Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tell me more

Today is Thursday. The second-to-last week of the ATELIER Mask Movement Program is coming to a close.


So, let me explain:


There is too much.


Let me sum up:

1) The views are still terrible.
2) My local cafe is devoid of charm.
3) There is no art anywhere.
Finally a culture not afraid of curves. Halle-bloody-lujiah.
4) And no one with a sense of humor. 
View from the driver's seat. It's just down the hill to do laundry, Mama, relax. We did much worse carpooling to Waldorf, you may recall.
Okay, enough with the sarcasm, you get it. I still love everything about this place. Seriously, I can't stop.
Other things I am grateful for: Aunt Su ALWAYS points me in the right direction, even from thousands of miles away. I caught the local once a month slow food market day. Thanks Aunt Su!
Unpasteurized milk. I am living on the edge.
The snails were so fresh that a few escaped. No question I am at a market in Europe.

Real italian pig farmer. The salami, tho, my god
Bonus: Random bird for mama, caught in Firenze during an instrument repair mission I won't go into here. (Look, Ma! Boliver escaped!)
Anyhow, all of the above barely scratches the surface of this jam-packed-with-all-the-awesome experiences and I need to go back to living the hell out of the remains of it

But I have so much to say, and I realize I owe ya. (I'm lookin' at you, Mama.)

So here we go: Presenting at last (alphabetized by first name, because I never overthink things. Or employ hyperbole. Ever. Shut up.) my beloved beloved comrades:
Andreas. Sweden. Improv, Stand-up, School-for-Theatre-Creators-Alum, multi-insrumentalist, and my experimental-cooking-partner-in-crime. True story: we invented a new way of cooking tortellini which (though it shocked and baffled the Italians) received an unequivocal seal of approval FROM THE FRENCH. All the win.
Beth. Australia. Acting, Singing, demo-ing the 20 movements (when pressed), Helikos Alum, making masks like whoa even before this experience started, and currently learning uke on my uke! Refuses to teach me to make her excellent cabbage, which is too bad, but is utterly free with laughter, compliments, and putting twenty syllables into the word "no". 
Brian. Chicago. Improv, School-for-Theatre-Creators Alum, with a side of general hilarity via deadpan shouting. Really. Yeah, it's hard to explain. Also, thoughtful, dedicated, extremely kind, makes delicious Aperol/Cynar spritzes, lives in a black wool hat that looks like it's previous owner was a gnome, and never complains about my calling him Breean Bairn.
Frieda. CA born but spent the last decade in France. Circus artist of wow (Trapeze and ropes are specialties, and much more), Lecoq Alum, Musical Saw, hosts regular teatimes, and shares my devotion to alcoholic chocolates.
Joe. Rochester and Chicago. The techmaster! Also, improv, games games games, and unrivaled king of crazy faces, frequently found making roughly one million italian-style burritos simultaneously.
Paige. Colorado and Chicago. Acting, singing, tap dancing, modeling. Fashionista, great (and generous!) cook, with a much-larger-than-life laugh. Plus, she sometimes bikes all the way to Firenze and back for fun. We are on a high hill, people, and Firenze is a forty minute train ride. What I am saying is the gal don't quit.
Piotr. Poland. Improv, Singing, and Songwriting, with a heart bigger than his body which is not small. He showed up in San Miniato with a uke, a bizarro-drum-chime-thingum, a tambourine you strap to your foot and a kazoo, but he also plays the guitar and lord knows what else. Uncanny Heath Ledger resemblance, and an instinctively masterful Breakfast Combo player. (Yes, Breakfast Combo. Like elevates it to poetry, masterful. Nope, I am totally not a nerd, what are you laughing at?)
Rachel. New York. Improv, Actor, Comedienne, Clown (Seriously, her one-woman clown show played the SF Fringe this year and I missed it. Wtf, repocket?), Sings like a dream, actually speaks Italian, and is so cute it hurts, which is extra awesome because she specializes in playing masks such that they become gremlins.
Richard. England. Glorious musical shenanigan instigator (grand uke player, but also endlessly patient with my questions about uke-ery) and general badass. I mean, he's been to art school and studied with Gaulier and all, but he is one half of Barada Street, which is really everything you need to know.
Last but not-at-all-least: Virginie. France. Our newest addition, having joined us in the third week. All the above shots are from our welcome dinner for her. Filmmaker (director/editor), painter, and queen of the mischievous twinkle in the eye, who seems happy to help me with my terrible terrible French. J'adore.
Anyway, them's the folks, and fine fine folks they are. Now for the work.

After Neutral masks, we did Larvals, which are totally awesome and which I find really really difficult. But I love them anyway, especially Matteo's, because wow.

(Oh yeah, Larvals? also freaking adorable.) Masks by Matteo Destro. 
One of my favorite Larvals by Matteo Destro. I'm drying dishes. Yes, well. My mime skills are a work in progress. Photo by Ned Brauer.
So yeah. Larval Masks are cute and illuminating and Matteo is legit. Le complete lack of surprise.

Then there's the portion of the program dedicated to helping us develop our own maskmaking skills:
Casting Frieda's face. Like ya do.
About halfway through my first mask in clay, with the plaster casting of my face handy for reference. Can you see the resemblance to my mom?
Calling it done. Only took four million hours. Totally normal for a first mask, right?

Apparently I made a mask of Lina Lamont after getting a pie to the face, but scratchier. That's Gesso for you, I guess.
This is the sanding that never ends...
Painting! At last!
Bit of a skin disease? More paint!
Skin disease mostly eradicated, now just need actual definition. So close!
Done at last! My first finished mask, next to two of Richard's that I love. I affectionatly call the middle one Mr. Potato Head.
It took awhile for me to get used to play my first mask, but my favorite has been watching other people use her. I call the mask "her" because unworn she looks like a gal, but she's been played to great effect by Rachel, Paige, Joe and Andreas as both genders which is awesome to see. I've also loved getting to play the masks of my classmates, and each mask is so totally different depending on the wearer.
Full mask by Joe Pisanzio. You can tell it's me by the butt. Photo Ned Brauer.
So, our first masks were full masks, meaning they cover the entire face. Our second round was half masks, where the mask stops after the upper lip and the performers lower lip and chin create the full image. Suddenly the masks have a voice, which is super exciting, but they take even longer to make (at least for a beginner like me) since the measurements need to be more exact. Conveniently, my lovely classmate Frieda just finished a cool time-lapse video of one of her half-masks, so check that out for the full maskmaking experience. It's beautiful. The tail end of my own half mask process follows:
We did negative molds for our half masks, so that the papier maché would retain as much detail as possible. This is the last shot before I stab him with aluminum to make a plaster mold!
I wasn't kidding. Full of aluminum, and ready for plaster! Maskmaking is surreal at times.
Half plaster face. The drama.
I took this photo for Beth, who makes fun of how clean I work. Look at all the debris!
The plaster is complete, and looks like a Super Mario mushroom. Not important, but it makes me happy, somehow.
My first time doing papier maché in the negative. Pretty cool.

First half mask complete. Boo ya.
The half masks first day of school. 
Then finally, being played. Here's Grandma. Photo by Ned Brauer.
Laughing it up with Rachel Resnik and Frieda BK, each holding the half mask they made. We are having such a good time you might not know we're being given detailed feedback on a presentation. Because here, even when it's a call for improvement, it's pretty hilarious. Photo Ned Brauer.

That's gonna have to be it for the moment. I have rehearsals for two pieces to be performed for the community next week, two more masks going in the Atelier and regular classes to boot. 

So yeah, I'm off to do it all. 

See you on the flip side.