Mask-making, mime and story-telling are Michael Cooper's passions.

And he's been combining those loves into a career as a visual artist for nearly 30 years -- entertaining adults and children alike with an extraordinary array of magical characters that range from babies and bulls to fish that walk and a giant nose that explodes.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, this "native of the Maine woods" comes to Fairfield University to kick off the Young Audience Series with "Masked Marvels and Wondertales." The 1 p.m. performance, which will run for about 75 minutes without an intermission, is geared for children age 5 and older, their parents and grandparents. Tickets are $15, $12 for children.

Cooper says his shows combine "humor and poignancy," along with some "stilt-dancing," using his handcrafted masks, "original stories of courage and wonder" and physical movement that "ranges from the madcap to the sublime."

Creating "wholesome, uplifting entertainment that appeals" to an audience's "sense of humanity" is very important to Cooper, reflecting his upbringing in Chesterville, Maine, where he still lives close to his parents and numerous relatives.

His performances for kids, he says, are not that much different than those for an all-adult audience, as his themes are "universal, combining the mythological and autobiographical. It's actually a celebration of family and a celebration of the rural existence that I know well."

"And furthermore, kids seem to like watching a highly energetic 57-year-old guy on stage being happy. They know I get `it,' that I remember what it was like to be a kid."

Cooper graduated with a bachelor's degree from Goddard College, in rural Vermont, where he majored in peace studies. He then went on to study with "two of the greatest mime teachers of the 20th century: Etienne Decroux, of Paris, and Tony Montanaro, of Paris, Maine. A world-traveler, Cooper has performed in such diverse venues as the Hong Kong International Children's Festival, the Comedy Store in Los Angeles and the Dublin Theater Festival in Ireland.

When asked why he decided to pursue such a career, Cooper says he "lucked out."

Just about when he was entering college, he caught a mime show in New York City.

"It just knocked my socks off ... it took my breath away. It was an absolute gift to me ... like seeing Martians popping down in your own backyard -- it was that exciting."

For more information on the artist, visit www.themaskedmarvel.com.

Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, 200 Barlow Road. Sunday, Oct. 16, 1 p.m. $15 adults, $12 children. www.fairfield.edu/newseason; 1-877-ARTS-396.