Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Theatre is mask


A few weeks ago I received an email from Matteo Destro requesting a testimonial for the new Helikos Website about the MaMa's (Mask & Material) course which is to run in tandem with the theatre course at the school.  I was only to happy to do this.  As the school is simply wonderful.  Here are my thoughts on Mask and Material in theatre....

There was a moment during my studies at Helikos that I realized what ‘Mask & Material’ mean in theatre – this idea that theatre is mask and mask is theatre. Like a fast moving train it hit me smack bang in the face.  It has changed how I see theatre and how I work irreversibly.

Mould of The Snow Goose Hunter... based on character work
with James Cairns

‘Mask’ in theatre extends far beyond physically wearing a mask on stage – and can be taken into all aspects of script writing, staging, costume, performance, lighting, props, voice, music and so on.  In my understanding ‘mask’ is essentially the idea that there is a distance between the theatre maker and the work.  In this distance there is room to play.  And in this play there is a whole world of poetic potential.  Bringing to life, and to the stage, this idea that there is ‘a whole universe inside a single drop of rain.’  And in so doing ones work becomes so much more.  More theatrical.  More poignant.  More funny.  More engaging.  More complex.  More simple.  More.


When I first heard the idea that ‘all theatre should be masked.’  It was a very abstract concept until we began the MaMa’s (Mask & Material) process at Helikos.  I will try to describe it briefly. 

Mould for the second hunter in The Snow Goose based on character work
with Taryn Bennett
When you are physically moulding a mask out of clay a form starts to appear.  If you allow that form to take you on a journey, you will make a mask that you were perhaps not aware you were going to make.  And similarly so it is with theatre.  When you start on the rehearsal floor… be it with physical masks or not… be it with a written script or only the beginnings of an idea… The work sometimes presents an unexpected ‘volume,’ meaning, an unexpected turn that takes you on an unexpected journey.  And it is here that real poetry can be found and brought to the light of the stage… If you are brave enough go deeper into this ‘unexpected volume,’ and if you are able to see it! 

It was in the MaMa’s classes at Helikos with Matteo Destro and Giovanni Fusetti that this horizontal poetic landscape was opened up for me in a very practical, real and honest way.  So much so that I now think it impossible to make theatre, and in fact any kind of art, without asking these seemingly questions:  What is the material?  What is the mask?  And how far can I go? 

If you have ever for a moment silently asked of your work ‘could there be more?’ The answer is yes.  And it is studying ‘Mask & Material’ with Matteo Destro and Giovanni Fusetti. 

Matteo and I on my last day at Helikos and in Florence


If theatre is to not only survive but to thrive, I believe it is through the ancient tools and understanding of ‘Mask & Material’ that it shall do so. 

Go and see for yourself.


1 comment:

  1. This is awesome, Jenine - I tell ya: with all the mask work now gaining momentum in the country, it's only good news...so looking forward to seeing all your stuff at fest!

    (Oh, our Conspiracy blog has migrated somewhat - new address is www.conspiracyofclowns.com )

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