Delighting the Senses

The Autobiography of America’s Longest Running International Theater Festival

Non-Fiction - Drama
668 Pages
Reviewed on 06/07/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Delighting the Senses by Michael Pedretti is a non-fiction chronicle of America's longest-running international theater festival. In his account, Pedretti covers a fifteen-year period with the School for Movement Theatre, known by its modern name Movement Theatre International, as it flourishes in North America where the art of mime has only been experienced in a limited capacity. Within the industry, MTI establishes itself as a pioneer in the American movement arts, catapulting previously unknown artists into the national spotlight. During its founding years, MTI quickly transitioned from a small but impressively successful school into the motion arts mecca, harnessing the strength of a festival that grew exponentially during Pedretti's time.

Delighting the Senses was an interesting selection for me, catching my eye as someone who lived in Las Vegas for over a decade where live performing arts, at least pre-CV19, were a staple part of its diverse infrastructure. Some of those involved with the MTI festivals are resident performers in Las Vegas still today. There is a great deal of passion required to take on the teaching of a craft, and it is evident that this passion transformed an industry in its infancy by making artists more visible; a scouting of sorts for professionals. I loved the photography and quotes in the book, and really felt I learned from Michael Pedretti's life in a dynamic and historical craft. I dream of the time when real-life character interaction reaffirms its place in the hearts of its audiences again. Very highly recommended.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

The painted faces, the costumes, the movement that expresses words and emotions without actually speaking – we’ve all enjoyed these performances at some point in life. But how seriously have we taken the performers? Many of us take mimes, clowns, and buffoons as mere children’s entertainers. How many of us have really considered these entertainers, these performers as actors, as true artists? It’s an art form that has existed for centuries and, yet, we still take it for granted. “The public as a whole just doesn’t see them [mime and jester arts] as art. But a great clown such as Emmett Kelly is very much an artist, just as a great ballet dancer or a great actor is.”

Movement theater and movement arts are viable terms to describe something that hasn’t been taken as seriously as it should. The Movement Theater International (MTI) served as a national center for movement art in the latter part of the twentieth century. With performers, teachers, and traveling shows around the world, MTI has garnered a glowing reputation in the movement arts. “Mimes and clowns have always been originating artists…” and this is where the art begins.

Michael Pedretti’s book, Delighting the Senses: The Autobiography of America’s Longest Running International Theater Festival, is a thorough and concise look at the history, life and times of one movement arts theater that made a lasting impression on audiences around the world. The author, the founder of MTI, has created quite literally an autobiographical history of his particular movement arts theater, including interesting facts and details of this art form’s history leading up to the founding of MTI. The author includes photographs of some of MTI’s great artists as well as interesting stories and information about the artists and the performances. There are also clippings and reviews of MTI, its artists, and Pedretti himself. This is a fascinating read and an important contribution to the historical library of performance arts.

K.C. Finn

Delighting the Senses: The Autobiography of America’s Longest Running International Theater Festival is a work of non-fiction that follows the topic of theater and drama and was penned by author Michael Pedretti. In this fascinating true-life history and account, we find ourselves immersed in the world of the Movement Theater International (MTI), which became a prominent center for arts such as clowns, mimes, and other movement-based performers. The work covers a 15-year period of the organization’s history and its many excellent festivals, explaining how and why the organization came into being and what it managed to achieve and offer to the wider world.

Author Michael Pedretti is well placed to offer this fascinating account of a lesser-known and often overlooked area of theater and performance, but one which has truly grown and been enriched over many decades thanks to organizations like the MTI. As a keen theatergoer myself, I found the work utterly fascinating, right from the powerful ethos of its grassroots beginnings through the journey to bring mime, clowning, and circus arts onto a prominent stage. The formatting of the work offers clear information and excellent asides with more quotes and acts, and the photographs are beautifully placed to bring performers and the art form to life visually. The well-arranged appendices will also make the work highly useful to others who wish to study and write about movement art in the future. Overall, I would definitely recommend Delighting the Senses to those who are keen to know more about theater and performance.