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How Theater Masks are Used to Inspire Social Change

2017 Rise and Fall Participants

This past summer 15 artists from eight states, Canada and UK gathered in the studio spaces to create new work using theater masks. The theme of the workshop was The Rise and Fall of the Other.  The intention was to create story that reflected the cycle that plagues humanity as concerns the ostracizing of those who are different or of the vilification of the outsider.

Theatre masks inspired by masks from various world cultures were available to the workshop participants to use as is or to repurpose, repaint or modify in order to perform the stories invented by the three creative ensembles.

Three stories were developed and performed for a small audience from community who provided very useful feedback following the presentation.

This initial summer has laid the foundation for future workshops.

Here is what the workshop entailed:

The Directive/Goal:

The stories created and the theatrical languages invented, had to be understood by a contemporary audience and all of the included elements justified or integral to the created work.

Participants were broken into 3 groups. Each group was assigned two actual cultures, a fictional culture and asked to bring into the workspace 3 articles about the modern world.

All participants were be expected to complete research prior to the workshop to facilitate the creation of a culture out of which a story could be told.

The Research Portion:

This portion included research about:

  • Religious and Ritual practice specific to the assigned cultures
  • Mythology specific to the assigned cultures
  • Performance Traditions (how are masks/puppets/stories played out in public) specific to the assigned cultures
  • Music traditions/song specific to the assigned cultures
  • Poetry specific to the assigned cultures

Here is the break down for how each person did research:

Group 1 Participants:

Egypt ritual practice and performance

Mayan Story/South American mask/performance traditions

Atlantis stories

Find three articles on contemporary incidences (last 100 years) that report violence against a factionalized group.

Group 2 Participants:

Indigenous Native American story and Ritual mask Traditions

Topeng/Bali Spiritual Practice and performance traditions

Atlantis Stories

Find three articles on contemporary incidences (last 100 years) that report violence against a factionalized group.

Group 3 Participants:

African Ritual Story and mask Traditions.

Greek theatre Ritual and mask traditions

Atlantis stories

Find three articles on contemporary incidences (last 100 years) that report violence against a factionalized group.


The Provocation:

The devised work included the following:

  • An element of music or soundscape (I have a ton of cultural folio instruments that will be made available) And there is a music store not far away that I will purchase instruments from if need be.
  • An element of dance
  • An element of spoken text
  • A mask or masks from the studio collection which will be made available (450 designs to choose from) or masks can be designed and built during the course of the workshop. I will be available to help with this or to make masks.
  • A puppet or puppets. These can be built during the course of the workshop. There are a few laying about that might inspire us.


The story created was based on cultural research. Stories were born out of the assigned cultures and included information from the articles brought by members of the work group.


Check out The North American Laboratory for the Performing Arts for future workshops at the studio spaces. Join us in 2018 for a series of amazing workshops intended to inspire a bringing of people together and a reach for understanding of those who are different.

Inspire yourself with masks from every category and create!


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2020 Mask Workshop Welcome!!  Jonathan Becker offers on-site workshops in partnership with The North American Laboratory of the Performing Arts, a small institute dedicated to a broad cultural exploration of the performing arts, the creation of new works, the exploration of fundamental principles and inspiring artists to be agents of change.

The Mansion, in Muncie, IndianaThe Mansion

The Charles Over Mansion in Muncie, Indiana’s historic district provides an ideal setting for artistic retreat and study. The workshops are held at the Mansion or in the historic theatres and studio spaces of downtown Muncie. Workshop participants are housed at The Mansion and other locations within the historic district all within walking distance of the workshop location, restaurants for dinner and Muncie’s quiet nightlife. The Mansion at 825 East Washing Street is one of Muncie’s greatest architectural offerings.  The beauty and handwork of the structure itself are an inspiration to its visitors.

Masks in Performance Teacher/Actor Training Workshop – June 22-26, 2020

A workshop for performers, students and teachers. Explore one of the most effective methods of actor training through Neutral, Larval and Character Half Mask. the mask tangibly reveals to the actor the intricacies of the art of performance, directing and an application of understandings to all styles of acting.


Mask Making: An Exploration of Expressive Form Workshop – June 16-19, 2020

This workshop explores the entire process and understandings necessary to create an expressive form, a mask that appears to change expression as it moves through space. 

Acting Mask Training

Each Workshop is $750 and includes lodging, breakfast and lunch for five days.

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Register before April 1, 2020 and receive the full of week of training, lodging and meals for only $600.

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We recognize that even $600 can be a significant investment for theater practitioners and instructors, so we offer flexible payment plans. Reserve your spot today with only $200, and pay the remainder before the workshop begins. We also offer financial aid for qualified participants and grant submission support. Contact Jonathan if you are interested.