The Mask Collaboration with Lajos Matolcsy

Tony Montanaro Masked Character

September 17, 1981
By Sara Jane Elliot of the Advertiser Democrat

Top photo by Sara Jane Elliot

I wanted a painter’s eye – Lajos’ artistic sense of expression and insight – to create the masks.”

These hills are alive with creativity – fall colors, the rising mist, a drive high onto a ridge toward the home of artist, Lajos Matolcsy. Inside the house, performing artist Tony Montanaro excitedly describes the sketch he is creating – watching and listening to Tony and Lajos is a performance in itself.

NOTE: This article has been posted and digitally restored for educational purposes.

NEWS ARTICLE (September, 1981)

The two artists have been friends for over 30 years – in fact, Matolcsy arranged for Montanaro to perform locally about 10 years ago. That visit to South Paris hooked Tony Montanaro on the magic of these hills – he found an old farm on the Stock Farm Road in South Paris with a huge barn that would make an ideal theater studio – and the Celebration Mime was born.

And now, ten years later, the two have combined their creativity for the first time as Tony develops ‘Passages’ – “my first absolute major work,” says Tony.

‘Passages’ depicts a spirit drifting through space, drawn to the earth orbit, and suddenly caught up in life on earth. “This time on earth is an illusion, only a part of a much larger experience of the spirit,” explains Montanaro.

“I usually let my mime tell the whole story – but this piece will use masks to illustrate each element of earth life that hooks me – each element that I must experience and break free from only to get caught up in the next,” adds Montanaro.

“Lajos and I are creating the masks together,” says Tony. “I mold them, and he paints them.”

The air is electric as the two men work. “I wanted a painter’s eye – Lajos’ artistic sense of expression and insight – to create the masks,” says Tony.

To aid in shaping the masks to fit over his face, Montanaro has a plaster model of his own head and shoulders. One of these masks must depict a half face of an old man and a half face of a skeleton. For this mask, Montanaro used an actual human skull that Matolcsy uses in his studio.

I usually let my mime tell the whole story – but this piece will use masks to illustrate each element of earth life that hooks me – each element that I must experience and break free from only to get caught up in the next.”

Lajos advises Tony as he molds the masks. The character of each mask comes fully alive in the creative painting done by Lajos.

When the masks are completed, the next element in developing the sketch will be the movement. Tony has been doing an intense physical training in preparation for the movement. He is trim and fit. “I can whirl around ten times and not even feel dizzy,” he proclaims, pleased with his physical conditioning.

Setting the sketch to music will be the final step in creating ‘Passages.’ Tony plans to use electronic music to give the illusion of space.

He hopes to have the piece ready for performances by Christmas. Because, in the performing arts, the experience for the viewer is in the moment of performance and then is gone, Montanaro plans to make a video tape to capture the moment.

Tony Montanaro is the owner, director of the Celebration Mime Theater School in South Paris. He teaches his art to students year round. From the student classes, he selects a mime troupe which he takes on tour around the United States.

Last fall, Tony went to Sweden with his troupe to perform and to teach. Later, he went back to Sweden and secured a contract to return this fall with his mime company.

The company leaves on September 24. They will perform five live shows at the cultural house in Stockholm and four t.v. specials for national television.

Lajos Matolscy teaches painting in private art schools in Portland, Lewiston, South Casco and Norway. The venerable artist came to the states from Budapest in 1951. He worked as an artist in New York City until moving to South Paris in 1959.

He is a naturalist, painting in water colors and oils. Many of his paintings depict what happens to nature when humans intrude upon it. He often presents his artistic insights with irony.

Tony Montanaro by Lajos Matolcsy
Portrait of Tony Montanaro by painter Lajos Matolcsy.

The Story Behind the Portrait

This portrait of Tony was created by his long-time good friend and collaborator Lajos Matolcsy. The story of Lajos is indeed a fascinating one and is responsible for Tony’s move to Maine from New York City and thus, is ultimately responsible for the existence of Celebration Barn. Tony became friends with Claire Couri, a dancer living in New York City who had family ties in Maine. They met while taking classes with José Limon. Then, Tony introduced her to Lajos and the story goes that they fell deeply in love at first sight. Claire’s mother’s family had been from Buckfield, her father from Cape Elizabeth and Claire brought Lajos to Maine to show him the countryside she adored so well in the Oxford Hills Region. The couple purchased an old, long-abandoned farm on Ryerson Hill Road on Ryerson Hill for $777, all the money the couple had at the time as her father disowned her for marrying Lajos, the Hungarian painter from Budapest who had fled Europe after WWII and landed in New York City, homeless for a time. In Maine, the couple started a family, renovated the farm and Lajos became a successful artist and teacher and established The Western Maine Arts Group. In 1972 he invited his old friend Tony from New York, now living in Woodstock, to come and perform as Lajos encouraged the arts in the area with such events as the Sidewalk Arts Festival in Norway. The Matolcsys spotted an old horse barn on Stock Farm Road in South Paris that was nearly as decrepit as the one they had bought on Ryerson Hill Road. Tony, inspired by his dear friend’s successful relocation to Maine, then purchased ‘The Barn.’ Today, the Lajos Matolcsy Art Center on Main Street in Norway is named in his honor. There is a wonderful biography that details the colorful and extremely difficult life of Lajos Matolcsy written by David Sanderson in 2006.


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