Masks in rehearsals

Here is another post from the questionnaire from Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. This time is about how I work with masks if I only use them in rehearsals and not in the actual play. For those who like to learn more about my workshops can go HERE.

A question came up about how I use masks in rehearsals but not in the actual performance and what that contributes…
I must say it very different depending on performance the needs of the moment. I use everything from paper plate masks (that does not have any expressions and cannot be interpreted as if they had), to neutral masks (that has en “empty” face to apply expressions on), to Commedia dell’Arte masks (for rhythm, size, timing, etc.), character masks (to look for connections in the expression between face and body), and so on. It might as well be to work with movement dynamics or other qualities of movements or to help the actor to be clean from tics or unnecessary movements.
If we even count the clown nose as a mask it can be used look for inner qualities or just to help the actor to find distance to a character or a situation. I often use the neutral mask to search for characters from its neutral position.
I see the mask over all as a very useful tool when I meet an actor whether it is in training, exercises, rehearsals or used in a show.

The reasons for not using a mask in a performance that were used in rehearsals can be as in August Strindberg’s play “ The Outlaw” where we used a mask for one of the characters but fund that it became ridiculous since it didn’t play in “the same family” as the other characters. The idea behind using a mask was to make it non-personalized and dangerous. I tried with Balinese demon masks, other character masks and a bauta, but it only became stupid in the context. Instead I gave it a veil, and that worked.
Most of the times I have taken away a mask are when it simply doesn’t give anything to the performance or that the actual mask training we have done in rehearsals was enough to give the character or sequence in the show what it needed. A mask that doesn’t give anything or help the actor and his body just becomes an obstacle for the actor’s expression since it just takes away one of his tools – his face.
It is usually all about the level of stylizing and its function, conformity to the rest of the show, or its use. It has also happened that I have taken away a mask and replaced it with a puppet, in search for an even greater stylization.

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