November 7, 2008

Notes on Masks

I've been on a strange wavelength lately when it comes to theatre. I've been devouring resources about physical theatre and acting that takes actors beyond humanizing (or rather, beyond interpreting/creating characters in a purely socio-psychological context). There is a deeper reality I want to show through my work, a reality where logic and reason don't necessarily function as they do here. Peter Brook may call it the Holy Theatre, but I'm not sure how squarely that fits what I'm working on.

I was in my favorite public library the other day (aka Barnes & Noble), and I came across The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre by Jaques LeCoq (trans. David Bradby). He says a lot of intriguing things about masks and theatricality, especially what the neutral mask does for actors. Here are a few things I jotted down . . .
  • Neutral mask - face is neutral, perfectly balanced mask which produces physical sensation of calm
  • When placed on face, should enable one to experience the state of neutrality prior to action, a state of receptiveness to everything around us, with no inner conflict
  • Something Japanese about it - calm, lack of expression, equilibrium
And some quotes . . .
"Essentially, the neutral mask opens up the actor to the space around him. It puts him in a state of discovery, of openness, of freedom to receive. Itallows him to watch, to hear, to feel, to touch elementary things with the freshness of beginnings. You take on the neutral mask as you might take on a character, with the difference that there is no character, only a neutral generic being. A character experiences conflict, has a history, a past, a context, passions. On the contrary, a neutral mask puts the actor in a state of perfect balance and economy of movement. Its moves have a truthfulness, its gestures and actions are economical."

"Beneath the neutral mask the actor's face disappears and his body becomes far more noticeable . . . Every movement is revealed as powerfully expressive . . . The neutral mask, in the end, unmasks!"

"The natural world speaks directly to the neutral state. When I walk through the forest, I am the forest."

"In our way of working we enter a text through the body . . . working through movement, we ask the actors to get to grips physically with the text, its images, its words, its dynamics. Relating to it does not mean interpreting. To interpret means to shed light on its different aspects, such as its period, context, society, psychology, or morality. It is the director's responsibility to decide which aspects to emphasize. My teaching method steers clear of any interpretation, concentrating on the constant respect for the internal dynamics of the text, avoiding all a priori readings."
I'm skewing toward using Transformational Acting to develop this piece, although I may just trust the director enough to bring those aspects to life.

No comments:

Post a Comment