Towards the end of my second year at Helikos earlier this year... I made a mask. An old woman. So that I could learn the negative mould technique of mask-making. (I had missed this lesson due to a day spent at some grimy governmental business building organizing another piece of bureaucratic what-not for temporary residency in Italy) Matteo took a day out of his schedule to teach me this. It ended up being so much more than simply learning a technique, but a day filled with what it means to make theatre. Matteo said if someone calls him a theatre-maker he says he's actually a director... and if they call him a director he says he's actually a mask maker. Because theatre is a mask. Unless you are working in realism of course. Which we're not. Giovanni often talks about something being true but not necessarily real. I like that. So with mask making the volume and form emerges as it does when you improvise a scene... whether you work on the floor or in front of a computer writing. That work on stage requires a level of poetry that takes it further than the literal world... How does the whole stage explode in joy... the mask... the volume... a level of removal that brings you right into the work. (Yes I know... I've spoken about this before... so I won't repeat myself - as such) But - lately I have seen so much realistic theatre and I can't help thinking i'd rather see the movie... where they have the close up... the swell of music... the cut away to the crashing waves. Where the camera brings the poetry that two people on stage, one with their backs to you most of the time, cannot achieve. I know it's a style and a choice. Ja. There needs to be more. For me. And it's hard. And you might fail. But you might not.
So now as I prepare to return to Italy for my third and final year... this morning I looked sadly at my little box of masks who have not been out to play since I got back. How quickly life rushes by. My old woman is still a paper mache mould... waiting for stucco and sanding and painting and ultimately playing... (Which will hopefully happen in the year that lies ahead). To celebrate her and the art of mask making... which may just be the art of theatre... I have put a few pics below taken during this very important day of mask making and theatre discussion with the ever-brilliant Matteo Destro.