WHEN THE COSTUME BECOMES THE MASK’S BODY – A HEAHTHEN GOD’S COSMOGONY, STRASBOURG 5-6 JUNE 2014

Grundtvig Partnership meeting
École supérieure d’art dramatique / Théâtre National de Strasbourg
5-6 June 2014

For this seminar, which took place in Strasbourg, the theme was based on a combined process including costume, mask, space and light, with the challenge of inviting participants from different professional fields within theatre.

The playful title of the seminar intended to discuss transformation, irrationality and imagination, the unfinished being already a “state” or a playing ambiance… The issue “Sketch and play, or can sketching be already playing?” highlights the invitation to observe in a specific way the upstream, the moment of the entrance and the downstream of playing (with the mask before interpreting it), including as much as possible the beings of the participants, “sculpting” the mask’s body directly on and with the actor. The experimental idea was to observe how a certain level and quality of attention could change the status of all the cohabiting elements, space and light, preparation gestures, actor building sensations, participants around, even observers.

The proposal did not lean on a technical approach to mask work, neither on a tradition (although always connected with traditions), nor a method. In the case of “costume”, the very dissimilar materials carefully collected were given to the participants representing a meeting place. Light implantation and flexible spaces were at the disposal of the participants as well as improvisational objects.
The process involved “to lean on what we know, to attempt something that we do not know, to observe what occurs and which fields of research it can open”.

We realized that the meeting of theatre artist-teachers coming either with no knowledge, either with a precise idea, perhaps great experience of mask work, practicing or not, was an issue. Furthermore as the organisation of the seminar requested that we distribute them into three groups in different rooms, it appeared that it was impossible to guide the entrances (more precisely the moment when the mask is being put on by the actor like a key stone for the sculpted body) in different times and spaces. In other words, it seemed impossible “to master” the playful experiment. In spite of where we “situate” mask work in the TNS School, we decided to leave the freedom to the participants to explore and give various statuses or meanings to the masks.

We tried to create the material welcoming conditions that would reflect the TNS School spirit, with a deliberately demanding playing situation proposal, but equally aiming to make it and experiment where we too could learn something. We nevertheless hope that we were able to give a furtive feeling of our mask work approach, with the point of view that a School can also be a laboratory.

Marc Proulx
Strasbourg, June 2014

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