Category Archives: Mask Images

The Mask Maker

I’ve often found that people aren’t quite sure what I mean when I say I’m a mask maker. Chris Hatcher of Field Guide Films gives a terrific peek behind the curtains in this video.

The Mask Maker from Chris Hatcher on Vimeo.

 

The masks I’m making here are for the production of The Spider Queen by The NOLA Project, directed by Jon Greene. This original play was inspired in part by the sculpture of a spider by Louise Bourgeois  in NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden, where the play will be performed in May 2017.

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Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1995, bronze; Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans. PHOTO: Celan Bouillet

 

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An Italian Summer(y)

Centro Maschere e Strutture Gestuali

Earlier this summer, I posted about my study with the Sartori in Abano Terme, a small city of 19,000 near the larger city of Padova. Here are a few photos of the rest of that work!

 

From our initial designs on paper, we sculpted our masks in clay. Then we made a mold, did a test run in carta pesta (an Italian papier mache), and made modifications as necessary. We then used all of our research to sculpt the wooden matrix, which was used as the base to shape our leather. This entire process took a month. It’s such a wonderful experience to be able to take the time to concentrate on a project like this without other pressures.

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After finishing the masks, we met with Giorgio Bongiovanni of the Piccolo Teatro di Milano to investigate the performance of commedia masks, and later, our own. Fabian Gysling of Ècole Gysling was also there to help us find our characters and play in the masks. The slideshow above is from the public demonstration of our work. Luckily, the theater was air-conditioned.

A Two Week Interval

After completing the Sartori workshop at the CMSG, I had a little time to kill before my next workshop. I spent an extra day sketching masks at the Museo Internazionale della Maschera Amleto e Donato Sartori in Abano Terme. Next, I went to a farmhouse in Chiesanuova to visit my classmate Barbara, and together we traveled to San Miniato to visit mask maker Matteo Destro. Afterwards I traveled north to Malcesine, where I visited costume designer Fabio Toblini.  I regrouped with  friends to see Marmolada in the Dolomiti mountain range (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Finally, I explored historic Roma. It wasn’t built in a day, and you certainly can’t see it in three (especially in the summer heat). However, I was able to strategize a tour of Caravaggio paintings and some awesome historic buildings (e.g. the Basilica San Clemente) with the kind help of the friends and family of a fellow Portlander! (Molte grazie a Arturo, Anna, Riccardo, Guya, and Francesco!)

Here’s a slideshow sampler of my travels!

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Familie Flöz Sommer Akademie

My other study was a two-week course in mask performance and the creation of performance material in ensemble with the Berlin-based company Familie Flöz. Our classes were held in the Abbazia San Giusto, a refurbished monastery on the outskirts of the small town of Tuscania. When I told people in Italy where I was going, they (reasonably) assumed I was mispronouncing “Toscana” (aka the large region we call “Tuscany”). It only confuses the matter that Tuscania is quite near the border of Toscana.

The Familie Flöz is pretty unique. They create original, wordless, character-centered mask performances that often play in a clown-like sense of comedy. (Check out a short film of one of their first shows in 1995, and also a trailer for their show that just swept the Edinburgh Fringe off its feet). I was very curious to find out how they devise their work and the techniques they employ to bring these full-face masks to life.

Though some students came to study how to build masks, and others came for performance training, we all began the work together each morning with a movement class. What an amazing and perfect way to start the day! Apparently birds thought so too, because they would frequently find their way into the studio—screens on windows were rare—and take a long time to find their exit.

The first four days were conceived as a quick introduction to all of the subjects we could study more in depth beginning on day five. Not only was it a great way to survey the kind of work we would do, it also gave us an opportunity to see which of the company members had a teaching style that worked for us.  In the end, I focused on Alexander Technique & Neutral Mask, Character Building in Full Face Mask, and Devising & Directing Mask Theater.

We spent a lot of time both in and out of the mask as ways to approach building both characters and scenes. Character interviews, partnered movement studies, and improvisations all flipped between these two modes. Another important idea in the beginning of the work was to remove the pressure of producing something—this pressure often only stifles the breath of creativity, and the relative value of a given improvisation can be determined the day after.

We ended the workshop with a large celebration. This included masked characters walking around the grounds of the Abbey as visitors entered, followed by a number of short scenes —including the one our group created about a composer finding inspiration in his everyday surroundings. Then, of course, lots of food and dancing!

When I thought back over my experience, I thought a lot about what conditions made for my best work over the summer. None of these are necessarily surprising, but the combination of these things was important.

  • Doing one thing at a time
  • Working in community
  • Limiting distractions
  • Being in a supportive culture
  • Proactive learning: pursuing questions vs waiting to receive wisdom
  • Listening to my intuition
  • Daily movement practice / Intentional connection with the body
  • Remaining emotionally available
  • Exchange with other cultures

The same might be said of life in general.

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Final Dance Party at Abbazia San Giusto

Many thanks ! The study with Familie Flöz was made possible in part by a professional development grant from :

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Hunting for solutions

Behind the Scenes: The King Stag

This show was produced at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, and designed by Professor Michael Olich. I worked as the movement consultant for the actors and as an assistant designer/ builder of various mask and puppet items.

Seven months before the show would open, we met to share broad concepts, discuss exciting opportunities, and forecast potential hurdles. At this early point, it became clear that some things needed to be tried in a rough form to solidify the approach of the design.

Parrot puppet

One such element was the parrot. The first task was to figure out from where it would be manipulated. The parrot couldn’t be designed properly without that key information.

(click on each photo to see full size and captions)

After trying a few options, including operating it from above, the most feasible and satisfying conclusion was to puppeteer from the stage deck.

At first I thought I might have to trigger the flapping of the wings through a mechanism on the control rod, but using gravity to activate the foam wings was pretty satisfying.

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Stag & Bear Masks

The show was not cast until September, so many issues of scale had to be determined at that time. To know how big to make the mask, it was better to know the size of the body supporting that mask.

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The mask of the King Stag incorporates two kinds of rings: the upper are fixed, while the lower can turn. The little movements help incorpoate the mask to the actors body. Photo ©2015 Owen Carey

The best solution for both stag and bear characters was  a helmet mask—the stags were mounted on construction helmets, and the bear was, itself, a helmet.

I love how the planar design helps the mask transform in motion and contributes to the magic of the play.

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It was so interesting to build in this very mathematical way. The front of the face was drawn topographically, then measurements were transposed to help create an appropriate profie. Photo ©2015 Owen Carey

The Laughing Statue

The script requires an enchanted statue that comes to life and laughs at key moments in the story. The designer had a clear idea of the look of the statue and a general sense of intended scale early in the process. Once the part was cast, I could determine measurements that would allow the actor’s face to be seen and permit her arms to reach the control mechanisms.

Even then, it was a challenge! I was using many materials and adhesives that were relatively new to me, and doing so in a short amount of time. We would joke frequently about how every single solution created two new problems.  It was a relief to have the advice and help of both my friends in the puppetry community and also my collaborators on the show as I learned about making this statue.

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The magical statue aids King Deramo by laughing at the false affections of Smeraldina, his valet’s sister. Photo ©2015 Owen Carey

It’s amazing to me how much expression can be manifested with just a few movements. The only movements available to the actor were the flex in the statue’s hands and those of her own face, but she was able to find great levels and variety to play.

Click here to see all of the production photos.

Birds and Bugs

Owl Over the Moon

Opera-matic, a collaborative arts group in Chicago, contacted me this last spring to make a mask for The Moon on the Lagoon, The community performance featured lullabies and the faces people find in the moon. What a cool idea!

I was sent this image for initial inspiration.
I was sent this image by a group in Chicago commissioning an owl mask.

Part of designing the mask is figuring how it will align with and/or cover the performer’s face. The producers knew they wanted the mouth of the performer available, so I approached it much like a three-quarter character mask.

Sculpting happened quite quickly on this project because the mask was needed quickly.
Sculpting happened quite quickly on this project because the mask was needed quickly.
I knew the image of the performer in the mask would be projected onto a surface, so I wanted to be sure to include various amounts of relief in the sculpture.
I knew the image of the performer in the mask would be projected onto a surface, so I wanted to be sure to include various amounts of relief in the sculpture.
For this project, I used an underpainting technique for highlight and shadow. I started adding tones for the feathers after.
For this project, I used an underpainting technique for highlight and shadow. I started adding tones for the feathers after.
The initial painting treatment. Though I liked it by the light of day, it seemed like it might be too dark for the context in which it would be performed.
The initial painting treatment. Though I liked it by the light of day, it seemed like it might be too dark for the context in which it would be performed.
Luckily, the idea of underpainting continued as I lightened the tone with additional layers of feathers. It ended looking nice and complex.
Luckily, the idea of underpainting continued as I lightened the tone with additional layers of feathers. It ended looking nice and complex.
The mask projected on the image of the moon in Humboldt Park, Chicago. Photo ©2015 Kelly Peloza
The mask projected on the image of the moon in Humboldt Park, Chicago.
Photo ©2015 Kelly Peloza
The production team had their own discoveries. The found that they wanted more eye movement than anticipated, and adjusted the eyes accordingly.  Photo ©2015 Kelly Peloza
The production team had their own discoveries. The found that they wanted more eye movement than anticipated, and adjusted the eyes accordingly.
Photo ©2015 Kelly Peloza
Photo ©2015 Kelly Peloza
Photo ©2015 Kelly Peloza
Variations on a Mantis

Inspiration and discovery continue throughout the process of making. Those moments are my favorite in my process. These inspirations can manifest in an accident, through a coincidence of timing, etc.

The first version of this mask was made for the Grand Guignolers company in Los Angeles. It was to be human in scale, which directed my choice about how to create visibility for the actor.

Coy. So coy. Just a like a mantis.
Coy. So coy. Just a like a mantis.
Though difficult to see here, the exoskeleton is textured with small brushstrokes to add life to the painting under stage lights.

This amazing insect was so inspiring, it started appearing in other projects, like the shadow puppet show bugged, created with Rollin Carlson.

An exploratory image from the making of "bugged"—like so many images, it didn't make it into the show.
An exploratory image from the making of “bugged”—like so many images, it didn’t make it into the show.

Working in shadow encourages an essentialization of form. It’s interesting to look back and see which elements carry on and evolve through the various iterations. After this further exploration of this form through puppetry, I realized wasn’t quite satisfied with the silhouette. I jumped at the chance to improve it with my next commission for the insect.

Round 2: blocking in a sculpture for a new version.
Round 2: blocking in a sculpture for a new version.
Refining the sculpture
Refining the sculpture
I had to cut off part of the clay  mandibles to accomplish the papier-mache. They were made separately and joined once the cast had been pulled from the clay.
I had to cut off part of the clay mandibles to accomplish the papier-mache. They were made separately and joined once the cast had been pulled from the clay.
This praying mantis has a special paint on the eyes—a gold mixed with a green—to create an iridescence to the eyes.
This praying mantis has more texture on the eyes than the exoskeleton. It also has a special paint on the eyes to create a feeling of iridescence.

I refined the eye hole to be even more incorporated in the geometry of the sculpture. The next time I had the opportunity  to work on this mask, I played around a little with color. Research images guided my thoughts.

A variation from the previous sculpture. The eyes were further refined and smoothed with paper clay.
A variation from the previous sculpture. Research provided additional ideas fro coloring. The eyes were further refined and smoothed with paper clay.
For the eyes on this version, I began with a sponge technique to break up the flatness of the red. On top of that, I used a stencil technique to suggest the segmentation of the eyes.
For the eyes on this version, I began with a sponge technique to break up the flatness of the red. On top of that, I used a stencil technique to suggest the segmentation of the eyes.

I’ve learned great things each time about this he next time I work on this mask, I want to explore greater width. Here are all the versions so far:

Side by side
Side by side
In this silhouette, the mask is almost three times as wide as the human head!
In this silhouette, the mask is almost three times as wide as the human head!

Pictures from India

It’s taken a few months to organize and upload the photos from my trip to India, but I’m happy to report they are are ready! And good golly, there’s a lot of them. So a few options exist.

If you want the entire adventure, including all the work on Maya the musical and my subsequent travels to south India, follow this link.

If you want to see just the travels to south India, click here.

So. Epic.

The Epic Project

Inspired by the study of mythology by Joseph Campbell (a favorite of mine too!), as well as theatre creators Ariane Mnouchkine, Jacques Lecoq, Peter Brook, and Complicite, Professor Stephanie Roberts is leading an exciting collaboration between UMKC Theatre and  the UMKC Conservatory IMP Ensemble.

The working title is The Epic Project. It is a three year endeavor to weave contemporary and classic stories into an epic narrative suited to our times. The actors have been devising for nearly two years already. I was invited to be a part of that exploration this last February.

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As a part of their exploration of character and archetype, I worked with the actors to create animal-spirit masks.  The inspiration for this work came in part from old mask and mummer traditions from Europe and also from animal and spirit masks from around the world.  I asked the students to engage with familiar objects and new materials as they uncovered the spirit of the animal within.

Enough chatter. Here are some pictures!

Initial experiments

A new mouth for Josh.
Joshua uses a basket to create a mouth.
An experimental mask made by Edwin.  It's made of wax paper and captures the movement and essence of a different material.
An experimental mask made by Edwin. It’s made of wax paper and captures the movement and essence of a different material.
We then tried making animal masks using only one material: cardboard.
We then tried making animal masks using only one material: cardboard.
Making a mask not only requires choice of material, but constant check-ins along the way.
Making a mask not only requires choice of material, but constant check-ins along the way.
Masks aren't complete until the performer's body is added. We used this as a way to check in on our work as we built.
Masks aren’t complete until the performer’s body is added. We used this as a way to check in on our work as we built.

Digging further into materials

What we're working with.
What we’re working with.

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Uncovering the animal spirit

We did many experiments with materials and forms, then took what we learned and started making the mask for each actor.

The actors made a ball of paper the size of their head and attached it to the armature stand. This helps them size the mask correctly.
The actors made a ball of paper the size of their head and attached it to the armature stand. This helps them size the mask correctly.

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On the second to last day of our process, Julie Denesha from KCUR came and interviewed some of the actors. Check out her amazing photos here.

Mariem/Mosquito Photo: Julie Denesha
Mariem/Mosquito
Photo: Julie Denesha

See the work-in-action!

Come see the workshop performance in this phase of the Epic Project in Studio 116 at UMKC’s Performing Arts Center (4949 Cherry St.)  Previews run from Friday Mar 6-8th and runs Mar 11-15th. Shows at 7:30 with the exception of Mar 15th at 2:00pm.

Seating is very limited so please reserve your FREE tix at 816-235-2782.

Support live, collaborative theatre!

Devising mask theater

thesnowstormHoping for a Remount in Fall 2015!

Over the course of the last three years, I’ve had the great pleasure to work with Many Hats Collaboration’s Jessica Wallenfels and Eric Nordin (and a slew of other talented artists) on the development of an original work of dance theater, The Snowstorm.  It’s been a great journey, and I want to share a little of that process with you in this post.

Beginnings

Creating original work requires a lot of skills, in addition to having a vision for the show. Among these are communication, collaboration, being present, creative problem solving, flexibility, comfort with ambiguity, etc. The process was always a pleasure—largely due to the talents and leadership of Wallenfels and Nordin—and it also took us in many directions.

I played a couple of roles throughout. Initially, I worked as an actor to help develop physical vocabulary for some of the key scenes. Through this process, Wallenfels was able to get a sense of what it would take to tell a clear story through movement set against the music of Rachmaninoff.

Placeholder masks were used the 2013 workshop. We were trying to determine if masks were the right fit  for the show.
The Hawk, the Bear, and the Hen in rehearsal for the 2013 workshop at Portland Actors Conservatory. One of these actors was eventually cast in the 2015 production.

A year or so later, after many such experiments, a short evening of scenes was presented. One of the things we were trying to determine was if masks were a good fit for the show. Since it was just a test, we used placeholder masks that approximated the feeling of each of the masked characters.

We found we weren’t sure if masks were the best solution. Early in 2014, Jessica and I met to discuss our thoughts on the approach. I had just returned from Bali—and Jessica had been there herself, years earlier—so we thought we could also explore shadow puppets.

Fox tries to free the chicken
Fox tries to free the Hen
Shadow Bear!
Shadow Bear!
Hawk of Darkness
Hawk of Darkness

I decided to create a shadow puppet show that used the same two pieces of music in the first scene of The Snowstorm. I performed it with a second puppeteer for a Puppet Slam produced by Beady Little Eyes last spring. After more discussion, we decided that the shadows would likely be too difficult to see clearly in the thrust stage at the CoHo. We held on to the possibility of using both masks and puppets as we began to meet with the entire production team.

The patterns are all from various Russian folk patterns. Though I didn't pursue this further, the final wolf mask does have some textural similarity.
Though I didn’t pursue this further, the final wolf mask does have some textural similarity.
The surface treatment is  borrowed from various Russian folk patterns.
The surface treatment is borrowed from various Russian folk patterns.
I was considering a variety of materials to make the masks, including fabric.
Fabric was one material I considered using for the mask.
In an early iteration, all the masks were face masks.
In an early iteration, all the masks were face masks.

Researching the various animals in the story came next. Through our meetings, we had decided to go with masks. I tried to find a design concept that would serve the multiple needs of this particular production: a fantastical quality, a handmade look, and an ease of movement were among these needs. As I was working in India, I  would make sketches and email them back to the production team so that all of our designs could work well together. Nothing was feeling like it hit the mark, so I tried to think of other ways to solve the problem. Finally,  drawing on my recent experiences making a peacock mask for Maya, I proposed using a kind of helmet mask for the showThis option promised an interesting transformation onstage and seemed exciting to build.

The actor sees through a stylized opening in the mask.
The actor sees through a stylized opening in the mask.
The actor puts the mask on like a hat.
The actor puts the mask on like a hat.

Preparing for rehearsal

Typically, I prefer to provide the finished mask at first rehearsal. I feel this way because it allows the actors (who may have no experience performing with masks) to get used to the different performance style they will need to employ. With this show, we knew we wanted to have a little more flexibility and room for discovery. So with the design we thought we wanted in mind, I generated some rehearsal masks to give the actors a sense of what it would mean to perform in the masks.

Hawk's rehearsal piece gave us both a way to test the scale of the mask.
Hawk’s rehearsal piece gave us both a way to test the scale of the mask.
I made these cartooned masks from cardboard and bike tire.
I made these cartooned masks from cardboard and bike tire…
... and a simple head ring.
… and a simple head ring.

With the information from the rehearsal room, I was soon ready to sculpt. The discoveries did not really end there, which is really the fun of the whole thing!

Weighing options on the sculpture of the wolf.
Weighing options on the sculpture of the Wolf.
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Hawk gets his glare on.
I used different colors of paper mache to help the actors see the image of the character before it was painted—but we liked the handmade quality so much we kept it!
I used different colors of paper maché to help the actors see the image of the character before it was painted—but we liked the handmade quality so much we kept it!
For the wolf, I used a more varied color palette and texture.
For the Wolf, I used a more varied color palette and texture.
Rehearsing with the real masks provided lots of information about lighting, movement, and comfort. This is a lot of foam, which I later disguised with black broadcloth.
Rehearsing with the real masks provided lots of information about lighting, movement, and comfort. This is a lot of foam, which I later disguised with black broadcloth.

The Final Masks

The actors brought the masks to life beautifully! (Shadows still appear in the play, even though they are not the primary element. Knowing the process, it’s interesting to me to see how all of the different artistic impulses eventually found their place in the show.) Here are a few shots from the performance.

Beth Thompson as Bear. Photo: John Rudoff
Beth Thompson as Bear. Photo: John Rudoff
Eric Nordin (pianist) and Jamie Rea (Swan). Photo: Brud Giles
Eric Nordin (pianist) and Jamie Rea (Swan).
Photo: Brud Giles
(L to R): Beth Thompson as Bear, Elisha Henig as Fox, Brian Demar Jones as Hawk, and Kira Batcheller as Hen.
(L to R): Beth Thompson as Bear, Elisha Henig as Fox, Brian Demar Jones as Hawk, and Kira Batcheller as Hen.

Triangle Technology

You may have seen this video circling around:

Among its charms are the masks four of the dancers wear. One thing that caught my eye was the texture of the face. It reminded me of Buckminster Fuller, actually, and geodesic domes. Granted, I know only a little little bit about geodesics, but the visual similarity is interesting.

Inside of a (rather comfy)  geodesic dome temporarily set up in Portland in 2013.
Inside of a (rather comfy) geodesic dome temporarily set up in Portland in 2013.
Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, a geodesic sphere
Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, a geodesic sphere
Wireframe Self Portrait

I followed my curiosity to the homepage of the designer Eric Testroete. Eric works often as a game designer, but also has had some side projects, including this self portrait mask from 2009.

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Here’s a look at some of his process. (Reposted with permission from http://www.testroete.com)

There are over one hundred triangles making up this face
There are over one hundred triangles making up this face
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I often find myself using bits of skills from other disciplines when making masks. This image reminds me of flat patterning for sewing.

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Mirror, Mirror
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Mask Self Portrait, 2011.

testroete-mirror-2Eric used a similar construction technique to create this mirrored mask. I am always curious about how a mask plays in time and space, with the energy of a human beneath it, so I am really glad he posted this video it in use. And who doesn’t love a good walk in the woods?

Faces of India

Once it was confirmed that I would be working in India this fall, I was excited to see if I could find out more about Indian mask traditions. Quick internet searches yielded little, only some tribal Himalayan masks to the north, and a number of colorful pieces in neighboring Sri Lanka.Talking with some people on the Maya project as well as  other mask friends gave me a few more  ideas about where to look.

Here’s a little of what I found!

Kerala

Kathakali

Kerala is a state in southern India that borders the Arabian Sea.  It is also home to kathakali, a highly stylized drama/dance.  The stories told in this form vary, but many are from the Mahabharata epic.

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Drummers and singers accompanied the characters throughout the performance.

If you arrive early to the performance, not only do you get to observer the performers apply their intense makeup, you also get a better seat. And I’m really glad we did.

Some of the makeup includeds 3-D elements, like the white disc at his cheeks.
Some of the makeup includes 3-D elements, like the white disc at his cheeks. The green faced pacha character is always a good guy in the story being told.
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The makeup is made largely from the powders of different stones, or sometimes vegetable matter, mixed with coconut oil.
This clownish character had a white, flower-like nose attached on top of the makeup.
This clownish character had a white, flower-like nose attached on top of the makeup.

After the makeup was applied, there was a demonstration of the techniques used in the dance. You must train for many years before performing in the kathakali,  and the abilities of the dancers makes this clear.

The way they could move their eyes was nothing short of amazing. Eyes are very important in the communication of emotions in the drama, and these dancers have amazing muscular control. In addition, the performers of kathakali can isolate muscle groups in their face.  Not just like flaring nostrils or wiggling ears—try to imagine just the tops of the cheeks bouncing up and down while the rest of the face remains calm. It’s impressive!

The character designs painted on their faces come alive as these muscle isolations occur. These facial gestures are combined with mudras, or coded positions of the hands, to complete the attitude.

Lord Shiva and Parvati reveal their true nature after a series of comic antics.
Lord Shiva and Parvati reveal their true nature to Arjuna after a series of comic antics.

Kerala Folklore Museum

There are artifacts from throughout southern India, including the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, inside this beautiful building.

 

In Ernakulam, a more modern town across the water from Kochi, I was excited to find a museum dedicated to folklore. There were several interesting faces inside. The museum was not always the most successful in providing context for the various images, but I did start to get a sense of mask styles from different regions.

This beak is part of a costume for the Garuda bird in a Kathakali play.
This beak is part of a costume for the Garuda bird in a Kathakali play.
Costume for a Poothan ritual dance of Kerala.
Costume for a Poothan ritual dance of Kerala. According to wikipedia, Poothan is the lieutenant of Shiva. These dances are performed once or twice year to clean the village of evil spirits.
Another ritual dance from Kerala is the Kummattikali. It is celebrated on the festival of Onam (in Aug/Sept). Again (arrgh) I refer to wikipedia, which categorizes this and the Poothan dance as "devotional"
Another ritual dance mask from Kerala. Again I refer to wikipedia, which categorizes this (and the Poothan dance) as a “devotional art form”. The festival is in August/September, so I missed my chance to see it performed.
Another ritual performance called Theyyam was represented by these painted heads.
Another ritual performance called Theyyam was represented by these painted heads.
After some more research on wikipedia, it seems that these heads are records of some makeup styles for performers of the Theyyam cult.
After some more research on wikipedia, it seems that these heads are records of some makeup styles for performers of the Theyyam cult.
I include some pictures below from the wikipedia article for reference.
I include some pictures below from the wikipedia article for reference.
"Bali theyyam, Payyannur" by Jasinth M V - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bali_theyyam,_Payyannur.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bali_theyyam,_Payyannur.jpg
“Bali theyyam, Payyannur” by Jasinth M V – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bali_theyyam,_Payyannur.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bali_theyyam,_Payyannur.jpg
"Bhagavathi at Vikranandapuram Kshetram, Taliparamba" by prasadnp - PhotographedPreviously published: 2013/04/29. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bhagavathi_at_Vikranandapuram_Kshetram,_Taliparamba.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bhagavathi_at_Vikranandapuram_Kshetram,_Taliparamba.jpg
“Bhagavathi at Vikranandapuram Kshetram, Taliparamba” by prasadnp – PhotographedPreviously published: 2013/04/29. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bhagavathi_at_Vikranandapuram_Kshetram,_Taliparamba.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bhagavathi_at_Vikranandapuram_Kshetram,_Taliparamba.jpg

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I like the really basic expression in this mask from Karnataka.
I like this really basic expression.
The mask in the lower center, also a ritual mask from Karnataka, seems to build on the basic expression.
The mask in the lower center, also a ritual mask from Karnataka, seems to build on the basic expression.

 

 

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At the rear of the kathakali stage inside the Kerala Folk Museum.
Puppets!

There were also a few examples of puppets in the museum. I knew there were some famous puppets in the state of Rajasthan in the north, but these have a different feeling than their northern relations.

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Spare hands in mudras and extra feet.
Spare hands in mudras and extra feet.
Shadow Puppet from Andhra Pradesh.
Shadow Puppet from Andhra Pradesh.

Karnataka

Museum of Mankind

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A mask from the Limbu people near Geyzing, Sikkim in Northeastern India. It is carved in wood and depicts Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation.

We moved on to the state of Karnataka, just north and east of Kerala.  In the city of Mysore, famed for ashtanga yoga and sandalwood crafts, we visited the Indira Ghandi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (aka the Museum of Mankind).

A Mahakal mask from the Limbu of Geyzing, Sikkim. It is a variant of the one in red.
A Mahakal mask from the Limbu of Geyzing, Sikkim. It is a variant of the one in red.

The collection features many tribal art forms from different parts of India. I was lucky to find  included a couple of masks from the Himalayas in this southern state.  The style is quite different form the types I had seen in Kerala.  I imagine the  species of wood used for carving is different as well.

Though I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t find as many masks as I had hoped, the museum also features a large collection of terra cotta figures from around India.  These figures provide some insight into the style and decorative idiosyncrasies of the culture to which they belong.

Terra Cotta elephant at the Museum of Mankind in Mysore.
Terra Cotta elephant at the Museum of Mankind in Mysore.

 

Terra Cotta from Bihar, in  the north
Terra Cotta from Bihar, in the north
Sculpture of a woman from a folk community in Karnataka.
Sculpture of a woman from a folk community in Karnataka.

Miscellaneous faces

Street art in Kochi
Street art in Kochi
There are schools on the backwaters of Alleppey, and where there are schools, there are computers. They are guarded by this fearsome beast.
There are schools on the backwaters of Alleppey, and where there are schools, there are computers. They are guarded by this fearsome beast.
At a cafe in Kochi.
At a cafe in Kochi.
Random kids who instantly wanted to be in my picture while I photographed ruins in Hampi.
Random kids who instantly wanted to be in my picture while I photographed ruins in Hampi.
Case trying to speak tiger at the Mysore Palace.
Case trying to speak tiger at the Mysore Palace.

1000 Words Each

We’ve opened MAYA and the kids have performed at two of the three venues already!  Here are some pictures 🙂

Technical rehearsal creep along at Ravindra Natya Mandir
Technical rehearsal creeps along at Ravindra Natya Mandir. oh, look! the Himalayas!
Baby tiger playing ukelele? I'd pay to see this show.
Baby tiger playing ukelele? I’d pay to see this show.
The dance number for "Beast Feast" tries to find its light.
The dance number for “Beast Feast” tries to find its light.
Stopping and starting in rehearsals was sort of difficult for those in more elaborate costumes.
Stopping and starting in rehearsals was sort of difficult for those in more elaborate costumes, but they smiled on!
Few can resist the selfie.
Few can resist the selfie.
The Dadar Gang—Raju, Sunita, Rohit, and Sajida—get ready to watch on opening night
The Dadar Gang—Raju, Sunita, Rohit, and Sajida—get ready to watch on opening night
Glowing. Just glowing.
Glowing. Just glowing.
Puppets that were cut from the show made their way to the photo booth in the lobby.
Puppets that were cut from the show made their way to the photo booth in the lobby.
I thought Astha was going to make the same face. Tricked again.
I thought Astha was going to make the same face. Tricked again.
Prasad as the wonderfully energetic peacock Indigo
Prasad as the wonderfully energetic peacock Indigo. His backstage face looks more nervous.
Priyanka has the most complicated costume of them all. Not only is it large, it has three detachable heads. She was especially gracious with all the futzing it took to get the kinks worked out.
Priyanka has the most complicated costume of them all. Not only is it large, it has three detachable heads. She was especially gracious with all the futzing it took to get the kinks worked out.
Faces at closing circle after curtain call. It's been great watching these kids learn so much.
Faces at closing circle after curtain call. It’s been great watching these kids learn so much.
Moiz has such a stong presence and joy onstage. He is a delight to watch. When he becomes famous, I'll be glad I have this picture.
Moiz has such a stong presence and joy onstage. He is a delight to watch. When he becomes famous, I’ll be glad I have this picture.
Look who came to visit! He was put to work right away during the last days of tech week. And then we had falooda!
Look who came to visit! He was put to work right away during the last days of tech week. And then we had falooda!