Masks are theatrical by nature and often persuade less confident students to just ‘let go’ – which I why I find myself using them quite often. The concept of a mask covering one’s face relates to an anonymous nature – allowing the wearer to become quite mischievous as they snigger behind their safety net. Whenever I use masks for the first time with a group it’s useful to note how the wearer regresses back to infancy in their first experience. A very childish nature is often the first experience a wearer will encounter, interestingly the more advanced the wearer becomes the more complex a character can become. In a sense, as their skills grow – the mask grows up. This particular experience is worthy in it’s own right, observing both young people and adults re-establishing their ability to play and enjoy the simplicity of life. Something as a society we rarely encounter in our day to day living, unless we are in fact accompanied by a child. I don’t use masks in a therapeutic sense (although I am aware of their uses in this context) but purely for the experience of viewing life through a new set of eyes.
This is useful for both the actor and the non-actor. As an actor, the loss of verbal communication develops an actor’s physical presence. Becoming reliant on storytelling through gesture and grandeur makes us more aware of our physical presence and how to harness it’s uses – living in the present and the now. For the non-actor, masks create a space for expression that does not necessarily rely on the individual being ‘seen’. The safety harness that a mask creates is not to be overlooked and potentially becomes an unspoken voice for the wearer. It’s a liberating feeling to be seen and not seen simultaneously.