MFA Cohort III in Berlin with Familie Flöz
MFA Cohort III began in the fall of 2013 and is currently in residency with Familie Flöz in Berlin. Current cohort members Stacy, Cassandra and Aaron took time to update us about Berlin and their work with contemporary mask company, Familie Flöz.
What’s been your favorite discovery in Berlin so far?
My favorite thing about Berlin is how vibrant and alive the city is. There are events going on every single night and it’s really easy to meet people. On top of that, it’s very affordable for a big city.
What’s a typical day like working with Familie Flöz? Is there a daily routine? Exercises that are revisited?
At the moment, 3 days a week we do intense physical warm-ups before spending a couple of hours practicing mask work. In the afternoon we are building our masks. The other 2 days we spend time developing the characters we created as well as mask building in the afternoon.
What are you looking forward to most as you continue your work with them?
I am really excited to work with the mask I am building. Today we all finished our first masks and are eagerly awaiting them to dry so we can start painting them. I think it’ll be another week or so before I can wear my finished mask and that is what I am most looking forward to right now!
You have an extra 6 months to spend in Arezzo, Torino or Berlin – which do you choose? Why there?
If I were to spend another 6 months in one of our program’s cities, I would choose Berlin. It is a fantastic city to explore, there are shows available almost any night you want, and it’s so easy to travel around the rest of Europe using it as a home base.
Over the course of the MFA program, you’ve experienced different types of mask work. How does Familie Flöz’s approach compare?
The mask work with Familie Flöz does seem different than the various other styles we’ve used in the past. There are some similarities in the basic, keeping the mask still enough for the audience to ‘read,’ completing the form with your body, etc… but there is something about covering the face completely with a fully formed character face that changes the moods and scenes created. I find more similarity with the puppetry work I’ve done than other mask work in many ways. With the Commedia masks, you and the mask seem to have equal shares in the character. With these, you are serving to bring the character in the mask a sense of independent life.
As the fourth MFA cohort prepares to meet in Arezzo in a few weeks for the first time, what advice do you have for them?
Stay positive and Fail with Abandon. I’m a big supporter of Failure and do it regularly. I’m not talking about not doing the prep work and therefore being unable to succeed, I’m talking about trying something so big and strange and marvelous that it blows up in your face dozens or hundreds of times before it succeeds so spectacularly that you and the world will never be the same again. You have the rare opportunity to Fail as gloriously and as often as you want, you won’t have a paycheck withheld or get re-cast, dive in and rejoice in it. As Ms. Frizzle would say, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” But remember it’s a long program, some of the modules won’t be your favorites, some of the faculty may not be who you would choose to work with. Growth and change is a slow and difficult process, sometimes so slow it is unobservable until reflection after the fact. Take what you find useful and positive from each and every opportunity and let the rest go.
How does the city of Berlin compare to Arezzo? To Torino?
Berlin is much more eclectic than Arezzo. There are always several options of things to explore any night of the week and if you like to ride a bike, Berlin is paradise. Arezzo has things to do outside of class, however you are somewhat limited as the city itself is relatively quaint. The street festivals that come through are a lot of fun and you are a short train ride away from may beautiful sites. Arezzo is very picturesque and there is very little hustle and bustle. It is a very peaceful city. Berlin is closer to Torino in style. Personally, I always felt that Torino is Italy’s answer to New York. If that is true, then I will say Berlin is Germany’s Chicago. Both Berlin and Torino are very accessible. There are very distinct areas within each city, and you will run into people from many different places. Each city has a multitude to offer. Each of them has their own unique charm.
In working with Familie Flöz so far, what has been their main focus? What’s been the biggest takeaway for you?
The main focus in our first two weeks has been building and exploration. We have been working to create and make our masks which will be used for the performance next month. In addition to learning this new craft, we are also building on our physical vocabulary. We have been working with Familie Flöz to understand a unique variation of thinking of the body in performance and in mask. The biggest take away for me so far is, “Play simply and simply play…moment to moment.” In all of our work thus far, there is a joy and immediate heightened quality working to simply “be” within the body. When we take the time to do this with ourselves and with the people we are improvising with, the story unfolds and is a surprise for the viewer and performer. That said, I think a smaller, but equally significant takeaway under the “play simply and simply play,” is allow yourself the freedom of being surprised each moment.
The fourth MFA cohort will arrive in Arezzo in a few weeks to begin their MFA journey – what words of wisdom do you have for them?
WELCOME! What a journey that is about to begin. Enjoy, explore, laugh at yourself and keep pushing yourself. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you still don’t understand after asking, do it anyways. You will discover, in the process, the answer. Understand that each of you are coming from many different places and you all have a common goal, to grow in this program. Though the track may vary from person to person, you are all on your own unique journey through shared experiences. Take care of yourself, take care of each other, learn from each other, and don’t take anything too seriously that you cannot let yourself grow and play another day. Everything is a gift.