Review: Mask: Making, Using and Performing by Mike Chase

All the reviews of Mask are coming in at the same time! Today, we have this beauty from the Summer 2017 edition of SWSF Newsletter, written by Kevin Avison. Many thanks to him.

Mask front cover

This is a book that lives up to its title. The author’s experience, as actor, maker and workshop facilitator, shines through in a practical and inspiring account of the subject in drama, dramatherapy and groupwork. The author’s experience is not solely artistic, although there is no lack of art in these pages. The book also draws from Mike Chase’s innovative dramatherapy in the high security part of our penal system. It is a testament to his enthusiasm as well as his commitment.

After a thumbnail sketch setting out the use of masks in cultural history, the book goes on to a clear explanation of mask-making and the depiction of human types using colour as well as gesture. This is the organising heart of Mask, which takes Rudolf Steiner’s indications on the four temperaments as the point of departure, using these as active ingredient rather than mere notion or theory. As set out here, mask-making and design provides a hands-on encounter with temperamental qualities so that teachers, or anyone wanting to understand or gain a fresh insight into this aspect of personality, will be able to discover the temperaments anew, practically and directly. With mask in place, the author then provides methods of improvisation for working with them.

The techniques described by the author are ones that could be readily incorporated into the classroom and I would recommend it to any teacher thinking of using these in their drama work. However, a word of caution is needed: acting with a mask may seem to be the answer for classes that are unusually self-conscious or unwilling to reach out of themselves through drama. This can be a mistake. Unless well-prepared through movement, improvisation and games, a mask can serve as a guise behind which pupils retire. In fact, wearing a mask calls on the wearer to “fill” it and project through it, something that demands a certain confidence and maturity in itself. Mask: Making, Using and Performing is an impressive and helpful addition to a teacher’s toolkit. It is highly recommended.

Buy the book here…

More about the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship here…