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INDEX

 

PEDAGOGY OF A RESEARCH AND CREATION BASED THEATER

  • THE JOURNEY

  • THE SPIRIT OF RESEARCH

  • THE NECESSITY OF A TEACHER’S PERSONAL PRACTICE

  • THE PEDAGOGICAL SPACE

A PEDAGOGY OF MASKS

  • THE MASK​

  • THEATRICAL MASKS

  • PEDAGOGICAL FUNCTION

    • The Body and the Space​

    • Forms

  • TECHNIQUE AND PLAY

    • Technique, Observation and Analysis of Movement and Forms

    • Technique and Dramatic Motors in Play

 

ATELIER MASK MOVEMENT THEATER”

(Three-month training program)

  • OBJECTIVES OF THE ATELIER

  • GUIDING THEMES

  • TYPES OF LESSONS

  • THE THREE STATES OF PRACTICE

    • Becoming the creator of a mask

    • Becoming the Mask

    • Becoming part of the Mask

  • THE VALUE OF DAILY PRACTICE

  • THE USE OF THEATRICAL MASKS IN THE ATELIER

    • The Neutral Mask​

    • The Larval Full Mask

    • Full Expressive Masks

    • Primary Mono-directional Masks

    • Half Masks

    • The Red Nose Mask: the Clown

 

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION​

  • STUDIES AND EXPERIENCES

  • MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE PEDAGOGY OF JACQUES LECOQ

  • IMPORTANT ENCOUNTERS

PEDAGOGY OF A RESEARCH

AND CREATION BASED THEATER

 

THE JOURNEY

My approach to theater is influenced by my university education in the humanities and pedagogy, as well as by my work as a teacher in various social spheres.

 

I experience my theatrical work as an ongoing journey of research into expressive forms and into teaching that allows the audience, my students, and me to explore, through the “poetic path,” the nature of human beings and the reality to which we belong.

 

A finished form is only a horizon to aim toward. It is always ready to become a transition point or a springboard into a new exploration - one more stop on a journey that never ends.

 

Workshops and schools are, for the students, just fleeting moments in their personal journeys through the worlds of research and creation. Some students think of these experiences as starting points. Later, though, as they make their way along their journeys, discovering the dimension of becoming, they learn to see these experiences as they truly are – steps on a journey that has already begun.

 

 

THE SPIRIT OF RESEARCH

I have always been interested in the process of research and creation through which the work takes life. In the context of theatrical training, this process translates into an experience of discovery and of initiation for the student.

 

The two main dimensions of my practice are searching for new forms and offering formative experiences, which nurture each other and which are present in any type of project I take on.

 

A show is a living creature, which changes and matures with time, becoming an opportunity to grow and transform if the group treats their work as a process of research and learning. On the other hand, a training course or a school – in addition to being an opportunity for learning new techniques and for personal growth – must become an artistic space in which one is in continual contact with research, with losing, and with finding again. These are fundamental qualities for artists who are creating and constantly reinventing their art. The first pedagogical goal is therefore to create a space in which the students can embrace their curiosity, in which they can experiment and make the spirit of research their own.

 

THE NECESSITY OF A TEACHER’S PERSONAL PRACTICE

If the teaching is based primarily on a spirit of research and creation, it is crucial that the teacher has, in addition to knowledge and pedagogical skills, a creative practice aside from teaching. It is necessary to continually re-examine one’s own work in direct contact with an audience.

 

Through actual practice, and only through actual practice, can we aspire toward a truly coherent sensitivity toward the act of creation. It is then that we come into contact with the most intimate characteristics of the material with which our students will work. Through this, we experience the non-linearity of the process, as well as its alchemical dimensions. We must stay sensitive to all these kinds of considerations if we wish to create a program with these values; a program that offers specific proposals, but that also maintains sufficient flexibility to adapt the work in each moment in response to the differences between the students.

 

THE PEDAGOGICAL SPACE

The pedagogue must encourage the students, as well as her/himself, to be in constant communication with the forms they are creating and playing.

 

This leads to a simultaneous awareness of three main components of the work: student, teacher, and form. The focus can then move toward the common space that comes to life between the three.

 

This dynamic space is crucial to the work, and must be kept in balance in order to avoid the work moving in unintended and undesirable directions.

 

(teacher-student) If too much focus is put on the relationship between the student and the teacher, the educational experience risks taking on excessive personal dimensions, and the teacher can all too easily begin to take on the role of therapist or coach.

 

(student-form) If, on the other hand, the student is forced to confront the material with no input from the teacher, the journey can transform into the search for an absolute ideal form, which is obviously unattainable, and then the teacher risks taking on the characteristics of a guru or spiritual guide.

 

(teacher-form) Finally, if the teacher focuses exclusively on the form, s/he becomes a director. In this case s/he may satisfy her/his personal creative needs, but will no longer be able to offer to her/his students the chance to find and to follow their own personal creative path.

 

It is always the teacher’s responsibility to maintain the dynamic space between these three facets. For this reason it is necessary that, as a pedagogue, one keeps up one’s own ongoing training and personal creative practice; otherwise one loses the clarity and agility necessary to move through these communal spaces with the student. If s/he begins to lose this ability, the teacher will, in spite of her/himself, begin to prioritize other explorations in order to maintain the role of guide, such as wellness, therapy, or spiritual journeys. These explorations can be interesting and are certain to be found by the students in their work in theater, but have nothing to do with a theater pedagogy and its objectives.

 

The students are asked to remain in this space even in times of crisis. During difficult times or during blocks in creating and playing different forms, the deepest learning comes from staying committed to this work and to the pedagogical space.

 

 

 

A PEDAGOGY OF MASKS

“Art is made with one’s hands.”

                                             Donato Sartori

 

 

We need to give a face to our perception of the world. A face that can be seen and that

can tell stories, evoke, and suggest. The Mask is born from the necessity to understand

and to represent the world around us, visible and invisible, ordinary and extraordinary.

 

THE MASK

Since ancient times, when our lives were still interwoven with the fanstastic fabric of mythology, the Mask represented an essential and indespensible element of the human experience.

 

The Mask relates us to forces that are difficult to define, that belong to archetypes of nature, humanity, and the divine. Its role in communal ceremonies has been present in every culture and civilization throughout history. Used in tribal, magical, and religious rituals, the Mask was an essential element in the transformation of ritual into theatrical performance in ancient Greek and, later, Roman civilizations.

 

In medieval times, the Mask appeared in the tradition of Pagan rituals, and was used to give a face to demons in religious performances. Beginning with the Renaissance, the Mask became - with the stock characters of Commedia dell’Arte – the central protagonist in the birth of modern Western theater. In the 1900’s the Mask took on a pedagogical function through the experimentation of important researchers who started using it as a teaching tool for training actors and to catalyze the rebirth of a more physical theater, in which expressive presence was re-evaluated in its entirety.

 

THEATRICAL MASKS

The theatrical and dramatic aspects of the Mask have now spread throughout every culture on earth. This is not perhaps so much an expression of a taste for fiction or deception as it is an expression of the fundamental duplicity and contradiction that exist in so many situations, in which we experience dimensions radically different than those inherent in our daily lives.

 

The point at which human existence comes into contact with a mysterious and unfathomable “elsewhere” finds its expression, with masks, through the playing of characters and themes that audiences recognize, and in which they recognize themselves; effective representations of the difficult marriage between life and death.

 

The Mask can be understood within a much broader context than its role in representing a face. The Mask is a dynamic structure that moves through space on stage; it is a spacial phenomenon. In this sense we come face to face with all of the principles that govern theatrical performance. The set, the characters, the choreography, and the text are all masks. The show itself is a mask.

 

In this sense, the Mask, having a phenomenal nature, fully manifests only when all the elements which constitute the phenomenal act are present. The structure of the Mask and the materials with which it was constructed are important. However, just as important is the person who moves and merges with the Mask, who observes the quality of physical space which supports the play, as well as the quality of the dramatic space within which the Mask may be played.

 

 

PEDAGOGICAL FUNCTION

The Mask, with its own universe of essence and significance, is the primary element with which one must engage in order to practice the art of theater.

The Body and The Space

The Mask, covering the face of the actor and all its myriad possibilities for expression, completely transforms our way of researching the body’s expressivity and its relationship to the space. This gives the actors a new sense of their own presence, an emotional fluidity, an amplified and richer dramatic expression, a gestural language full of emotion, and a return to a more global perceptual experience. It allows us to rediscover the instinctive dimensions of artistic exploration. The body and the space are the truly essential referents which allow us to find a deeper authenticity in stage presence and in performance, as well as in the work of scenographers, writers, directors, choreographers, and dancers.

Forms

The continual interaction with a pre-defined form offers us the possibility to experiment, investigate, and more fully comprehend the universal attributes that are the form’s foundation.

 

Lines, planes, volumes, space, rhythm, timing, strength, efforts, dramatic projection, unity of form, structure, breaking point, organic-ness, transposition, texture, fixed points and movement, levels of dynamic superposition – these are all archetypical qualities which, together, create an organic form, a sculpture or a character or a scenography or a mask or a show. It is necessary to know how to recognize them and thus be able to work with them to create a primordial and expressive spontaneity.

 

 

TECHNIQUE AND PLAY

Technique, Observation and Analysis of Movement and Forms

Through technique, we aquire the tools necessary to fully express ourselves. Technical knowledge and a deeply developed physical vocabulary allow for more powerful creative choices on all levels. The study of movement techniques and mask creation are always accompanied by conscious observation of nature and of life, which act as raw sources of inspiration and as reference points in the search for a universal sense of poetry. From observation, we move into analysis of everything that moves and of the forms that surround us.

 

Technique that is nourished by observation and analysis leads to an organic spirit of research and creative play, rather than simply a series of rules to be followed.

 

Technique and Dramatic Motors in Play

Play is the vital stream that runs through all artistic work. The Mask is not an object that can be played or not; rather play is part of the Mask itself. If there is no play, there is no Mask.

 

Movement technique without a sense of play becomes simply a demonstration of technical virtuosity. In this case, the most we can hope for is to impress the viewer.

 

Technique is a language that needs to be articulated with a deep sense of play. In this way, the rigorous quality and repeatability of the technique encounters the freshness and vitality of the play, giving life to a phenomenon that transcends both the reality of the moment and fiction, one that takes on a sense of universal truth. To play means to move and to be moved by qualities that resonate in us and which we recognize in all living creatures.

 

Play is therefore a source of immense pleasure, as it connects us in a totally non-rational way to the constituent aspects of our nature. For the actor, it is a pleasure to put into play any dramatic motor that lives within us. This includes even suffering as, in this case, it is no longer a personal source of pain, but rather the very theme of the play.

 

Through play, we create distance between actor and theme, which is necessary to create space; a universal space that belongs to everyone, a space that invites the creative breath, a poetic space.

 

 

 

“ATELIER MASK MOVEMENT THEATRE”

(Three-month training program)

 

 

 

The course is geared toward actors, performers, theater teachers, directors, scenographers, choreographers, musicians, dancers, puppeteers, and anyone else interested in the world of masks and movement-based theater.

 

OBJECTIVES OF THE ATELIER

Participants will be guided in:

-Observing the world around them, as well as anything in it that moves.

-Developing their sense of perception and their sensitivity to life both within and outside of themselves.

-Exploring the principles that are at the foundation of the creative process.

-Acquiring the tools and techniques to give shape to their own poetic universes.

 

GUIDING THEMES

The Mask is the guiding theme throughout the program. We seek to understand the Mask in its deeper significance as a structure through which the invisible comes to life in a tangible form.

The Mask is the most important tool within the foundation of theatrical expression at all levels: directing, acting, writing, teaching, and creating original pieces. Its profound significance, its functions, its uses, and its constant demand for authenticity require a rigorous technical practice and, simultaneously, a generous openness toward play.

 

TYPES OF LESSONS

Regardless of the themes involved, our study and practice will include the following kinds of classes:

  • Physical preparation

  • Observation and analysis of movement, materials, and forms

  • Movement technique

  • Mask creation technique

  • Theatrical play, based on improvisation and its rules

 

THE THREE STATES OF PRACTICE

The ATELIER includes the practice and study of masks through three states:

Becoming the creator of a mask

  • Study of the form and its movement dynamics in space

  • Allowing the form to emerge through an organic creative process

  • Design and creation of different types of masks: whole masks, half masks, and Larval Masks

 

Becoming the Mask

  • The structure of the Mask-body

  • The relationship between the body and the space: the state of presence of the actor

  • Movement analysis and technique; the body in action

  • Improvisation and development of a propensity toward play

  • Playing the Mask: the dramatic motor, action/reaction, articulation, and projection of the Mask into space

  • Scene writing

 

Becoming part of the Mask

  • The Mask-chorus: the collective body, the collective breath, choral movement

  • Creation of dynamic architecture through the collective body

  • Group creation of lines, planes, volumes, dynamics, sensations, quality, and narrative

 

 

THE VALUE OF DAILY PRACTICE

Through daily practice in the school or workshop, the three states we use to study the universe of the Mask intersect and interact constantly. This offers the opportunity to broaden our approach to research and to allow the emergence and increasing consciousness of the principles and universal qualities which will define the eventual significance of the Mask. It is not a linear progression, as  principles and qualities manifest in different shapes, times, aspects, and dynamics in relation to each of the three states.

 

Each student will follow a deeply personal path through these three states of research. Some will find their comfort more quickly through movement technique and theatrical play than through the work in mask creation. For indeed, some aspects of mask creation can be more easily understood through improvisation and movement analysis. On the other hand, through mask making, we can also experience breakthroughs that provide deeper meaning to choral structure or that dissolve blocks in an actor’s technique or play.

 

The fundamental purpose of the proposed pedagogy is to offer communal space and time for personal, organic research to take place.

 

THE USE OF THEATRICAL MASKS IN THE ATELIER

The Neutral Mask

The Neutral Mask is a fundamental tool in theatrical training. It was invented and developed by theatrical pedagogue Jacques Lecoq and the sculptor Amleto Sartori. It was later revised and perfected by the sculptor Donato Sartori.

 

The Neutral Mask has a face with balanced characteristics which express a state of calm. Although there is no outward sign of emotion or feeling, the Neutral Mask expresses great vitality. The innate vitality in human beings that comes before all personal stories, that expresses an unadapted contact with the world. The state of receptivity and the desire to discover.

 

This way of approaching the concept of neutrality does not mean we are searching for lifeless or robot-like qualities. Neutrality in this sense does not relate to the dramatic dimensions of life, but to life itself. This kind of neutrality penetrates and takes on fully the fundamental principles of life, as well as the relationship between life and the physical and poetic worlds around us. The principles that make us move forward, backward, and through; that lead us to stand still or to take action. The neutral presence that carries no personal history, no memory, no conflict. Everything that happens takes place here and now between us and the world around us.

 

Jacques Lecoq defined this state as “…a blank page on which to write the dramas to come.” The Neutral Mask helps the actor work toward a clarity of gesture and movement, constantly confronted by the question of what is essential and what is superfluous.

 

From this work, the actors develop a level of consciousness and clarity necessary to transcend the habitual physical patterns which define them as an individuals, and thus they are available to shape themselves into any of the variations of forms human beings can take, to become every character imaginable.

 

The state of neutrality is a state of being available to immerse oneself in each of the infinite aspects of life.

 

Lecoq always said to his students, “Before you show me what makes you stand out and what makes you special, we are first searching for what we all have in common.”

 

 

The Larval Full Mask

This kind of Mask is inspired by the Masks of the Carnival traditions of Basel, Switzerland. Jacques Lecoq first introduced them as pedagogical tools in his school in Paris.

 

Over the years, working with Larval Masks has become a fundamental step in actor training. I felt compelled to take this concept to the next step, creating and developing new forms of masks that could adapt to specific needs of the actor’s pedagogical journey. For, after the period of work toward neutrality, the journey opens into the dimension of expressive movement.

 

This is a very delicate step because, leaving behind the Neutral Mask, we risk falling back into our old patterns and personal vices. Neutrality must therefore remain the basis from which we work, and from which emerge the origins of all expressive forms.

 

From this point of view, the forms proposed by the Larval Masks are simple and pure. The volumes are large and soft. Facial features disappear into just a few lines and essential directions, some playing even at the limit of abstraction. They have the minimum detail necessary to suggest facets and dynamics of humans, animals, or fantastic creatures; in every case some sort of living creature.They are called Larval because their forms are in an early stage of development, rich with potential, projected into the genesis of expression.

 

These masks propose to the actor/creator to experiment with the process of giving a body to a predetermined form. To give oneself fully to a given structure and to be able to search for a physical structure and movement quality different from one’s own.

 

The more precise and simple the proposal of the Mask, the more facility the actor will have in acting and reacting authentically with this new physicality.

 

After the first phase of experimentation with basic Larval Masks, we move into work with Larval Masks which have a slightly higher level of complexity, which invites us to already begin to define the stylistic world of living beings.

 

At this point in our journey, even the themes of improvisations are at a larval stage. Simple themes help us focus on the basic dynamics of being alive and in contact with the world around us. This allows us to begin to extend the training also toward dramatic writing, as we find in this phase the foundational structures of dramaturgy.

 

 

The Full Mask/Counter Mask

This type of Mask proposes fully defined human faces. Their expressivity suggests basic emotions and a psychological dimension. In them we see all the elements which, through the play of the actor, will give shape to a specific character.

 

Most full masks currently used in theatre courses and performances tend toward caricaturization in order to have an immediate effect on the audience.

 

My masks, on the other hand, are inspired by the revolutionary research of Amleto and Donato Sartori into the world of Expressive Masks. These two great Italian sculptors created a vision in which the structure of the Mask defines the mask, rather than exaggeration or distortion of certain facial features, or, conversely, hyperrealism. This architectural / structural approach allows us, through even minimal movements of the Mask and body, to offer vastly different perspectives to the observer.

 

In this approach, the Mask is never fixed in a single form of expression. Rather, it is able to change expressions during dramatic developments on stage, allowing for the evolution of opposing and even contradictory aspects of the character that emerges (“counter-masks”). These are living masks that can reach – if used with technical expertise and extreme sensitivity – that magical moment when the Mask disappears in the eyes of the spectator, as it is overtaken by the depth of the emerging character and the authenticity of the drama.

 

Through the use of these masks the actors sharpen their sense of dramatic movement, entering into full contact with the physical experience of sentiments and emotions. This work dissolves the barrier between internal feelings and external expression, as feeling and expression become one within the body-Mask, which itself takes form from an alchemy of structure, timing, and space.

 

Primary Mono-directional Masks

Primary Mono-directional Masks are an original and important pedagogical tool I conceived and created.

 

There comes a point in our journey with masks – after having worked exclusively with full masks that cover the entire face and having explored the dramatic silence that comes before speech – when it becomes necessary to liberate the lower part of the face, namely the mouth and chin. The mobile mouth becomes part of the Mask itself and with it, the sound of the breath and the voice.

 

The particularity of these Masks is that in their conception they tend toward structural directions and relationships based in primary forces, through which the face takes shape. The structure projects toward the front or is pulled up or down; it melts down from the skull or is pushed toward the forehead or compressed toward the center…

 

As these Masks present simple and unambiguous forms, the actors must complete the Mask by supporting the dominant directions not only with their bodies but also with the exposed part of their faces (the mouth and chin). In this way, the breath and voice must also support the same directions.

 

Primary Mono-directional Masks are unique in their ability to guide us in the journey from silence to voice. Thanks to their simple proposals the actors can effectively experience the sensations and the richness of the journey toward fully becoming a Mask, gaining little by little the awareness that everything played on stage needs to be masked, including breath and voice. Through this articulation, we begin the search for grammelot (gibberish), in which the expressive forces of the Mask take life through speech before entering into the meaning of the words.

 

Having taken these steps, we are finally ready to enter the world of text, which will no longer be a mere literary container, but rather an organic extension of the body-Mask. In this way the text will also become structure, timing, and space.

 

 

Half Masks

  • Human Trage-Comedic Masks

  • Grotesque Masks

  • Satirical / Buffon Masks

  • Commedia dell’Arte Masks

  • Cartoon Masks

 

Through different types of half Masks we enter into the various styles of theater. Each of them brings a different treatment and level of transposition of dramatic themes. We work from tragi-comic themes, based on everday life situations, to themes treated through more transposed theatrical styles, such as grotesque.

 

Over the centuries, human existence has been sublimated into Commedia dell’Arte, from satirical dimensions of social themes to the most timeless of archetypes. Each of these types of masks offers the opportunity to enter into contact with a specific aspect of play and dramatic writing.

 

Each style defines a territory of exploration that priviledges specific aspects of human nature: grandiose emotions, a sense of mystery, the sacred dimension… The style elevates expressive action to a poetic level through which reality is deconstructed and rebuilt – penetrating, giving form to, and sharing the most essential and universal aspects of the human experience.

 

 

The Red Nose Mask: the Clown

A certain period of research is dedicated to finding one’s clown through the use of the smallest mask in the world: the red nose.

 

The clown is born and takes form from a deeply personal state of presence. Like the Neutral Mask, the clown asks us to make contact with a primordial dimension of our relationship to the space that surrounds us. A state of total openness and receptivity. Unlike the Neutral Mask, though, the clown carries with him/her all of the personal characteristics of the actor. Instead of working to free ourselves from these, we amplify them, reaching a level of ridiculousness in which the sense of self is sublimated into pure poetic presence; extremely dramatic, comedic, and moving all at the same time. The state of the clown is an infantile state. Emotions and actions are communicated directly without passing through rational analysis, sometimes even becoming united as one. Thoughts are extremely simple, connected obviously and naively to the primary aspects of human existence.

 

Research into this state is a fundamental part of the pedagogic journey and will, along with the Neutral Mask, become a reference point for every character to come. Each of them, in fact, is the synthesis between a variation of universal and personal states.

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION

My approach to theatrical pedagogy is the fruit of my experiences, choices, and the encounters that occurred on my journey of study and practice.

 

STUDIES AND EXPERIENCES

My university education and subsequent studies have allowed me to come into contact with the thoughts of great philosophers, pedagogues, scientists, and artists. In particular, I have a strong interest in the history of philosophy and the history of human evolution.

 

Equally important to my artistic development were my experiences before I entered the world of theater, working as a pedagogue in social projects with people of varying ages.

 

A fundamental source of pedagogic inspiration is my practice of creating theatrical forms as a director and creator of shows, as an actor, and as a mask maker and designer for theater pieces and for educational purposes. Through these practices I have come into contact and collaborated with artists from diverse disciplines who have deeply influenced me through both their work and their lives.

 

My considerable experience teaching workshops in universities and theater groups, as well as the intense experience of teaching at Helikos: International School for Theater Creation, have also played a powerful role in my work.

 

MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE PEDAGOGY OF JACQUES LECOQ

My proposal for a new form of theatrical pedagogy finds its roots in the pedagogy and work of Jacques Lecoq. I studied with Lecoq in his school in Paris, where I received my professional training. I had the priviledge of getting to experience in person the greatest values that move a pedagogue.

I discovered that learning is based on a journey that is not limited to a transferrence of technique or the application of a duplicatable method, but rather through accompaniment on a transformative journey; a journey that is in a constant state of flux and which finds its particularities in the relationship between teacher and student.

 

The foundations of Lecoq’s pedagogy are very present in my work: The observation of the world around us and of everything that moves within it. The journey from neutrality to expression. The levels of play from “rejeu”  to expressivity to style. The constant search for a universal poetry. The two main structures for theatrical research: dramatic play (based on improvisations and its rules), and movement technique and analysis.

 

IMPORTANT ENCOUNTERS

In addition to Lecoq, I have had other important encounters with teachers, artists, and masters who have profoundly inspired me.

 

Norman Taylor, through his work in movement analysis and his poetic view of everyday life.

 

Giovanni Fusetti, through his work on the necessity of the clown-state.

Pierre Byland, through his constant research into the simplicity of play.

“Once you can make people laugh through the classic routines, then you can create your own style.”

 

The maestro Donato Sartori, through his integrity as an artist, through the honesty of his practice, through all of his work and, in particular, through his relationship with materials and his research on the architectural transposition of drama which comes before the recognition of a clear shape. “Always ask yourself, where are the planes?”