Michael Cooper to Bring MASKED MARVELS AND WONDERTALES to Concord's Capitol Center For The Arts, 1/26

A high-kicking giant. A clumsy cowpoke. A grumpy, pipe-smoking trout fishing beside an imaginary stream. Welcome to Masked Marvels & Wondertales, the eye-popping one-man variety show by Michael Cooper, the virtuoso storyteller, mask-maker and mime. On January 26, Cooper will bring his colorful cast of characters to Concord for two performances at 1pm and 4pm as part of the Capitol Center for the Arts' Showtime Sundays series.

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

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 are then dipped into glue and laminated over a carefully crafted clay sculpture.

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

Born and raised in rural Maine - where he still resides - 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 of each year on the road performing Masked Marvels & Wondertales - a show he has continually developed for close to three decades, in more than 8,000 performances. Credits range from the Brooklyn Academy Of Music and the Hong Kong International Children's Festival to The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the Dublin Theater Festival and the Great Woods Center near Boston. A show for all ages, Masked Marvels & Wondertales is sure to capture hearts and stimulate imaginations.

In addition to Masked Marvels and Wondertales, this season of Showtime Sundays features Doktor Kaboom! on Sunday, February 9, Hudson Valley Puppets' Mammoth Follies on Sunday, March 23, and The Gizmo Guys on Sunday, April 13.

Individual tickets are $20 and tickets purchased in groups of four or more in any combination to Showtime Sundays performances are $16.25. Tickets are available now by calling 603-225-1111, online at www.ccanh.com, and at the box office, located at 44 South Main Street, Concord, NH 03301, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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