Arthur Shafman, Producer of Unusual Broadway Fare, Dies at 75

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05 Aug 2014

Arthur Shafman, a producer who brought a wide variety of entertainment to the Broadway stage, most notably a curious Swiss mime troupe that delivered a highly unlikely, long-running hit, died July 28 in Palm Springs, CA. He was 75.

Mr. Shafman's unusual Broadway resume included a revue of Kurt Weill songs; Insideoutsideandallaround, a solo show starring comedian Shelly Berman; a clown show called Les Colombaioni; and Aaah Oui Genty!, a showcase for the French puppet troupe Compagnie Phillippe Genty.

None, however, matched the unpredictable success of Mummenschanz, a show starring the same-named trio of Swiss mimes. Formed in 1972, Mummenschanz's surreal, yet sentimental brand of mime saw it imbue everyday object and shapes with human qualities. Members inhabited large bending tubes and donned boxes affixed with rolls of toilet paper rolls that served as eyes, ears and mouths.

Mr. Shafman caught Mummenschanz's act in 1972 while traveling in Switzerland. He approached the group, offering to manage them and bring them to New York. A few short runs in the city led to a Broadway debut at the intimate Bijou Theatre in 1977. They were scheduled for a limited run, but ended up playing for three years. The production was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.

Thereafter, Mummenschanz became a ubiquitous presence on variety and talk shows (including an episode of "The Muppet Show"), offering harmlessly entertaining sketches that seemed to appeal to kids and adults alike.



Mr. Shafman also managed many artists, including comedian Red Skelton, singer Karen Akers and dancer Jose Molina.