The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International's Mime and Clown Festivals

Non-Fiction - Music/Entertainment
668 Pages
Reviewed on 01/01/2023
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Author Biography

Michael Pedretti is the author of eight books: Time to Journey Home, Begetters of Children, The Book of Agnes (translated into Italian—Il libro di Agnes), Diary of Giovanni Vener: An Immigrant's Journey to the Heart of America, Life of Peter, La Storia di San Bernardo, the dog and i and The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International’s Mime and Clown Festivals which covers the history and development of the longest running international theater festival in America.
Pedretti spent the first part of his professional career as a college professor of theater directing over sixty theater productions. Later, he produced international theater festivals presenting over one hundred and seventy movement theater shows from thirty countries. The festivals were covered in hundreds of newspapers and magazines and were featured many times on national TV on Fox News, The Today Show and CBS Nightwatch. The festival he founded and produced highlighted the work of the originating performance artists whose work challenged the theater world in the latter part of the twentieth century. Professionals wrote, “Mr. Pedretti changed the face of theater.” “Michael Pedretti is a kind of modern-day Pope or Medici, enabling the work of a pantheon of amazing artists.” “It (the fifteen years of festivals) was an exciting and influential period of theatrical history.”

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International's Mime and Clown Festivals is a work of non-fiction focusing on dramatic art forms. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Michael Pedretti, whose experiences working alongside mime and clown artists are lovingly recalled in this explorative work. The book is filled with exciting photos and engaging history to track the formation of a ground-breaking movement in the theater during the late twentieth century, and Pedretti displays his dedication and involvement to the art form, which seeks to produce emotive and joyful performances that touch the souls of their audiences and redefine what it means to perform.

This was an absolutely fascinating read from cover to cover, and although this is a world I’ve seen many times as a spectator, it was a total revelation to see the ideas, impetus, and inspiration behind the art form. Author Michael Pedretti goes beyond this expansive history lesson to also give a lot of himself to this work, from his lovingly detailed, friendly narrative style to his insider scoop on non-profit formation and management, as well as dealings with the press and the world of finance. It’s a testament to how much work goes into these kinds of festivals and the movements which they represent, and a testament to how important the arts are, not just as an entertainment form, but as a means by which we can reconnect with our own emotions and see human nature reflected back to us through performance art. Overall, I would certainly recommend The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International's Mime and Clown Festivals for those with an interest in the art form, but perhaps especially for those who are total newcomers wanting to see things from a new perspective.

Kimberlee J Benart

The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International's Mime and Clown Festivals by Michael Pedretti provides an account of the founding of MTI in late 1979 on a rural college campus, its renaming and relocation to Philadelphia in the early 1980s, and the successful operation of its programs until 1994. A foreword by notable artists Tanya Belov, Fred Curchack, Avner Eisenberg, Kari Margolis, and Daniel Stein provides insight. Appendices provide testimonials, discussions about audience responses, theater clowning, and the concepts of planning versus planting, as well as a chronology of significant historical events from 1898 to 2022. These include information about festivals, conferences, and an international congress: highlights of MTI’s showcase series from 1990 – 1994; and a list of performers by country. Extensive footnotes, photographs, illustrations, and a bibliography are included.

In The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International's Mime and Clown Festivals, Michael Pedretti gives us a fascinating insight into a program that was near and dear to his heart. The narrative is well-organized, utterly engaging, and highly detailed. It is not simply a historical recount, although I learned a great deal about movement theater from it. This is a memoir full of emotion, and I was deeply moved as I followed the ups and downs, achievements, and obstacles of MTI’s journey. Pedretti’s dedication to the art and artists was the clear inspiration for everything he did, but the obstacles he faced were real, and he addresses them forthrightly. For anyone interested in movement theater, this is both a tribute to the artists and a valuable contribution to the history of performing arts.

Vincent Dublado

The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International’s Mime and Clown Festivals by Michael Pedretti is the monumental story of the MTI as told from the first-person perspective of the author who happens to be its founder. Told with passion and candor, you get a glimpse of MTI’s activities and the lives of independent artists making and performing theater work that serves not only to entertain but to elevate their craft into an art form. From its beginnings as the re-embodiment of the liquidated Valley Studio to its glorious close during the phase of empowering the mime community, this book serves to document the work of performing artists who showcased their creative talents at MTI festivals. While it is not all-inclusive, it does cover a large representation of its best performers.

The Inside Story of Movement Theatre International’s Mime and Clown Festivals has proven itself to be both thought-provoking and one that tugs at your artistic sensibilities. It poses the question as to whether the story of MTI is an indication that the art of the mime and the clown are dead. Mime, in particular, is commonly perceived as a gimmick with no place left in a competitive world where entertainers are vying for space. What Michael Pedretti has written debunks all the common misconceptions about mimes and clowns. As MTI has nurtured such artists, this book provides generations with solid proof that the art of the clown and the mime are not dead, and that the survival of the craft allows you to discern the hacks from the pure kinesthetic artists. It’s an inspiring story, one that Pedretti will forever be proud of in looking back at the legacy he has created. It is a story that I highly recommend to anyone who believes in the talent and dedication of passionate performers and teachers.