When Charlie Chaplin and other silent film stars faced the challenge of carrying over their talents into "talkies," these proved to be much-anticipated events. On Friday in Bethlehem, international mask artist Larry Hunt, a local, will actually let his voice do the real talking on stage. Hunt has built a career on non-verbal storytelling, and has performed at venues around the world for over 25 years.
While building a new performance piece around the theme of love, called "Love Is...," Hunt described his version of stand-up theater as "four talking characters who offer us perspectives on life in relationship to love, and what it means." Yet Hunt can’t completely sever his ties to physical storytelling, and a devotion to mask performance, having perfected the craft though years of experimental pieces as well as family-centered characters and performances.
The highly stylized and wonderfully thought-out non-verbal stories Hunt creates, including the plays of his long time Masque Theatre, have communicated with both U.S. and non-English speaking audiences on several continents, playing to young and old alike. "Love Is..." will include several non-verbal pieces that Hunt said reflect "atmospheres of various perspectives on love." But he’s committed to weaving poetry, songs, and what he calls "lectures" into his collage style, original performance.
Hunt's work is always surprising and delightful. Having traveled and written about Hunt and his Masque Theatre for over a decade, I've attended numerous productions, workshops, and mask training classes. I recall watching his performance at the 2009 Peirrott Festival of Puppetry in Bulgaria, where his masterful series of masked solo characters spoke as loud as, if not louder than, the dialogue of so many other companies. The eastern Europeans caught moments of Hunt's subtle humor and use of double entendre that even our American audiences overlooked. He is always working the crowd to figure out new ways of contact and informed connection.
One thing is certain: Hunt will do his homework as he tests his new stories and ideas in "Love Is…" Ironically, Hunt is so delightful when you meet him in person, and spend time in conversation, that you have to wonder what has taken him so long to let it all hang out with words and movement on stage—forever, his storytelling home.
"Love Is..." will be performed on Friday, November 22, 7:30 pm, at the Abigail J. Woodhall Theatre, Woodhall School, in Bethlehem, at 58 Harrison Lane. Donations are requested at $5.00 to benefit the Community Garden.