Click Here for info on Mask Making *****Click Here to see the Mask Gallery

Mask Acting Workshops with Richard Henzel

This is an acting workshop using what is called "mask trancing" to create characters. Simply put, it means using outward physical appearance as a tool for actors, teachers, and performers to help in character creation and story telling. The workshop is taught using masks which are supplied (but not available for sale or rent). It is not a class on mask making, nor will there be a mask to take home at the end of the day. Of course, information and discussion of mask making techniques and processes will be included: just no hands-on sculpting or casting.

The masks used for the class are primarily the "commedia" type: designed to work with the actor’s face, transforming it, but leaving part of the face exposed. (See a gallery of some of the masks used in the class here.) This type of mask allows the actor to combine the physical appearance of the mask, with the expressions of the actor's own eyes, brows, body, and/or mouth-- the conscious and unconsious elements of the actor's psyche, as manifested in speech and body language.  In addition to the commedia masks, there will also be an opportunity to explore the basics of other variations, including, but not limited to: face masks, noses, and neutral masks.

The overall transformation that can be achieved with masks is powerful for both the actor and the audience, making it a natural tool for effective communication and expression. Masks and costumes have played a central role in religious ceremonies and rituals since the Stone Age, and have incredible importance to our culture and religion today. Imagine the Pope without the fabulous mask that is his official business attire. See what a stir the current Pope created with his red Gucci loafers and sequins. Ronald Reagan's disarming smile and wink. And look at the horrible, terrifying power of Hitler's black slash of hair, bullet-hole eyes and venemous one-fourth of a moustache. Change the Mask and you change the soul.

But that's real life.

Notable examples in the world of performance are numerous: Dustin Hoffman's many faces of "Little Big Man" and his use of Ratso's crusty deterioration in "Midnight Cowboy." Robert DeNiro's mohawk haircut in "Taxi Driver," and in "Raging Bull," when he literally transformed his entire body to become the aging Jake La Motta. And virtually anything Terry Gilliam gets his hands on: remember DeNiro's Harry Tuttle in "Brazil" with the magnifying goggles and bizarre facial expressions? Katherine Helmond's face-lift? You can't look away.

The point is, we all use masks of all sorts whatever we do for a living. Whenever we change so much as our facial expression, select glasses, or trim our nose hairs. Understanding that power--no, not the power of nose hairs, the power of masks--and making that power work to your advantage (or perhaps to less of a disadvantage) is the goal of this workshop. This class is especially helpful to many types of acting, auditioning, and performing: from film and television, theatre, and musical comedy, to strolling characters and "face work." It's even very helpful in voiceover work, believe it or not!


About Richard Henzel's Mask Workshops

Professionally acting since 1965, Richard has been teaching Mask Acting workshops since 1980.

Workshop venues have included:
The Second City Chicago Mainstage--The Woodstock Opera House--Improvolympic Chicago--New American Theatre, Rockford
Improvisation Institute Chicago--Holy Cross College, Worcester, MA--Mojave Valley Colleges, AZ--Arizona Arts Council
The Royal Viking Sea--The Steamer Delta Queen--Kent Acting and Touring Company OH
Muskingum College, OH--Shaker Heights High School Theatre, OH

Mask Performance/Productions have included:

The Organic Theatre/"Bleacher Bums" and "Hydropolis"
The Centre Theatre/"Pericles"----Woodstock Opera House and New American Theatre/"A Midwinter Night's Dream"
Prop Theatre Chicago/"Dementia In Absentia"
Bailiwick Repertory, The Second City, Kent Acting and Touring Co., Kent State University/"Street Guide to Gary Indiana"

Notable Workshop participants have included:

Richard Kind---Mike Myers---Chris Farley
Dan Castenelleta ("Homer Simpson")---Bonnie Hunt
Barbara Harris---Megan Fey---Aaron Freeman

Richard has studied improv, acting, and mask work with:

Bernard Sahlins---Del Close---Severn Darden
Don DePollo---Keith Johnstone---Charna Halpern
Michael Gelman----Jeff Michalski---John Michalski
Jeffrey Sweet--Gregory Mosher---James Thornton

  Click Here for info on Mask Making *****Click Here to see the Mask Gallery

except where otherwise credited, all photos are by Richard Henzel