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Working with Trance Masks – 30th November

Highly experienced mask practitioners Will Steele and Alex Fradera are running this one-day introduction to the trance mask technique. Masks, costume and guidance will be provided – you only need to bring yourself and a curiosity to explore, no experience necessary. BOOK HERE. More about the trance mask tradition below.

Please note: the workshop will be joined by two film-makers who are documenting the trance mask tradition, who will take part in the workshop as participants and intend to record some footage of each other using the masks together with footage of the instructors. We wanted to make this element of the day clear ahead of time. There is no requirement or expectation that any other participant will be recorded.

The workshop will run 12-6pm with a few short breaks. Wear comfortable clothing.

More on the technique:

The Trance Mask (half mask) technique was developed by Keith Johnstone at the Royal Court Theatre in London and later perfected at Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary, Canada.

This technique used observation of shamanic ceremonies in Africa as a starting point. This use of the mask in a magic context was then combined with modern theatre’s most well-known mask techniques.

The Trance Mask covers only the top part of the face leaving the mouth free, since sound is one of the central tools used to activate the mask.

There are no fixed characters. Whatever emerges from the encounter between the mask and its wearer, if powerful and pure enough, is the starting point from which a character can be developed. This process may bring to mind the development of a child as he discovers how to speak and relate with the world and different experiences.

Between the masks we will work with our bodies, faces and voices to prepare ourselves and also discover tricks to bring some of that mask feeling into our performance. We will also explore other uses of mask to expand our repertoire.


Will Steele has over ten years of experience in Impro and Trance Mask and was once described by one of Keith Johnstone’s long time Danish collaborators as ‘a most courageous mask performer’. He is also a BA Hons Scriptwriter and a graduate of the Curious School of Puppetry under Sarah Wright. He has taught and performed internationally at various schools, theatres and festivals in Europe and America. He is also a director of Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival, Life and Limb Puppets and Space Six Newcastle.

Alex Fradera has been improvising for over twelve years, and has taught the art form in Germany, Poland, Finland, France, Slovenia, the UAE, USA, and across the UK. Alex works with a number of UK-based and international improvisation groups, including German/international supergroup Der Kaktus and performance art parodists The Dreaming. He has developed original improvised formats that have played internationally, including chamber pieces, middle eastern metafiction, and shows inspired by the writings of Tom Stoppard and Haruki Murukami. He is an Artistic Director of the Würzburg Festival, and a member of Ohana, a European network of improvisers.

Together Alex and Will have been members of the European advanced trance mask retreat in Denmark since 2010. They have led sessions to develop advanced masks and together co-devised structures and experiences to prepare them for the stage. They have directed mask shows at the Amsterdam Improvisation Festival, and performed mask at the Vienna Impro festival, the USA, Denmark and Germany. Together they founded the Newcastle-based improvisation training company Open Heart Theatre.