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This week, we sat down to talk with artist Sean Devare who designed and fabricated three original Commedia Dell'Arte-style masks for The Ume Group's "Lysistrata Project." Here is what he had to say...
JORDAN ROSIN: How did you find your inspiration for the masks?
SEAN DEVARE: I always approach my projects with as much research as I can find, from as many related and sometimes unrelated sources as possible. I started by researching the Commedia types and typical traits while also drawing inspiration from certain Japanese mask aesthetics, especially for Capitano. I can be frequently found sketching or photographing masks and sculptures at museums, where inspiration is bound to strike at any time!
JR: What materials did you use?
SD: For expediency, I used a combination of air-drying paperclay and wood glue over various cardboard, paper-mache, or plastic armatures. I often rearrange and re-purpose old Halloween masks as base structures to build on top of. Various enamel spray paints were used for the finish.
JR: How did you learn to make masks like this?
SD: I've studied mask carving with different master craftsmen in Bali, Indonesia, but the majority of my fine arts training came through my undergraduate degree at the Rhode Island School of Design where I studied anatomy, sculpture, and character design in the Illustration department.
JR: What's been the most exciting thing about collaborating with The Ume Group?
SD: I had the unique opportunity to design masks specifically for characterizations that the actors had already been working on. Often times the mask provides initial inspiration for the actors' movements, but this process was nearly reversed! You could say it was a creative dialogue, as I'm sure the actors made further adjustments upon working with the finalized masks. I particularly enjoyed Byron's buzzard-like interpretation of Pantalone, which helped inspire the shape of the nose earlier in the process. It was a pleasure to see such vibrant and playful performers bring the masks to life! I'm always excited to see what different people find in the masks, and the Ume Group brought such specific articulation and expression. It was absolutely captivating to see and hear these larger-than-life characters on stage!
Sean Devare (Mask Designer) is a NY-based multi-disciplinary artist. He was a resident actor at The Flea Theater where he appeared in 'The Cutthroat Series' as an actor and puppeteer. Other NY credits: 'The Saltmakers' (Dixon Place/HERE); 'Artaud Artaud' (Signature); 'The Tutors' (The Kraine). He studied theatre at Brown University where he created a solo show, 'Into the West,' featuring original masks and projections. Training includes: Dell'Arte International Abroad (Bali), Old Trout Puppet Workshop, and Per Brahe. BFA in Illustration, RISD.
Want to see the Apprentices in action? Visit Brown Paper Tickets to reserve your spot to see them in the company's upcoming workshop of The Lysistrata Project, February 26 - March 12, 2016 at Grace & St. Paul's Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
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