Since 1979, Jerry and I have been exploring masks. Almost 30 years of experience has reinforced one important realization – the mystery of the mask is evasive. How does a mask come to life? When I attended the Lecoq school in the eighties and nineties, students were asked to watch when the actor falls away and all that is left is the mask persona. We would watch intensely as a single actor performed on a bare stage. We leaned forward as instructed by M. Lecoq and opened our eyes looking for a single moment when the mask came to life. We were watching like theatre archeologists for a moment that is not so easily defined by inexperienced eyes. The moment when the actor’s cleverness, inventiveness, and talents fall away and what remains is the mask. That moment is rare. I only saw that moment a few times.
In our works ZooZoo, FROGZ, and Biglittlethings we work with actors to find the truth of the mask. As choreography, timing, special effects and the entire event of theatre takes place, it is difficult for the actor to stay focused on mask theatre – the very thing the actor is there to do. Many times we give actors notes reminding them that they are not performing alone, but rather they are in partnership with the mask, that in order for the mask to come alive they need to let the mask share the stage. Lecoq used the phrase to carry a mask. I think this phrase to carry signifies that an actor must support the mask; much the same way a supporting actor supports the lead. The actor cannot take the lead or the mask will have no life.
ZooZoo, Imago’s best of FROGZ and Biglittlethings, opens April 10th.