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From Bill – American Mime Theatre’s 64th Birthday

April 21, 2016

In the journey of learning my art, one of the most influential and dearest teachers I have ever had the privilege of working with is Paul J. Curtis, Founder of The American Mime Theatre (TAMT). I studied with him, off and on, from 1976 to 1981, but he continued to be a confidant and friend for the rest of his life.

The American Mime Theatre is a professional performing company and training school based in New York City founded in 1952 by Paul J. Curtis (August 29, 1927– April 28, 2012). It is the oldest continuing professional mime company in the USA. The theatre ran under the direction of founder Paul for 60 years.

Its 64th birthday was a few weeks ago. Happy birthday, AMT.

Paul is the impossibly handsome one just to the right of the performer holding the camera.

Paul is the impossibly handsome one just to the right of the performer holding the camera.

Paul created the medium known as American Mime. He is missed by thousands of students and audiences throughout the world, whom he moved deeply with his teaching and performances… Paul J. Curtis, a man who lived moment to moment with unwavering uncompromising untamed deepness of heart.

An image from the AMT repertoire: “The Lovers”

An image from the mime play from TAMT repertory: “TLovers”

Paul said, “American Mime is a complete theatre medium defined by its own aesthetic laws, terminology, techniques, script material and teaching methods. Basically, it is a medium for non-speaking actors who perform, in characterization, the symbolic activities of American Mime plays through movement that is both telling and beautiful.”

Born in Boston, Paul served in the Navy in World War II. He studied with the notable German director Erwin Piscator from 1947–49. Later, he went to Paris and studied with Etienne Decroux. In the 1970s, Curtis founded American Mime, Inc. and International Mimes & Pantomimists. In addition to teaching at his own school, Mr. Curtis was chairman of the Mime department at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, 1956–71. He also taught American Mime at many institutions including Cornell University, Bennington College, Goodman School of Drama, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and The Leonardos in Paris.

On a roof top, with the Company, in New York.  Paul’s at the end of the line.

On a roof top with the first company at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, 1952. Paul’s at the end of the line. All photos courtesy American Mime Inc., Archives

Just to put it simply, I miss him. Deeply.

The Company and School continue Paul’s work under the direction of Jean Barbour at their studio in New York City, and information is available on their Classes and Performances at The American Mime Theatre, 61 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2, NY NY 10003 212-777-1710

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