Montanaro's Legacy Attracts 50,000 Visitors
- August 31, 2023
MIME’S TRIBUTE WEBSITE RANKS #2 ON GOOGLE WITH 50,000 VISITORS SINCE 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14th, 2023
The renowned late mime, director and teacher, Tony Montanaro, lives on through MIMESPOKENHERE.COM a website founded by a former student of Tony Montanaro. Maine touring artist Michael Menes, with initial support from Tony Montanaro’s widow and performing partner, Karen Hurll-Montanaro, spent close to two years developing the website-platform. Type into your browser, “TONY MONTANARO MIME,” and the #1 search result is his Wikipedia page that describes the many achievements of the mime master, teacher and author who is widely celebrated in Maine and beyond for his contributions to the art form of mime. Underneath Wikipedia is the #2 website search result… MIMESPOKENHERE.COM.
Tony Montanaro passed in 2002 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer. In Maine, Montanaro is often associated with the Celebration Barn Theater, a school he founded in 1972 which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. It has become a nationally recognized school for physical theater and clowning. The Barn (www.celebrationbarn.com) continues to hold summer workshops and performances each summer in South Paris, Maine. However, in this search, the Barn’s website appears at a distant #24 which is understandable as the website shares little of Tony Montanaro’s achievements and is tasked with promoting various school functions, local performances and fundraising. In truth, establishing the Celebration Barn is merely the tip of the iceberg concerning Tony Montanaro’s legacy. Tony founded other studios, performing venues, award winning television shows and touring companies while raising a large family. He taught through many other institutions throughout his industrious career both nationally and internationally. His legacy was never about one location, it was about art, students, audiences, family, friends and perhaps what could be described as an intense desire to comprehend the intricacies of life. As a mime, he contributed broadly to the art form by providing extraordinary depth and clarity to the process of creating physical theater and pioneering remarkable approaches to authenticity and techniques in improvising theater. Many artists, teachers and directors who learned his methods continue to share them with future generations. The focus of the legacy website according to founder Michael Menes, is “concerned with the late teacher’s legacy beyond 190 Stock Farm Road in South Paris.”
A professional juggler, media designer and entrepreneur who built his own year-round facility in the Oxford Hills Region of Maine near Celebration Barn, Menes started working on the website in the fall of 2021. He completed the site in 2022 having applied for funding to the Maine Arts Commission for the project. The Commission acknowledged that the submission was deserving of funding but under the guidance of David Greenham and Davis Robinson asserted that insufficient funds did not allow the submission to technically receive an award. The initial idea had been proposed by Tony’s widow in the years following his passing and the materials such as photographs and videos for the website were donated by Karen Hurll-Montanaro. Funds were raised privately from many contributors along with donated materials such as photographs, articles and other media. Mike Seliger, also a former student of Montanaro and co-publisher of the MIME TIMES, was instrumental in locating missing publications that were critical in restoring the full historical record of the MIME TIMES, a series of newsletters that spanned the 1970’s and 1980’s. The collection includes a 24 page tribute MIME TIMES publication created for Tony Montanaro’s memorial service in 2003. The complete archive of over 200 digitally restored pages can be browsed for free on the website in its entirety. (https://mimespokenhere.com/mime-times/) The website also contains the 50 page thesis of Paul Werner titled “The Mime Theory of Tony Montanaro” and offers visitors a free “Tony’s Tips on Mime Booklet” if they join the mailing list.
The catch phrase “Mime Spoken Here” was often used by Montanaro to describe his lectures which were perhaps as fascinating as his theatrical abilities. He would manifest characters, impersonate animals and spontaneously produce complete and perfect sketches out of thin air with little apparent preparation. He had the uncanny wizard-like ability to jump into a student’s material and bring it to life instantaneously at the amazement of the student who had worked the material for years. He later went on to use the phrase “Mime Spoken Here” to coin the title of his book and mime courses. Menes, designer of the site, describes his roll as “caretaker” and does not receive a salary for the work. The site is a community project which is aimed at the preservation of the contributions that were made by Montanaro to the field of mime and improvisation of which Montanaro had many astounding insights. In 2021, when the floppy disk of the Microsoft Word file of his book could not be located, Menes donated his services to painstakingly retype and reformat the 254 page book. The book, MIME SPOKEN HERE, A Performers Portable Workshop, was co-authored by Karen Hurll-Montanaro and published in 1995 by Tilbury House Publishers of Gardiner. It had been out of print for many years. The new digital edition is available on Amazon and Apple Books. (https://mimespokenhere.com/book/)
The website also hosts Montanaro’s mime courses and two documentary films, one produced in 2005 by Leland Faulkner, Richard Searles and filmmaker Huey titled Theatre & Inspiration. The other is a 1966 documentary by Robert Rosen and Arthur Miller titled The Mime. There’s also an online store of collectibles. Proceeds of the sales of books and courses are distributed annually to Tony Montanaro’s widow, Karen Hurll-Montanaro. Proceeds from collectibles helps to raise funds for the website itself. There’s also social media pages including Vimeo, Facebook and Youtube that form an ad-hoc platform and are maintained as a donated service of Michael Menes’ media company, ménes.média. The site has grown to over 7 gigabytes of material. Although hundreds of hours have been donated, Menes attributes the success of the project not to the long hours required to develop an intricate WordPress site but to its content. He says, “Tony Montanaro is the big attraction here. Tony draws them in.” On any given month, around 2000 unique visitors from around the globe explore the website. In July, a spike of over 800 visitors on a single day was documented through SiteGround’s statistical software. Since going live, it’s estimated that 50,000 people have visited the cultural resource so far.
Future plans for the website include offering it in multiple languages. There are also considerations to possibly migrate the site over to a .ORG domain as it is a community based portal. The domain MIMESPOKENHERE.ORG has been registered for this purpose should the growth of the site justify the shift. Menes is also active in raising funds for the American Cancer Society with an annual 3-3-3 viral video fundraising campaign that invites jugglers to post videos of the 3-3-3 juggling cascade each March 3rd at 3:33 PM. Menes tours state-wide, nationally and internationally as well as on major cruise lines and other tours including for the US Military through Arms Forces Entertainment. In 2022, he performed his illusionary mime act that Tony Montanaro directed at NATO high command in Brussels. The website for his touring work is michaelmenes.com. Donations to help develop and maintain the Tony Montanaro legacy site are welcome by giving to The Legacy Fund at www.mimespokenhere.com/donate.