Michael Cooper Brings ‘Masked Marvels and Wondertales’ to Burlington's Capitol Theater, April 6

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Burlington, Iowa, April 2, 2014 – A high-kicking giant. A clumsy cowpoke. A grumpy, pipe-smoking trout fishing beside an imaginary stream. Welcome to “Masked Marvels and Wondertales,” the astonishing one-man variety show by Michael Cooper, a virtuoso storyteller, mask-maker and mime. Sunday, April 6, Cooper will bring his colorful cast of characters to Burlington’s Capitol Theater. The show starts at 2 p.m.; doors open at 1 p.m.

Combining the mythical and the autobiographical, Cooper employs astonishingly detailed masks and impressive physical dexterity to tell original stories that highlight the presence of the miraculous in everyday occurrences. Vignettes include:

• "Fish-or-Man," in which he asks the audience "How do you think a fish would feel ... if he were the one winding the reel?"

• "The Baby," inspired by the birth of Cooper's first child

• "The Horse," which pays homage to his father, a veterinarian who courted Cooper's mother on horseback

But the stars of the show are Cooper's exquisite masks, each of which can take up to 300 hours to make. Working primarily with scavenged materials, Cooper begins by ripping paper bags or old cloth into small pieces that he dips into glue and laminates over a carefully crafted clay sculpture.

After the layers dry, he digs out the clay, leaving the hollowed-out mask ready for final flourishes, which often include some clever engineering. The fish mask, for example, can blow bubbles from its mouth, and Cooper's wind creature features spinning limbs mounted on an old bicycle wheel.

Born in rural Maine, where he still lives, Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in peace studies from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., where he also developed an interest in performance. He then spent six years training with two of the greatest mime teachers of the 20th century: Etienne Decroux of Paris, France, and Tony Montanaro of Paris, Maine.

Today, Cooper spends roughly half the year on the road performing “Masked Marvels and Wondertales.” He has continuously developed the show for close to three decades in more than 8,000 performances, including at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Hong Kong International Children's Festival, The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the Dublin Theater Festival and the Great Woods Center near Boston. A show for all ages, “Masked Marvels and Wondertales” is sure to capture hearts and stimulate imaginations.

Tickets for the show are $12 for adults and $8 for students. They can be bought at, by calling 319-237-1099 or by visiting the Ticket Office Monday through Saturday.