Learning from masks with Anana Rydvald

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Anana Rydvald is a performer who creates masks, teaches mask, movement and improvisation; and writes and performs mask shows. She’s naturally leading a mask workshop for Atelier. Anana graciously answered five questions related to her practice.

1) What skill have you learned from mask that you apply to your work as a performer?
I would say the biggest thing I take with me from masks is JOY. There is too much stress and self consciousness in this business. I’ve learnt so much from the mask in terms of “letting go”, not holding on to perfection, but letting the image of the mask spark my imagination and sense of play. The mask work has also reminded me that a gesture speaks a thousand words. We often see actors forgetting what their eyes do, or their mouths, or hands or fingers etc… there is such a library of subtle messages that we have stored in our bodies. The mask reminds us of that because it ONLY comes alive when we let our bodies do the talking. So I do feel like I approach any given role with a more inquistive mind to the physical details of a character.

2) What is one thing that comes easily to you and one thing that is difficult for you in your practice?
Anything physical comes quite easily to me. I’m thrilled when a director puts on some music and says Go! Move and speak as you wish! I know that freaks some performers out but that’s really when I’m at my best I think. Especially with an ensemble. I feed like crazy from a group of people. There is nothing more exciting then having a bunch of creative and focused bodies in space with a singular mission in mind; To make something out of an idea, a concept, an image, a story… whatever it is, that kind of set up is my element! What challenges me more is a very heady text. A text that is extremely wordy and devoid of emotions. It’s something I’ve worked on for a long time. I sometimes have to audition for these very hard core detectives, police officers, lawyers, judges etc.. that say a lot of important things with not a lot of emotion. I find that challenging, but these are all very good and important roles that need to be heard and played authentically of course. So “research” is my go to. What they’re talking about HAS to be understood. I feel a bit frustrated that I’ll only really understand the subject on a pretty superficial level, unless I get the part and have more time to delve into that! J I’m also a very tactile and visual person, I need to see, touch and hear things from someone who is truly living it, so I usually make sure to speak with as many people as possible in ALL kinds of fields to try to really get inside that very specific kind of headspace you need to have to do the work that they do. My memories of these conversations and encounters help me chanel some weight and realness to the parts that I find challenging.

3) Please share an important learning moment in your artistic development.
One big moment for me was when I first started out as an actress and was hired as a physical performer in an avant garde theatre company in Denmark. I had just studied the more traditional “method acting” and was suddenly thrown into this parallel universe where the director asked the actors to create installations on a particular theme and we had to take part in this installation but not actually “act”. It was a completely foreign concept for me but I was hooked. I manically kept coming up with one installation after another, ideas kept pouring out… I was so happy to create “moving pictures” on stage so to speak, I’ve never been so excited! I think it’s because I grew up with a muralist, that to suddenly be introduced to a theatre that can create “paintings” on stage through objects and moving bodies was a real eye opener for me.

4) How do you keep exercising your artistic muscle when you are in between gigs?
I either make a mask, do some deep breathing and physical exercises at home to stay strong and connected with my instrument (…as cheesy as that sounds. It’s what you gotta do! 🙂 ), or look for a workshop that will hone my skills as a performer. However, my teaching is really what exercises my artistic muscle the most. There are no better teachers then my own students. I get so inspired and invigorated by watching their creative and very unique ways of expressing themselves.

5) What makes you angry?
I mostly get angry at myself. It’s usually after an audition that I think I could have done better. It takes a while for me to really let things sink in. I need time to digest what a director is asking of me, on a deep level. Most of the time in film/t.v. auditions there isn’t the luxury of time to think about what is being asked of you. So I sometimes walk out and get the delayed reaction and say to myself “Aha! THAT’s what they wanted… Shoot.” I’m very eager to please, so I take the diection and go! I wish I had the time to say “Can you give me a minute to really let this sink in so I can adjust my approach?” …But it’s the nature of the beast. At least I GET to audition, so I’ll take that, and place my anger whenever I get a chance and where it’s appropriate. In the part!

Discover the joy and freedom mask work brings to a performer (and also the solid physical skills too). Anana’s mask workshop is this Saturday, September 30 from 10am-6pm. Register here.

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