It’s a stylized form of theatre. The Mask is only ‘on’ when it is seen by the audience. Switch a Mask ‘off ‘ by looking at the floor, or turning away from the audience.
You need to repeatedly ‘clock’ the audience – share the Mask’s reaction to an event with a direct look to the audience. I see a coin. (Ah! A coin) A gold coin (Hah! I’m rich!)
Less is more. Inexperienced Mask performers forget that ‘the Mask wears you’ and often ‘do’ too much. (‘I want to show you what a good actor I am.’) Do nothing. Let the Mask do the work. Do nothing but look – the Mask is alive! Watch powerful speakers, leaders – they don’t twitch, fidget or play with their hair. Stillness creates power (and vice versa!)
In a good Mask, every strong emotion has its opposite (the bully mask can also be afraid.) Explore this duality (see the conceal/reveal note above.)
What is the Mask’s Status? Where are you vis-à-vis the other Mask? More or less important? How much more/less? How does that affect your physical relationship – how close do you get/allow them to get?
Remember the principle of isolation. Move one part of your body at a time. It creates focus and therefore impact. The head turns (the Mask gazes!) A foot beats (the Mask is impatient.)
If the Mask were an animal, what creature/bird would it be? (Pantalone the chicken, il Capitano the peacock.) Explore this in terms of movement, gesture.
In pair/group work, creating focus is an issue because there are no vocal clues (hearing audiences naturally watch the character who speaks.) Rule of thumb: main character faces audience, others give focus to/look at the main character. This requires considerable rehearsal because of the (often) poor peripheral vision of the Mask. Rehearse (out of Mask) stating every moment/thought. Eg MASK A: I am the focus. I see the coin. I clock it. Suddenly I am alarmed. I look at you. I give you the focus. (MASK B takes up the narration until they return the focus to MASK A.)
Wearing a Mask:
Handling: masks are expensive. Only leather masks are virtually indestructible; all others (wood, papier-mache, latex) are fragile. They deserve careful handling to avoid chipping or cracking the face, or, spoiling paintwork. Treat a Mask with respect.
Never put a Mask face down on a surface.
Shoeing a mask (ie putting on)
Turn away from your audience – only reveal the mask when you are ready. Put your face into the mask (to provide support. This is critical with latex/papier-mache), rather than tugging the elastic/ties over the head and snapping the mask onto your face.
Adjust the mask so that it is comfortable and secure. Then turn to your audience. Remember to breathe!