January 2013
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Month January 2013

Building a Half Mask

Last week we dug in, got our hands dirty and started to make our own half masks. It was a rewarding process, but it isn’t done yet. We’ll show our first performances with them tomorrow. Matteo mentioned that making these masks has an element of alchemy. The shape you form in the clay transfers from material to material, from plaster to paper, then it transforms the actor’s body and if it’s good, it will finally arrive to the audience. Even if you think it’s a really good one, you don’t know if your proposal in clay will sustain a performance until you play it.

Making a plaster cast of your face helps keep your proportions accurate.

Comedy or tragedy? I don’t know, but I think he’s a republican.

Now we’re midway though the second term at school. These weeks are all about performing in half face mask. How do you play this technically demanding form of theater while bringing intuitive ease that makes the performance interesting to see? Finding the body and voice of the mask, improvising from that place and building up a piece that is true. If you’re prepared and lucky it can generate very funny and touching work.

Jenine describes the work very well on her website:

Dramatic depth can be found in the action of simple every day things.  And it is in the action that the sentiment is revealed.  The action is seen through very strict action and reaction with your co-players.  A delicate dance of technique and sentiment – without one you don’t have the other.  Although more often than not we’ll forgive lack of technique over sentiment. As Matteo says without sentiment your mask is nothing more than paper mache and elastic.

Old Whales

Bowhead whales were nearly hunted to extinction for their clean burning blubber. After the whale oil boom their population was estimated to be around one thousand individuals, but today they are doing much better. According to this article scientists “began recording whale numbers 34 years ago, [since then] their counts have increased from 1,200 animals in 1978 to 3,400 in 2011. From those numbers of whales seen, George estimates there are now 14,000 to 15,000 animals.”

This blog post from the Smithsonian points out that the best part of the article is that the whales can live up to 200 years. Which means there may be whales swimming in the arctic today that were born before Melvile wrote Moby Dick in 1851.

Spiders Weaving Spiders

Scientists in Peru have discovered what they think may be a new species of spider which uses twigs and dead insects to build decoy spiders to trick predators.

Afterward, Torres returned to the trails near the research center. Only within a roughly 1-square-mile area near the floodplain did Torres find more spider-building spiders — about 25 of them. “They could be quite locally restricted,” he said. “But for all I know, there’s millions of them in the forest beyond.” The spiders’ webs were crafted around face-height, near the trail, and about the width of a stretched-out hand. Some of the decoys placed in the webs looked rather realistic. Others resembled something more like a cartoon octopus.