Jennah FC – Toronto, ON
“The body knows things about which the mind is ignorant”. Spoken by the godfather of the art of mask himself Jacques Lecoq. Mask is the performance art form with emphasis on the use of mask. It sounds pretty self explainable but it has several layers that are complex and extraordinary all at the same time. First, there is the neutral mask. It is symmetrical with soft features, and the mouth is slightly open. The mask is to be seen as if it has no past, no baggage, and no ego. This can be challenging for any actor.
Lecoq believed that the neutral mask gave his students the ability or even a chance to be open when performing. You just have to let yourself have that feeling with the mask and you would fully let the world effect the body while using the mask. The neutral mask isn’t the only style of mask that Faustwork Mask Theatre works with. They also use Larval inspired mask and commedia dell’arte masks (also known as half masks). Faustwork Mask Theatre has been creating and exploring mask work since 1983. They also incorperate other types of art forms such as physical comedy, music, dance and poetry. Faustwork has made it’s way all over the world it seems. Visiting and performing in venues such as The Sydney Opera House in Australia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., The Kentucky Center for the Arts, and The Maui Arts and Cultural Center. They also do annual tours of their solo and duo shows at festivals, universities, corporate events (Ted Talks), and schools across North America.
I was given the opportunity to see this magic in a small studio in Toronto,Ontario. There was a space for play and there was a set up of several masks, both beautiful and ugly. The whole spectrum of emotions was right there as well. There were masks that were angry, happy, sad, flirty, shy. The masks hung up alone were coming alive with just me looking at them but I knew someone had to put them on to give us the full experience. I was feeling the excitement and pure curiosity coming out of me and the other viewers in the studio; then walked in Magalie R. Bazinet.
She is a bilingual actress, director, acrobat, and a slam poet. Magalie explained to the audience what we were about to see. She gave us the history of mask from the begining of the presentation right until the very end. She revealed to us that mask has been around since basically the dawn of man. Mask has been an influence in several cultures and countries such as Africa, Europe, and several parts of Asia. Magalie transitioned from every character with such ease that you were never really taken out of it for a second. The show as a whole is very interactive with the audience and it’s hard for it not to be.
Magalie made these people and creatures come alive with her impressive physical ability. Two of the characters that Magalie showed us were “The Ballerina” and “The Frog”. With the ballerina the mask was placed on the back of Magalie’s head and she began to do a warm up for us. I can’t stress enough that this mask was on the back of her head while she was doing stretches and a bridge. The body control and awareness was amazing to witness and with “The Frog”, lets just say that Magalie doesn’t just stand on her feet. The material of the show as a whole was great. They went through all the different kinds of mask at a very great pace, and showed a varied depth of technique, and emotion in mask work.
The only thing that I did want was to see all the masks that were on the wall worn, but maybe they just want to leave you wanting more. Watching this show I even realized how wigs, clothes, and other accessories effect and can add to mask work. Susie the fashionista character can give you a couple of pointers on that. The show is meant for all ages and anyone who has an imagination that can take them on this trip that Magalie and Faustwork is conducting. I’m really pleased to know that this information is being shown to children in schools because this art form will inspire them to learn more, to even seek out more information about this ancient art form that is constantly at our fingertips.