This last summer, you may recall that I was in Wales with a production of Midsummer Nights Dream. Well either side of this trip I was working on a project with a company called Story Catchers.-
A Chicago based company hell bent on giving young minds in juvenal detention facilities their voice back, a platform to express themselves, and give the tools they can put into practice enabling a future for this youth…
… How they do this, is by writing a musical theatre piece that the group create themselves, based on their experiences, questions on what’s possibly next in their life, and maybe trauma that they want others to know so they don’t have to go through it. All guided by an extremely experienced team.
How did I get involved?
A new friend in the Chicago area was joining the work force of Story Catchers and told the company about my background in mask. This was the selling point for the company, as one of the young writers for this show had written dream scenes with the ethereal character of hope, interacting with the leading protagonist.
SO, after going through the correct procedures to allow me in the room in the first place- The back and forth emails to tailor the workshops. The first session begins.
An evening workshop that starts at 5pm to 8pm.
I go carrying all my notes and book on mask technique for some superstitious support. Entering the institution is intimidating. An air of firm authority and clinically clean.
As we set up the room for the participants, each team member kindly checks in with me and gives me a gift of advice for what works for them. All is processed and I smile. (while frantically calculating how this can be applied to my workshop.)
Then the participants enter, all of them greeting the story catchers team with their own unique welcome, all of them totally aware of me, approaching with caution.
Then we do a check in circle. Giving names and how we feel on the inside and out. As soon as it gets to me and I start speaking, all the participants smirk, don’t meet my eye. It’s clear they haven’t met too many artists with a genuine British accent.
This is difficult only for a hot second, then as we get up to do exercises I see just how fun and creative these previously stone faced fellow could be.
Due to the tight turn around in this block of workshops, I mainly get the participants to connect to exercises with commedia dell arte.
We send emotions up and down a line, each time, amplifying the emotion as it becomes embodied/more extreme.
this one get them laughing and instantly impressed with their ability to invest in an exercise to get audible results from the audience.
A few exercises later and we split the groups up into two groups, one looking at dreams dream and the other nightmares. Each group is tested to find specifics within their own body to signify to the audience that they as either apart of a dream or nightmare. The participants were very good at this… …I think it’s important to note at this point- no masks were used in the first session, to make them aware of their bodies in the time we had, I just asked them to imagine their own face was a mask. (this work surprisingly well)
This was the structure for a few sessions, as well as, introduction to a mask, how to approach a mask and applying it to the scene.
The work was enjoyable, safe and brilliant to see the participants really find their voice, to really command a space and gain confidence in using mask to tell their story.
If you would like to read more blogs and stories of my work as an actor please contact me and let me know.