Per Brahe, the Artistic Director for the annual ‘Bali Conservatory’ will be flying from Indonesia with a selection of his traditional Balinese masks, to teach a MASK INTENSIVE WORKSHOP at the Terry Knickerbocker Studio starting this week. He is an internationally known expert in Balinese Mask Work, and a master teacher of Michael Chekov technique. We caught up with him to learn more about his ideology and work with actors exploring the Balinese religion, culture, and life for the past 26 years.
When did you begin your journey in mask work and what inspired your commitment to this work?
I am a theater director graduate from the National Theater School in Copenhagen. My work with actors sent me off to search for the ultimate material that could help me create a teaching that incorporates the whole body. I wanted to develop material for actors that could give them what they need and what I need as a theater director. I got stuck in the magic of and the hidden possibilities in masks.
Can you tell me about Taksu – what it means and how it is connected to the Balinese mask tradition?
Taksu is a very magic word in Bali. It is weighted as a strong force that is in connection to God or the universe. Ancient Greece also discovered Taksu but they called it Charisma, which is different from the meaning of the word today. For them Charisma meant “Gift from God” and included storytelling, acting, and healing. I have worked on this topic all my years in theater and my search brought me to Bali. I am now able to create it for dancers, musicians, and actors.
How can masks benefit and influence an actor’s craft?
We develop human beings to be actors. The masks work for the human being. The human being is rarely educated to become a free, gifted artist. If the artistic efforts and will are strong enough it might come through. I see an actor as a human being with a special mark on the soul – and it is up to the schools to look out for that special mark. This mark is hidden behind our everyday “mask” and working with masks can help remove this shield. As the native Mexicans say, “Put a mask on so we can see who you are.” My collection of 500 masks is designed to support the actors’ many variations of expressions while also making their personal masks so fragile that the actor becomes transparent, and shines through to the audience. A transparent actor is an actor that has an open awareness.
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