Jonathan Becker is a master mask maker, teaching artist and performer. He began sculpting masks in 1986 while a student in Paris, France and founded Theater-Masks.com in 1990 upon his return to the United States.
As a performer he has toured throughout Europe, Asia and the United States and has worked as a member of the SunDance Institutes Playwrighter’s Lab, a laboratory founded by Robert Redford for the development of new works for theatre and film. He has appeared as an actor in programs with most of the major symphony orchestras in the U.S. and Canada performing in such venues as Lincoln Center.
Some of his studio Clients include Disney Theatrical in association with The Lion King, FX series POSE, Focus Films, NBC, The Bravo Cable Network and Theater of Enchantment in Philadelphia. Jonathan has created hundreds of masks for theatre companies, producing organizations, individual artists and training programs in over 50 countries. He was recently awarded a Meritorious Achievement Award by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for his mask designs associated with a new translation of Hecuba presented at the University of Colorado.
Since 1988, Jonathan has helped in the development of sixteen original works. He co-founded and was Co-Artistic Director of two theatre companies: Les Senokrates in Luzern, Switzerland and The Brodeur Brothers in Paris, France.
His teaching credits include work as a guest artist at 31 institutions in 6 countries. He was a member of the core faculty and the Associate Director of The National High School Institute (the cherub program) at Northwestern University for eighteen years and worked as a movement specialist in the BFA acting program at Ball State University for 12 years. Jonathan has taught occasionally with the International Program in Acting with Masks at Oslo University College in Oslo, Norway and been invited to teach and perform mask at Nanjing University in China.
In addition to his work as a master mask maker he is the Artistic Director of The North American Laboratory of the Performing Arts an ongoing project intended to further develop new works and understanding of the whats and whys that make work successful.. In the first 4 years NALPA has existed artists developing new musicals and new plays were housed and provided space to create, an internationally award winning film was been shot in the studio paces at the time, new plays have been workshopped in the spaces, new works for dance have been performed, a play featuring up and coming young artists has been produced and workshops involving artists from all over the United States, Canada and the UK were held. In the same time over 3000 people from the local community and the nation visited NALPA’s spaces supporting the effort to build a community of change.
Jonathan’s Resume (PDF)
Jonathan Becker’s Artist Statement:
It is through the sharing of stories that we grow to understand on e another; where we realize the human experience is a universal one.
Through understanding and knowledge the barriers that exist between peoples disappear.
Instead of wall there rises kindness, compassion, empathy and a celebration of our extraordinary differences.
Kindness, compassion, a celebration of the other, a reach for understanding, provocation of empathy and the building of community are the principles upon which I guide myself as an artist and teacher. The rest is a personal exploration and attempt to gain understanding of my own humanity and spiritual path. The rest is an attempt to capture those understandings in rhythmic form, in movement and in poetry.
I fundamentally believe that artists are the keepers of culture and the revealers of our humanity. We create quality of life and through the sharing of story and the bringing of people together. It is the celebration of our extraordinary differences that allows for profound understanding of what we share in common. What we share in common exists between us.
Learning and creating is based on an understanding of the spaces between. The spaces between the actor and the character, the spaces between the character and the audience, the spaces between the actors themselves and the imaginary world they are in; the spaces between the collaborative artists and the work they are focused on. It is in an understanding of the spaces between where success is found. It is in these spaces we find common ground.
The focus of artistic work and learning is to define individualized process intended to lead the artist to create work that has not yet been seen before. The commitment is to find work that reflects the authentic voices, experiences and struggles of the world as it is today. The world we live in bases its understandings of the other on a fictional narrative. It is therefore essential to begin with the question; who are we in the present? Followed quickly by what experiences belong to all times rather than of just this time.
The exploration of performance languages and different approaches from different times and cultures aid in a universal understanding of underlying principles in the work as well as the extraordinary diversity of perspectives present.
I draw from the work and teachings of Stanislavski, Lecoq, Grotowski, Rodenberg and Alexander. My teaching style is designed to guide the student to an understanding of: universal rhythms, the ability to access honest emotional responses, the movement of the human body and the relationship of these elements to the performance space. These understandings provide for the actor a physical state of readiness leading toward a constant state of discovery. In my teaching I apply an integrated approach to learning that requires of the student a holistic understanding of process and a total understanding of the human body. This involves an extensive use of exercises geared toward guiding the learner to an understanding of the play of the actor, dramatic structure, the dynamic connections between the actor and the space, the role an audience plays in the dramatic act, the effect scenic design has on the action and how all of these are linked. Proper alignment, strength and issues of tension are addressed as well as a technical overview of human anatomy. Each exercise has elements of all other exercises presented. Once a student truly understands the fundamental concepts of a single exercise then success in the others comes quickly. I find this way of teaching and presenting concepts tremendously helpful because it addresses each student’s different approach to learning and allows the learner to come to the work as an individual.
The approach to the understanding of a theatrical moment is much like seeking to understand a sculpted form. The approach begins on a very technical level in an effort to define and recognize the immediate elements present, such as the body in space and its rhythmic relationships to everything around it. These rhythmic relationships of developing form become the guiding force for discovery. The approach becomes a journey of defining the dynamic connections between the actor and the audience.