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Valhalla hosts mask theater

Nancy Oliver Hayden
Provided to the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Len Shirts and Franziska Braegger will appear as antelopes and other animals in two Theater R.A.B. shows at the Valhalla Boathouse Theater.
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Former South Lake Tahoe resident Len Shirts, who began his acting career on Tahoe stages, and his wife, Franziska Braegger of Switzerland, will perform two evenings of mask theater at the Valhalla Boathouse Theater as part of the Valhalla Arts & Music Festival.

Shirts and Braegger founded Theater R.A.B (Random Acts of Beauty) after working together in experimental theater projects and movement theater productions. R.A.B. produces original theatrical works speaking to the themes of the times through image and sound. “Tales of Animal People” is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Friday and “The Good-for-Nothing” will take place at 7:30 p.m. July 26. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for youths 18 years of age and younger.

Shirts, the son of Gordon and Audrey Shirts, grew up in South Lake Tahoe. His first experiences on the stage were with the Tahoe Children’s Theater and the South Tahoe High School Drama Club. He received a bachelor’s degree in theater arts with an emphasis in acting and pantomime from Humboldt State University in Arcata, and trained with Leonard Pitt School of Mime and Movement. While living in San Francisco he performed in Shakespeare plays, musicals, with the environmental dance theater “Zaccho SF,” and in experimental performance works of his own authorship. He moved to Germany in 1985 to teach at the theater academy “Spielstatt Ulm” and in 1993 was co-founder of the environmental theater ensemble, “Integralen TheaterWerkStatt Ulm.” Shirts directs, teaches and performs theater and has designed more than 50 masks.

Braegger, who was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, is an actress, director and theater teacher. She performed with Swiss street theater companies and co-founded and performed in the companies Theater Séraphim and Integrale Theater Werkstatt Ulm.

In “Tales of Animal People,” the fascinating masks of the European theater company Random Acts of Beauty come to life on the stage and invite the audience to experience their magical, comical and poetical world. In this world, animals are people; they live together in one tribe and have magical powers, but their problems are not all that different from ours.

The evening of entertaining anecdotes is inspired by the legends of many peoples including the Washo and Shoshone tribes of the Great Basin. Random Acts of Beauty brings Native American archetypes such as Porcupine and Coyote together with their African and European “colleagues.” The masks cover the entire head and the stories are told entirely through movement and music.

With the help of three masks, a few props, a table and two chairs, in “The Good-for-Nothing” Random Acts of Beauty tells the wild and adventurously funny tale of a tramp, a melancholy waiter and a seadog of a cook.

The story begins in a rundown restaurant, climbs 30,000 feet and soars into the hearts of the audience.


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