MSU professor explores expression through masks

 

MSU acting professor Stephanie Campbell has played with masks since she was a little kid, but it wasn’t until she attended the University of Arizona for graduate school — where she received two master’s degrees in acting and directing — that she began to explore them as “an actor-training tool.”

“It’s so opening,” explained Campbell. “Masks are all about being open, aware and connecting. […] That’s what it’s all about: connecting.” Indeed, the masks are not intended to close over (or mask) a person’s identity, rather, they allow it to be expressed in its full potential.

Along with the ability to connect people with each other and themselves, Campbell believes her current set of 15 masks carry the power to change and morph. “One person’s impression is this character they’ve created. Somebody else can take that mask and create a totally different character. […] They can run the gamut or the range of all emotions,” Campbell said.

Campbell harnesses the potential of the masks in the form of group workshops — where an assembly of people explore their own emotions and interact with each other with masks in a series of structured exercises. Campbell described their purpose as “instructional, enjoyable, fun and interesting.”

Although Campbell’s study of masks originated in the acting realm, she has expanded her focus to include other groups of people. “It is transformational; it is as transformational for the actor as it is for non-actors. I do it with cancer survivors and I do it with angry teenagers and wanna-be actors and geriatrics,” Campbell said. “Anybody can benefit from the opening that happens when you put on a mask.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“Anybody can benefit from the opening that happens when you put on a mask.” – Stephanie Campbell, MSU professor of acting[/pullquote]

The next and final workshop of the semester will be held on Dec. 4. If you are interested in attending, you must contact Stephanie Campbell in advance, as there are only 15 spots available in the workshop. Campbell can be reached at stephc@montana.edu.