Spotlites Director Blog – Theatre Masks

I had the pleasure of taking a theatre master class in Mask last week at Spotlites. We used full masks. There was the added challenge that some of the Masks had not been worn before, so we couldn’t be sure of their effectiveness.

We began gently with sense work and playfulness and almost immediately reached a situation where the masks wanted to interact; once this was achieved there was the chance to begin small scenes. These scenes quickly became very deep with real connections made between the characters. The masks did not portray lovers or warriors or statues. They became them. In every way. The entire way of standing, the relationship between the neck and the body, gesture, dynamism, energy: everything changed. For every character. There were ten actors in mask and all the masks were ‘on’, giving the stage an electricity rarely felt at this intensity.

The masks’ performances made me want to cry; when the warrior faced his death with his wife looking on, tears sprung. When the statues crumbled closer together over thousands of years only for one to topple to the ground, it was a true tragedy. When the animals were separated by oblivious owners it was affecting.

After the class, none of the actors could remember what they had done; odd moments only and usually seemingly obscure ones.

I wonder if this is really the case or is it rather an unspoken sense that to talk about these strong feelings that they obviously experienced will engulf them in a wave of public emotion? The joy of Mask class is that it can unlock an actor in every way: emotionally, physically and spiritually. This surely happened and will hopefully inform the actors’ future inhabitation work and give them an alternative starting point for deep characterisation.

I love working at Spotlites on Mask class for the shocking and almost redemptive freedom it gives the actor. The freedom to just be.

Spotlites Theatre Mask

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