|Subject: ABC: Have mask will travel to East
Have mask will travel to East Timor
Thursday, 15 September 2005
Reporter: Margot Edwards
Watch a slideshow of workshop [http://abc.net.au/flashshow/southwestwa/easttimor/default.htm]
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Margot Edwards travelled from south west Western Australia to East Timor to
work with fellow theatre artists in developing theatre in the newly
independent country. The trip was funded in part by ArtsWA. This is her
account of the experience.
On a wet blustery day in August, we complete the hectic fifth round of
playbuilding workshops with Year 9/10 students at Australind Senior High, as
we prepare for the Big Play Out at the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre
on the 2nd of September.
Before leaving, I race back into the office to find drama teacher, Janine
Beecham. "Do you have any neutral masks I can take to a theatre retreat next
week in East Timor?" I plead. "Sure, take the lot," she says. "We're due for
some new ones."
I open her drawer to find 12 simple white masks staring blankly ahead. I
scoop them up with gratitude and relief, the latest in a string of donations
for this upcoming journey, to teach theatre and writing to 50 young
performers (aged 15-30) in East Timor the following week.
Thus the journey in mask begins, heading for Loke Kurtina - Opening the
Curtains on theatre for young people, held at a Catholic convent on a
hillside perched above the Suwa Sea and the township of Maubara, a 90 minute
drive west of Dili.
On arrival, I open my workshop suitcase. Slender brown fingers immediately
slide several masks from their blank pile. These first masks to venture out
continue to make random appearances during the week: at morning and evening
seminars on the past, present and future of East Timorese theatre; as late
night ghosts at sweaty dance sessions; as living mannequins at breakfast,
lunch and dinner.
My efforts to photograph the angelic masked face of a10 year old local boy
who watches a busy cane puppet making workshop (by fellow WA artist Sandy
McKendrick), come to nil. But the visual memory of this sweet image behind
me, as I turn from my work, remains firm.
Our primary work, as five Australian volunteer theatre artists invited to
the retreat, is to teach theatre skills, collaborating with long term
Timor-based theatre artists, Robyn Waite and Dili's well established Bibi
Bulak Theatre Company (aka the Crazy Goats), and their artistic coordinator,
We offer mask, playbuilding, improvisation, puppetry, acting, clowning,
physical theatre and writing workshops. Sandy and I run a joyful mask
workshop together one afternoon, on isolation and status, with my simple
neutral masks and her sophisticated and beautiful Commedia del Arte masks.
But the hardest, most rewarding work is in creating a play with our groups.
Sure to form, both styles of masks feature in these short colourful theatre
pieces at the final collaborative production for some 600 people in coastal
Exhausted but elated, after seven days of intense work, this beautiful group
of talented participants party all night after the show, somehow tolerated
by the gracious Madre (Mother Superior) whose staff have fed and nurtured
our rowdy mob all week in their idyllic home.
At 1am, I collapse on my mattress on the verandah of our neighbouring
Portuguese-style rented house, the moon shining through my mosquito net, the
gentle ocean below, lapping in my dreams. A cliche? Yes...and I pinch myself
to be sure it is true.
Sandy's masks return with her to WA to inspire new communities worldwide;
mine are easily replaceable, so continue their journey with our new young
friends in East Timor, returning to their communities to pass on the skills
they have learnt.
I return to Bunbury by the 2nd of September, only 48 hours after a sad but
joyous farewell at Dili airport. It's still cold and blustery in the south
west but I'm in time to complete the final day of dress rehearsals and
production night for the five student plays of the Big Play Out at Bunbury
Regional Entertainment Centre.
And there I find the masks awaiting me - of the very same simple neutral
form - in a powerful visual and physical production for the Big Play Out, by
Year 11s at Bunbury Catholic College.
People Whom I Think Are Different To Me is the theme of this piece. But for
me, I find the same masks and the same beautiful young people I have worked
with all year, in this and all the other brilliant short plays of that crazy
week. My journey leads me back to where I started - the world of young
In south west WA and in East Timor I find different stories, but the talents
and dreams, and the desire to interpret this crazy world with fresh
perspectives, are the same in both places. I'm left with the desire to
continue my journey in theatre, both here and there, forever.
ETAN welcomes your financial support. For more info:
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