Monday, February 22, 2010

Bali hai

We had a mask workshop in Religion & Theater this morning, led by a Dane, who's spent many years going "forth and back" to Bali, and his American assistant. The masks are carved and lacquered in Bali by a native mask-maker, but to the Dane's own designs. While inspired by religious dances, they are not themselves religious but rather influenced by Michael Chekhov's "archetypes." We thought it would be useful for students to experience the power of masks - important in the ancient Greek, egungun, Purim and Nôh traditions which are our topics for the first third of the course - and these acting teachers' religion-inspired-but-not-religious approach sounded ideal for our purposes. One very interesting thing they did was place masks over students' faces without letting the students see the masks first. Had they first seen them, we were told, they'd be thinking about the mask rather than responding with feeling and will. But responding to what? In some cases it was surely responding to others' responses to the mask you couldn't yourself see, but increasingly we were led to believe that it was the power of the masks, that is, the intention of their maker. ("I could make a mask that killed you if I wanted," the Dane said at one point.) This is where I'm not sure anymore. Every tradition has tales of masks which possess their wearers, and the workshop played on our susceptibility to this superstition, our desire to be possessed. Did I just say superstition?!

1 comment:

Helle Ringgaard said...

Is the Dane connected to Odin Teatret in any way?
Their founder, Euginio Barba, does impressive work in the field of Theatre Anthropology.
Their home page is in English.