Founded by Tony Montanaro in 1972
Starting in New York City where he transformed his living room into a mime studio in his Manhattan apartment* to the 16 acre residence he purchased and renovated in Casco, Maine after coming out of retirement in his early 70’s as the year-round Montanaro-Hurl Theatre of Mime and Dance with his wife and performing partner, Karen Hurl-Montanaro… Tony always had his school.
From 1972 to 1988, Tony lived and taught in South Paris, Maine in what is now the Celebration Barn Theater. Purchased in 1971 for the equivalent of $73,000 from Wayne Ellingwood, Tony moved to Maine from Woodstock, New York with his young family to begin renovating the dilapidated property which had been an old horse farm. Joined by Benny and Denise Reehl from upstate New York, the school began as Celebration Mime. Students flocked to South Paris to study at “The Barn” and it soon became a base for three touring ensembles in the 1970’s with workshops with as many as 25 students at a time. Often workshops took place even in the cold New England winters.
The Barn changed hands in 1988 when Tony sold the property to Leland Faulkner and Carol Brett. Carol later sold the Barn to Amanda Huotari. Today the Barn is under the ownership of a board of directors. Celebration Barn has now been in business for 50 years and holds summer workshops and a summer show series. Focusing now primarily on clowning and physical comedy, The Barn’s current faculty includes Avner Eisenberg, Aitor Basauri and Shannan Calcutt.
According to the Barn’s website, their mission is:
To create opportunities for physical theater artists to hone their craft and share their work. We celebrate artists who channel the physical eloquence of the mime, the unruly energy of the clown, and the transformative power of the actor. By bringing art-making and community-building together, we serve those who are committed to reimagining the theater and the world beyond.
With a seasonally based business model and a small performing arts venue of 82 seats, the Barn has survived through the years aided by it’s tax-exempt, nonprofit status. As a non-profit, it is subsidized through state grants, various foundations, private contributions and the Huotari family. Its board of directors is unconventional, comprised mostly of out-of-state artists without the traditionally imposed constraints of term limits. The new Executive Artistic Director, David Bruin, who replaced Amanda Huotari in 2021, also sits on the board. The board contributes a small portion of its overall administrative salaries. Donations are tax deductible for those who would like to make a financial contribution. The Barn’s annual nonprofit filings are posted on Propublica.
Despite the ongoing challenges, in establishing Celebration Barn, Tony Montanaro can be credited for triggering an astonishing number of professional performing artists, teachers and others who have chosen to work in a wide variety of creative fields.
For more information about Celebration Barn, visit their website at www.celebrationbarn.com.
(*see the short film The Mime)
Historical images from the early days of Celebration Barn in the 1970’s.
This article was posted by Michael Menes
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