Category Theatre

Making A Mask

I was lucky to be present for the final project performances of the fourth graduating class of students of the Fiziksel Tiyatro ve Komedi Okulu in Istanbul, Turkey. My masks are used for training at that school and it was my pleasure that three of the groups made mask performances.
What an honor! I had nothing to do with the creation of the performances, heck, I barely knew the performers. But there were the masks that I know so well embodied and onstage. A divorce, a dark and funny audition scene with some very well integrated circus skills and a sweet scene on the conflict between two neighbors, one old, one young. I loved it so much so that I’m ready to get cracking on another group of masks when I return home.

The Formless Hunch

Detail from The Subway, George Tooker (1950)

“the formless hunch – the basis of everything – that something is pregnant, something is possible, and all the work is to find the complete, convincing but temporary form that suits the moment”

-Peter Brook


I’ve been nurturing an unformed hunch about having a good crack at making more masks for a while. With the last few masks I made I started writing notes, reminders to myself to make things easier. Avoid making mistakes twice. That and notes on the masks that I’ve gotten to see up and playing, little things I’d have done differently mostly: awkward transitions, rough edges, weird colors. In time, I collected those notes into a little book and now into a website.

Tapping out all these notes has been clarifying for my process and I suppose has been forming more clearly that unformed hunch to get to making.

As I see it, the next steps are a lot more practical, buying clay, gathering material and setting up a studio. The necessary call of movement to making a mask. Here we go.

Bride of the Sun

A woman wanted to marry someone perfect
So she married the sun.
But then she broke the rule and looked at him
so she turned into a flower.

There was a king with seven daughters, six of them were married. When the time came for the youngest daughter to be married the king was in a quandary. As princely suitors arrived to the castle gates with horns blaring and banners waving, the princess would turn them away.

The king was beside himself with worry as she rejected one prince after another. Finally he asked her, “Daughter, why do you send away these fine men?” She told her father that she had seen her older sisters married to men who seemed handsome, wealthy or kind only to find out after the marriage that the man was not everything he seemed to be.

Her oldest sister married a handsome prince who was insufferably vain. The next married an honest prince who gave away his land and titles. The next, wealthy prince, cruel to his subjects. The next a kind prince, with an empty head. The next a wise prince who spends no time in the bedroom. The next a sensual prince with countless mistresses. And the next married a devoted prince who made her sister stand up on a column to be admired by him alone. Day in day out.

All had qualities that were charming from a certain distance, but up close their strengths were their weakness. The young princess was determined to learn from her sister’s mistakes and marry her perfect love.

At this her father grew very angry, “perfect love? If you insist on finding perfect love you will be waiting a very long time indeed. You’ll grow old waiting for this perfect man and by then no one will want you. No this will not do. Marry now or get out!”

And so she packed her bag and left home for the last time, determined to prove her father wrong and find perfect love. From kingdom to kingdom she searched, feeling more desperate and alone at every turn. Every road was a dead end, every path led to brambles, she would climb a mountain only to find ten thousand more beyond it.

Her only comfort on the journey was knowing the sun would rise in the morning. Warm her back in the day and at night when it set she would be sure it would return the next day. And so it did, rising every morning warming her back and setting and rising. Day in day out.

In time she realized she was following the path it made and so she followed it right to the edge of the world. There at the edge she saw a castle and watched the sun drop behind the castle wall. She had found the house of the sun. She pounded on the gate and as it opened she imagined she would finally see his perfect face but instead she met with a leather skinned old woman.

“Oh dear look at you dress in rags- so sweaty, what are you doing here? Oh my son told me some one was following him, he said she was beautiful.”

The princess explained that she was on a journey to find her perfect love, that she had followed the sun to the end of the earth and in that time had fallen in love with him. The old woman was excited, she had wanted her son to marry a princess for a long time.

But the old woman had one rule. Whoever married her son could never look at him directly. Strange thought the princess, but she was exhausted and desperate and so close to being with her perfect love that she accepted.

And so they were married and spent many beautiful nights together. The day she spent with the old woman, but it was ok because she was able to rest. And resting she was able to think and thinking she was able to imagine what it would be like to look directly at her perfect love.

So in spite of the rule not to look at him she came up with a plan.

[…See him through the lens of her water glass at the dinner table…]

The old woman saw her fall silent, saw her staring. She had broken the rule, and she was thrown out of the house.

She could not go back to her father’s house, she didn’t wan’t to go back with the old woman so she stood in her spot outside the gate all night with the image of her perfect love burned into her mind. The sun had no choice but to rise the next morning and when he did he was so glad to see her standing there outside the castle he warmed her shoulders in the day and at night he knew she would be there again in the morning. And so she was. Day in day out. In time her feet grew roots down into the ground, he body became a woody trunk her hair petals, and her arms vibrant green leaves.

And so transformed, she watched the sun cross the sky, and he watched her, she had found a way to love perfectly.

This Little Bunny Stayed Home


I passed on a chance to play the Lost Wheels of Time show in Poland this weekend. The idea of 13 hours on a bus to make a 45 minute performance seemed a little tedious. It was a good chance to meet folks but in the end it just didn’t seem right. So this bunny stayed in Ljubljana.

The Lost Wheels of Time

Funny isn’t it how things work out?

Just a few days ago I was in a kind of panic that strikes the artistically self-employed. Nothing is coming, I’m broke, there’s no way forward. But within hours of voicing these sensible thoughts I got a call.

The background

My friend Justin was filling in for a street show in the Ljubljana street theater festival. They had lost an actor and were panicked looking for an emergency replacement for five shows. They got his number through the grapevine, he rehearsed for a few days, and boom! he was in the show. Unfortunately during the first performance he cracked his toe mighty hard on a set piece and after he got home he noticed it was swollen and purple.


I took him to the hospital. (That’s where I found out about the animation Pat & Mat.) And we waited for hours for him to be seen, x-rayed and reported back to. It wasn’t broken, that was the good news. But the nurse told him to stay off it. The show he was hired for is violently active so he was faced with a problem, limp through and risk worse injury or take a pass on the rest of the performances.

The next morning I got a phone call from the street show saying they were an actor down and would I possibly have the time to learn the show and perform. Justin was out and he gave them my number.

I showed up Thursday at noon and paced through the show as best I could. Piece by piece under the summer sun it started to come together. By 9:30 there were about 200 people waiting, the music came on and I jumped out on stage.

So, how was it?

You know in some movies how people are in a boxcar racing down the tracks, they throw their bag and then leap from the moving car, pumping their legs as fast as possible in the air then they hit the ground and try to keep enough speed to avoid falling flat on their face? It went a little like that.

During the show I had a few moments of fear that I was about to fall headlong into a clock, and I did kick over the wind machine. But I survived, and I tell ya, my weekend is a lot more exciting than I had planned for.

Rabit_Bojan Okorn

We’ll play it once more, today at 7.30 in Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Then Adam and Spiros will pack their van and travel to Poland where I suppose they will be on the look-out for another rabbit. Another energetic and game actor to don the latex rabbit mask and leap from the train.

These photos were taken by Bojan Okorn and were published on the Ana Desetnica Flickr account.

The Sleeping Giant

The following is a transcript of a story I told for some 5-8 year olds in East Helena at the very end of 2015.

I’m going to tell you a story about right here. It’s a story from a long time ago, before we had houses around here, before we had roads around here. But there were still a lot of people who lived here. And one day they heard a sound.

Boom boom boom! BOOM!

Sleeping-GiantIt was so loud, everybody was so scared. There was an old man who said, “I know what that sound is, that’s the sound of the snow falling off the trees.” Everybody looked at him and said, the snow falling off the trees? It’s spring all the snow is melted, there’s no snow to..”

Boom Boom Boom!

A little old lady said “I know what that is, that’s the sound of buffalo running through the valley, it’s so loud it sounds like thunder.” Everybody looked at her. “The buffalo don’t come in the springtime, everybody knows they run in the fall…”

Boom Boom Boom!

All along standing in the back there was a little girl and she was looking to the east, beyond the mountains to the horizon.