8 Aug 2012

Chennai Meets Trestle Masks

Workshop Chronicles: 

Emily Gray, Trestle’s Artistic Director, describes her experiences of delivering workshops to teachers in India with Shaili Sathyu of Gillo Theatre Repertory, preceding The Snow Queen tour. Look out for further blogs about her trip!

Day 1

”Is the mask becoming you or are you becoming the mask?”

I was both daunted and delighted by the sari clad circle of charming Indian teachers, who greeted the first morning of my first day back in India. I have visited Indian schools in the past, but not worked specifically with teachers. Here were 18 teachers from 9 different schools from across the city and across the range of private and state education. There was one drama teacher in the group, the rest were English teachers with some duty to fulfil a drama remit within their schools.

A simple name game brought out some beautiful mudras and gestures and we were off; of course saris allow for movement and the teachers were soon using their physicality in preparation for full mask work. They started engaging with the audience, making funny images full of character and grasping the need for a gestural language in mask.

When the full masks were put on, the group worked well, daring to become physical characters and work beyond the boundaries of their experience of educational drama. Everyone tried at least two masks and improvised, observing and learning from each other how some masks can handle minimal movement and be most effective, whilst others cry out for large gestures. We worked on counter mask and discussed playing stereotypes and working against them, in response to Meenaksi’s question, ” is the mask becoming you or are you becoming the mask?”

After lunch we reflected on the discipline that mask can bring when using this work as a tool for exploring audience contact, focus in a scene, physical clarity of characters, interpretation of images, inner monologue, non verbal drama.

It was time to look at applying these tools to a devising process and we used the Snow Queen story as inspiration; the group identified how they might approach a story through dialogue, character, setting. We asked them to consider context, archetype and storytelling through tableau. The environment of the Snow Queen play was created through an exercise which took the group from warm Kanyakumari in the south to the ice of the north, through fiery desert and peaceful back waters. The teachers made the connection with the five elements and how these might be taught through such an exercise.

The teachers responded well to the archetypes of the child, the devil, the mother, the trickster, the hero etc. They then created and brought to life images of the Snow Queen story, with some becoming the icy palace and others finding the physicality of the friendship between the children in the play.

Throughout the day very few words were spoken in performance; our workshop world was visceral and visual. We asked the teachers to prepare for Day 2; a story told through 7 phrases, an image, a piece of music and an object all connected to their chosen tale. We promised the group we would explore how to apply the techniques we worked on today to large groups of children.
More to follow….

Trestle’s outreach programme in India
is delivered in partnership with:

For further details about The Snow Queen tour in India, click here
For info about UK show dates at the end of the summer, click here
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