With so much pressure on us to look right, think right, live right… it can be liberating to wear a mask!
We continually manage ourselves to seem smart, respectable, cool, funny, etc; whatever is consistent with our personal character.
As yourself, it can be shocking if this model breaks down.
But if it is not you; if the mask takes over, then calculated behaviour can be set aside and creativity can begin.
In one element of this workshop we use simple expressive faces in Half Mask. The masks are made from lightweight materials such as papier mache, plastic or foam.
The wearer’s mouth is able to move freely for speech and sounds.
Students are asked to choose a mask that is comfortable and then to look in a mirror.
Simple instructions are given to allow a spontaneous character to emerge.
Making sounds helps to release the body and stop the mind from planning ahead.
If the mask is strong, we continue, if not, we leave it aside and try another.
New characters are nurtured by giving them experiences and teaching simple tasks. The mask leads this process and intellectualizing is avoided.
We then put masks together and let them teach each other how to behave… or misbehave.
We can set up short scenarios and even give them text.
When a mask is developed it can do almost anything onstage to the delight of the audience because it is a pure being, free from expectations and critique. Free.
The other element of the Mask Play workshop is experimenting and performing will Full Masks.
The protection of and anonymity inside a Full Mask and costume allow a performer to relax and express honestly what is going on inside them. Removing the ability to speak reduces the pressure to be interesting or clever.
Players are trained to listen to the mask as well as signals from the audience in an attempt to understand who they are in that moment.
Training in physical awareness, simplicity and doing less allow us to create basic stories with a universal human connection. The advice to “feel more but resist showing it” is often given.
There is a connection to simple clown work here as we attempt to expose the humanity of successes and failures always in full view of and shared deeply with the audience.
As players develop their sensitivity, longer scenes are performed with music and more scope.
This workshop may be coupled with the Mask Making workshop