From the front lines – Mask Edition

We spend a lot of time both in real life and in person complaining about lack of resources. “If only I had… I could…”

And while I’m tired of the conversation, it’s as pointless as me making dinner-date plans for when Natalie Portman comes to her senses, I understand the impulse.

But there’s a very real and very pernicious resource drain that we spend very few brain cycles on:

Hyphenation drain.

To recap: I am an actor by training.

For Orestes I will be playing Menelaus (poor misunderstand bloke), I am the technical director, set designer, master carpenter, prop master, master electrician, and producer.

So which one of those jobs do you think I’m doing to the best of my ability? I’m nowhere near alone in this. How many of our soon-to-be-great directors are busy making rickety platforms right now? how many actors are building props?

This isn’t a plea for pity, my value to an indie theater company is exactly that I can do all of those things, and I think that there’s a lot to be said for Doing for Yourself According to Your Means.

But the global reality of this talent overextension means that there are a lot of people in the system who will never reach their full potential in their chosen focus even if they manage survive burn out.

I’d be lying if I said I had a solution, but it bears thinking on.

I will be off book, as soon as tonight… and I promise that I can string two sentences together. 

There has been some interest in the masks that I’m building for the Furies for Orestes so I’ll take this vanity lap to talk about them a little. Please note that they are only at about 90% completion as pictured. They will receive some additional paint treatment to make them pop from stage as opposed to from 18 inches, and they will be mounted on poles that vary in length from 3-6 feet depending on actor preference.


First the “masks” aren’t going to be worn, they’re going to be manipulated sort of like puppets. The actors playing the Furies double as Orestes family and we were concerned about the ease of transitions between one and the other. So after a few iterations of mask designs that were meant to be worn but transition friendly we ran with an idea brought to us by Friend-of-Cambiare Liz Fisher about masks on sticks. We ran with it. Not EXACTLY as described, but in spirit.   

The masks aren’t aren’t strictly anthropomorphic. Orestes is “hounded by these visions”, he “see his horrors” but they aren’t specific. In myth and legend the Furies are mostly gorgon analogs, but that’s pretty dull. So I ran with the key production phrase, Decay, and the personalities of the characters the Furies were doubling and just sort of winged it.

Iphigenia (above) was informed by this image and by the art over at Phantasmaphile. The face will be finished by charring the edges of the doll face, adding porcelain doll lips, lacquering the face, adding some smudges of dirt to add texture to the face, and lightening the branches to raise contrast and make them more easily seen from stage.


Klytaimnestra is a compromise. She was intended to have that metal lattice work as faux-gorgon hair with the leaves working through it, but that looked like crap (more specifically it looked a lot like an android Grace Slick – NOT the intended effect). So we went a bit more minimalist.  This mask will see the addition of dirt on the face for texture, shading and highlight to better delineate the features of the face from a distance and quite naturally, blood pouring from the gaping sockets on her face.


This is a terrible picture of the Agamemnon mask, forgive me. Where the other masks were based on wig forms, this was based on a skull that I’ve had since my days with Darwin’s Waiting Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 98-99. What is unclear in the picture is that mixed in with the vines and the leaves are a variety of electric cords and cables (and Christmas lights), modern detritus being eroded as nature reclaims it. This mask will receive added texture (the flat black doesn’t work) highlights and shadows like the others to pick up features from a distance and possibly additional cords and cables depending on their visibility

So there you have it. Working models of the mask we will be using for Orestes. Good seats still available.

  • your masks make me excited about seeing the show —

  • Derek

    Bedard we know you've got it locked down… thanks for the post!

  • Derek

    I just noticed the font for the poster is Distressed Avant Garde! NIce!

  • The Agamemnon mask is awesome.

  • The Agamemnon mask is awesome.