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“Masks” and Meaning – Improv Games
May 7, 2021 at 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm PDT
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In this improvisational acting workshop, Interintellect Maybe Gray invites you to explore the meaning of “masks” in theatre, psychology, and spirituality.
The use of tangible masks has existed throughout the history of dramatic performance. We all recognize the most iconic symbol of drama itself to be a pair of masks with exaggerated expressions of joy and sorrow, representing the contrast between comedy and tragedy. The traditional use of masks allows us to conceal our every day identities and provides us with the opportunity to believe, and invite others to believe, we are someone else. This combination of anonymity and possibility makes masks a powerful tool which can shape our experiences of ourselves and each other in transformative ways.
However, the term “mask” can be interpreted broadly to include objects and concepts beyond the literal masks we wear on our faces. For example, clowns draw their “masks” directly on their faces (and sometimes, for legal purposes, on eggs.) Even more broadly, clowns often consider everything about the way they move, the way they speak, the way they emote, and the way they dress, etc. as parts of their “mask.” This perspective can be described through a principle of “as within, so without.” Nearly everything about the truths we hold inside ourselves reflects in some or another aspect of our appearance on the outside. Even more importantly, when considering the power of masks, everything about the ways we appear on the outside informs the truth of our inner experiences. In theatre, the process of creating and portraying a character unfolds as much from outside in as it does from inside out. Charlie Caplin’s iconic character The Tramp, for example, was discovered through the many elements of a “mask” rather than the other way around.
This incredible power of “masks” in theatre hints at the power of “masks” in other contexts like psychology and spirituality. Carl Jung considered the entirety of our persona, the social face we present as we navigate the world, to be “a kind of mask.” In much the same way clowns, improvisers, and actors can make subtle shift in their “masks” to achieve tremendous impacts on their audiences, in our everyday lives we all shift our “masks” to navigate different relationships, adjust to different contexts, and express different sides of our inner selves. In a similar way, working with “masks” can also help us to experience aspects of our inner selves that are obscured by the social “masks” we wear and become aware of the parts of us which are truly “soulful” and “universal” and “human.” This part of our inner selves can be capable of deeply transformative and spiritual experiences.
In this salon we will explore…
- the power of “dress up” as a way of experimenting with “masks” to uncover a “character” who lives within us, just like Charlie Chaplin found The Tramp within himself, and
- the power of ritual to help us to become the “neutral mask” which connects us to the most “universal” and “soulful” and “human” parts of each of ourselves.
For these improv games all you will need is…
- headphones with a functioning microphone and a webcam,
- and clothes for playing dress-up!
- make sure you have enough options to make intuitive choices in the moment;
- anything you particularly love to wear would be especially great to include;
- when in doubt, gather anything wild, colourful, unusual, bold or exciting!
You may also want…
- any literal masks you may happen to have,
- face paint, makeup, etc. for drawing on a “mask”,
- some space to get up and move around and play in, if possible,
- and paper and a pen/pencil for taking some notes on your character to guide your improv if you’d like.
Read before the salon (optional)…
- Masks as a method: Meyerhold to Mnouchkine by David Roy
- The Neutral Mask by Jan Henderson
- Psychological “Masks”: Opportunities and Obstacles Beneath the Veil
- The Philosophy of Clown by Jan Henderson
- Canadian Clowning
- Clown therapy: A drama therapy approach to addiction and beyond by Jeff Gordon, Yoram Shenar & Susana Pendzik
Some more reading you could do…
- Tina Fey’s Rules for Improvisation
- Summary of Keith Johnstone’s “Impro” by Venkatash Rao
- Summary of Keith Johnstone’s “Impro” by James Clear
3pm in Los Angeles / San Francisco
6pm in New York
8am in Sydney (Saturday May 8th)
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