen on their own terms as they made their way out of the theater.