Masks of Manipulation

Masks of Manipulation Workshop—Emma’s Take

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HI THERE! Let me introduce myself! My name is Emma Bulpin, a 23 year-old artist, working as an intern at Mixed Company Theatre. I graduated with a B.A. in Dramatic Arts and Journalism at Brock University.

This past week was great because Mixed Company Theatre was hosting their Masks of Manipulation workshop for two days and yours truly got to attend. It was an eye opening experience because this workshop explored our interaction with different types of manipulation and how it can be used to get what you want. What I found interesting was the diverse backgrounds of people attending these workshops: teachers, social workers… At first, I was a little shocked to discover people outside of performance arts would have an interest in a theatre workshop… Clearly I was wrong. I was suddenly slapped in the face with a mental image of MCT’s mandate:

“Mixed Company Theatre produces innovative, socially relevant drama as a tool for positive change — ”

Masks of Manipulation

So, of course people from different professions were joining this workshop! It was inspiring. I discovered the different types of manipulation and how it can affect us. Simon Malbogat, MCT’s Artistic Director, uses Commedia Dell’Arte masks to explore the types of manipulation in a performative way. The first day, we got on our feet and analyzed different body types. As I discovered how these body types took over my physicality and what it was like to live in these different physical worlds, I began to match the masks of manipulation to its physical shape. Not only did this workshop give me a name for each type of manipulation, but it also gave me a shape and image of what to be alert for when these masks show up in my everyday life – you would be surprised – they are everywhere.

The second day, Simon had us do a lot of different exercises with our eyes closed, which played with being in control vs. being controlled. I felt that it gave the collective an unspoken trust and helped us further delve into manipulation and its affects. Not only was I beginning to name the types of manipulation, but I was also giving them faces and relating them to my own experiences. I was starting to think that everything was about manipulation and everyone was being manipulated. It was important to me to understand that manipulation is not necessarily a negative thing, but to be aware of its negativity upon people.

For each mask the group explored, we discovered its characteristics through improv and different theatre techniques. It was fascinating to watch how manipulation can use different tactics to get what it wants and how emotional discipline can defuse its negative impact. As the workshop came to an end, the group gathered around in a closing circle and shared their thoughts and experiences. Overall, MCT did what it does best—they engaged, educated, and empowered.

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