The American Mime Theatre will celebrate its 69th Year on April 7th, 2021. The Company and School, in New York City, was founded by Pau J. Curtis in 1952. Mr. Curtis is the creator of the performing art form known as “American Mime”, and his Medium and its services continues under the direction of Jean Barbour
“Hurly Burly” – with Paul J Curtis, Rick Wessler, and Charley Barney
The photograph was taken at The American Mime Theatre Studio.
The American Mime Theatre, Company and School, New York City, celebrated their 65th Anniversary on April 7, 2017. It all began in 1952 when a young 24-year-old, Paul J. Curtis, graduating as a theater Director from the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (NYCity) and trained by Erwin Piscatory. He went to Europe to explore different theater forms and he was disturbed by the arbitrary separation of acting and dance. Returning to the United States, he thought it would be interesting to present to American actors a project of Mime to demonstrate its potential and to correct the limitations of the medium practiced by the French School of Mime. Forming a Company of 5 actors and 5 dancers they began to work on the project and created a Repertory of plays to present their new works in a concert at the 92nd Street Y, New York City. The audience’s response to the concert was strong, and the Company decided to continue with the work (creating plays for a Repertory and codifying the teaching methodology of this new kind of Mime, a performing art, which would be named “American Mime”.
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Jean Barbour, Director
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For many years I attended the American Mime Theatre. It was located at 192 Second Avenue when I first began classes and subsequently moved to another location on Bond St later.
I was working at the time in a photo lab on 23rd St and would go to class before my shift. (Nightshift started at 7pm)
I was so delighted to participate in the American Mime work by becoming the ‘official photographer’ for quite a few years. I documented many shows and classes over the years. (negs and photographs on file at AMT office)
One of my favorite memories from that time was visiting Paul one day before I was going to work and talking about what was going on with the AMT company’s upcoming shows and classes. Here is a photograph taken with my camera by Jean Barbour of Paul J. Curtis and myself laughing at something we both found amusing. (can’t remember what it was…)
Paul was a vital force in many people’s lives and we miss him dearly.
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Paul J. Curtis (August 29, 1927– April 28 2012) was an American actor, mime, director and founder of The American Mime Theatre. He created the medium known as American Mime.
He 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.”
On April 7, 1952 Curtis established his theater company, The American Mime Theatre, in New York City. It remains the oldest continually functioning mime theatre in the world. The work of The American Mime Theatre has been commended by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.
Born in Boston, Mr. Curtis 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. He 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. He and his company created more than 30 original plays for the medium of American Mime. He was a member of AEA, AFTRA, and the National Movement Theater Association.
He is missed by thousands of students and audiences throughout the world, who 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 .
The history of American Mime is available to the public at the following libraries: Harvard College, Yale University,Cornell University,The Players ,Lincoln Center Research
“Paul Curtis and his American Mime Theatre have brought to the concert stage a new medium so fresh in approach, so studied in discipline and so exciting to, see that it must be destined to affect the entire approach to the art of Mime. It cannot be described as founding itself of the French school of Marceau and Decroux because the art of these two gentlemen is self-indulgent and introspective when compared to the communication offered by this new form.” THE SPRINGFIELD NEWS
“Curtis is playing with fire and watching him you can feel the heat. Curtis’ contribution is valuable, engrossing, and totally serious and how many Mimes can make that claim.” WASHINGTON STAR
“It’s hard to categorize this group, but it is certain that Paul J Curtis & American Mime Theatre create their own classification.” DANCE MAGAZINE
“Curtis is making American audiences realize there is an important difference between a Pantomimist and a Mime.” DANCE MAGAZINE
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WORDS ABOUT AMT BY JIM R.MOORE
I came to the American Mime Theater more than 30 years ago and took classes with Paul J. Curtis. He was an amazing man! His teaching techniques were very exciting and my experience in his class was life changing. I became the ‘photographer-in-resience’ and knowing the discipline enabled me to capture memorable images of the company performing. Different plays in many venues for over 20 years being AMT’s photog.
My life revolved around the American Mime Theatre for many years and enriched it enormously!
Go to this link to view some of the photographs I took.
I miss Paul J Curtis very much. He was and always will be one of my favorite mentors in my life!