Never was a lion tamed with so little noise at Hill Auditorium as on Saturday evening. World-renowned mime Marcel Marceau brought a packed audience to its feet in a performance before accepting the sixth annual 2001 University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award.
Bits of music, laughter and applause periodically interrupted the silence as Marceau”s alter-ego Bip took center stage for part of the performance, using facial expressions and body language to silently convey his efforts to coerce a lion through a hoop and to show his dismay when the animal refused to comply. Bip assumed several other personalities throughout the evening, and Marceau performed pantomimes of style as himself.
“It was incredible, especially when you try to figure out what he”s miming,” said Chris Doinidis of Northville, who attended the performance.
The performance marked Marceau”s 30th under UMS auspices in as many years.
What was unique this time around was that Marceau was presented with the UMS Distinguished Artist Award in recognition of his efforts as a performing artist and a humanitarian.
Marceau did not step out of character to speak directly to the audience, but he did express his gratitude in a taped statement.
In presenting the award, UMS President Emeritus Gail Rector said, “Giving tribute to Marcel Marceau is a natural thing to do.”
UMS President Kenneth Fischer, who hosted the performance, noted Marceau”s successful attempts to keep the Nazis from taking children to concentration camps during World War II. Marceau disguised the ages on some identification papers, making the children younger than they were. He also posed as a Boy Scout leader to shepherd children through the Alps into neutral Switzerland.
Since World War II, Marceau has gained international recognition as a mime.
John Rintamaki, group vice president and chief of staff of Ford Motor Company, also presented the award. “We want to thank you for your dedication to art and education,” he said to Marceau, who kissed the award and then mimed staggering under its weight after accepting it.
The performance rounded out Marceau”s two-week residency at the University. He gave the annual Raoul Wallenberg Lecture last month and managed two one-week workshops, one on mime and one on dance.