Making masks work for you with Simone Tani

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THE Italian has been travelling the world with his expertise in mask work – using it, making it – for theatre practitioners.

“It’s fun,” says Simone Tani who started teaching about masks, improvisation and drama in 2010.

Simone Tani in action (right).

Simone Tani in action (right).

“Masks definitely help actors to be more in their body. Body tension is something that makes actors interesting to watch. Would you be more captivated by watching a cat that is still and relaxed or by the same cat that is again still but looking in a precise direction and with every muscle tense and ready to jump? Probably the second, because we know something is going to happen soon.

“I work mainly with two different mask techniques. With Trance Masks, you learn how to use tension in your body instinctively, with Full Masks it is more technical and a trial-and-error approach. “Masks also help you to understand the range of characters you can play, that it is always surprisingly wide.”

Tani became interested in improvisational theatre after watching such a show in Milan, before studying it in Rome. “After few years, I founded I Bugiardini with some very good friends and talented improvisers. They are still running the company and they just won the Sold Out award at Edinburgh Fringe (Festival),” says the 43-year-old.

He said reading Keith Johnstone’s book, “Impro”, especially the second part on masks “shocked me”. “To read how it is possible to become a totally different person, or I should say creature, by wearing a mask, really fascinated me, and I booked the first improvisation Johnstone’s workshop available in Europe which happened to be in London,” he recalls.

Johnstone no longer taught masks, and put Tani in touch with Steve Jarand. Tani has taught at many festivals around the world including the New Zealand Impro Festival and Finland International Impro Festival, both in 2014, and has given mask workshops to theatre groups in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan and France.

His best memory with masks was a 15-minute show he did with Daniele Pettinau in Napoli for the AltoFest. Other than all things to do with masks, Tani has co-founded Teatro Pomodoro, with four other international performers, which creates shows that mixes bouffon (jesting), clowning and other styles.

“Bouffon is normally included in the same realm of clowning,” explains Tani, a graduate from the renowned Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris, “but it possibly represents the opposite side of the spectrum from clowning. Bouffon is a great theatrical style that allows you to go far in exposing what the mainstream ideas or behaviours are and mock them and destroy them.”

The multi-talented Tani feels the mask workshop will be useful for everyone, not just theatre people. “To surprise yourself and just enjoying playing without inhibitions is  liberating and make us more curious about what we can learn and how we can challenge the idea that we can do just a limited set of things.”

Pix by Lukasz Puczko.

Making & Playing With Masks Workshops

(All participants must be 18 years old and above)

Where: Kotak Studio @ Five Arts Centre

When: Jan 11-15, 2017

For details, call +6012 653 0987 or email to klsp@klshakespeare.com.my.

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