Performance matters to Yarmouth arts org's new director

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YARMOUTH — Firehouse Arts has hired a new artistic director who plans on bringing more variety to the community arts center.

Michael Trautman was hired this fall to take over the organization, which is located in the former Winslow Fire Station at 20 Center St. The Portland resident has been working as a performer his entire adult life.

The building housing Firehouse Arts is owned by the town and has been leased to the organization for the past four years. In September, the organization’s board decided to find someone new to run it.

The board accepted project proposals for the center, but said the nonprofit did not have to remain an arts center. Trautman said he plans to keep the focus on art, but the type of art will be different.

Firehouse Arts used to focus on visual arts by holding classes and workshops. Trautman said some classes and workshops will still be offered, but mime, clowning, juggling and magic will be taught.

With the rise of circus schools, Trautman said he wants to help young people learn more about being performers.

“What I have to offer those kids is performance value,” he said. “They can learn the skills from those other classes, but I can help raise the performance level.”

Trautman said he plans to work with students on movement and being more aware of how their body language is perceived by an audience.

“Part of the work I do is helping people be more aware of their gestural body language,” he said.

Trautman said he wants to offer eight-week after-school sessions, as well as weeklong camps for students interested in developing skills in performing and variety arts. The classes will be broken up by age, with a class for 9-12- year-olds and one for 13-16-year-olds, as well as classes for pre-professionals and professionals. 

According to Trautman, pre-professionals are young people who have an interest in doing circus or performing work, and professionals are adults who already have been working in those fields, but would like to develop more skills or work in a group setting.

Eventually, Trautman said, he’d like to offer classes to younger children, but would like to find a early childhood movement specialist to help him.

Trautman started working in variety arts in 1976, when he took a mime class while in college. Since then he has performed at birthday parties, schools, colleges, fairs, and on cruise ships. He was also part of Big Apple Circus.

He also toured internationally, but is now looking to settle down with his work.

“This has come as an opportunity for me to come off the road a little bit,” he said. “This is my chance to do more outreach.”

Trautman also plans to hold performances at Firehouse Arts, including his upcoming solo show, “Head in the Clouds,z’ which will be presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 26, 27, and 31, and Jan. 1 and 2. 

“I’ll do things where, if they saw it on TV or YouTube, they’d say, ‘Oh that’s a camera trick,'” he said.

Tickets for the family-friendly show can be bought by calling 450-5342.

The shows, as well as the classes, are a great way to build community, Trautman said.

“That’s one of the values of a community arts center like this, for the community to show up and know each other,” he said.

While Trautman said the community needs the arts center, he said he also needs the community and its support.

“I’ve been going around introducing myself to the community because I really can’t do this without the community,” he said.

Another way he plans to build community is by having a presence at the annual Yarmouth Clam Festival. He said he’d like his students to be able to perform or be in the parade.

“It’d be nice to have the kids not only be able to learn, but to go out and perform,” Trautman said.

Performing is his passion and he wants to share his sense of humor with others.

“I love comedy and laughter and the power of that shared experience,” he said. “It’s powerful and healing and it’s something we all value, we all want, and we all need.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Michael Trautman, the new artistic director of Firehouse Arts, is planning on having more performance and variety arts at the community arts center in Yarmouth.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.