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Performing and Screen Arts students master the principles behind the mask

  • Big Schmooze

Delivering outstanding performances and mastering the persona of a character is nothing new to Pedro Ilgenfritz’s third year Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts (Acting for Screen and Theatre) students in Unitec’s School of Creative Industries

While being thrust into isolation presented uncertainty, their innate ability to adapt led to the production of an astoundingly innovative project.

Pedro says,"Acting and theatre performance is heavily reliant on engaging with people and your surroundings, and being isolated in a bubble doesn’t make the most inspiring stage.  However, we managed to craft an experiment that delivered outcomes above and beyond our initial expectations.” 

Pedro asked his students to craft theatre masks from items they found around their isolation bubbles, but these weren’t just ‘masks’; these were unique characters with emotional and physical attributes, and even accents that students had to embrace, embody and portray.

“The result is wonderful. They created these characters, they created wonderful structures that are playful and colourful, but above all they applied the technique and theory they learned in the last two years in the construction of their own masks.”

Unitec’s Head of School - Creative Industries Dr. Vanessa Byrnes says " Pedro’s work with the Year 3 Acting students is a great example of the inventive, relevant, and specific approaches that have been taken by all our disciplines since lockdown began to make the work dynamic, and to make dynamic work."
Students used lightbulbs, hard hats, flour sieves, juice cartons and items from their childhood to craft the theatre masks.

“The personality of the character speaks through form in different volumes, so two very small eyes right at the top of the head ,for example, create this kind of versatility and we can think of someone being pulled upwards and someone who is a dreamy kind of person.” 

Acting student Jackson shows off his mask from his hands-on mask making class at Unitec

Student Jackson King says that while it wasn’t deliberate, the COVID-19 lock down came through in his character crafting, “working with the way I feel right now the concern came through and showed in a way subconsciously, but I wasn’t intending for it to look like this at all.”
Acting student Lucy shows off her mask from her hands-on mask making class at Unitec
Fellow student Lucy Farrell says she wanted to create something non-human, “I struggled at first but then I saw a kind of crow mask and it developed into a black plague vibe, it’s a little bit relevant off the back of Coronavirus and I wanted to bring a certain elegance to it . I didn’t want it to be beautiful and I didn’t want to be ugly; I wanted a weird balance.”
Acting student Ellie shows off her mask from her hands-on mask making class at Unitec
Ellie Wren says, “I’m staying at my Mum’s house in the room I used to live in as a teenager. Everything I used on this mask is all the stuff I left behind. It’s bits of wool from my old sewing box and Christmas hats and all that kind of stuff, it reflects that uncertainty and uptight feeling people have during this period.”

Dr. Byrnes says, “We're extremely proud of the ongoing adaptive and highly creative approaches taken across our industry in this very challenging time. We have many disciplines in our School that require interpersonal and highly connective methodologies, so it’s very exciting to see how adaptive we can be at a distance, and still remain connected to the work and to each other.”” 


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