Behind the Maskcraft – Kristofor Bate

Kristofor BateKristofor Bate is the Artistic Director of Maskcraft, an Edinburgh-based company that exists to preserve, create and share mask theatre practice. Kristofor took part in the Creative Incubator at YTAS’ National Convention of Youth Drama in March 2018 and we caught up with him to talk about his background, the company and his plans for the future.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role as a practitioner?

As a kid and a teenager, youth theatre was an integral part of my identity. When I was five my mum put me into a Saturday morning drama class at Cumbernauld Theatre so she could do the weekly shop and 30 years later I’m still at it! I loved drama growing up so I was drawn to specialising in Community Theatre when studying. I’ve gathered broad range professional experience; facilitating, acting, directing, teaching, writing, technical, stage management, front of house, box office (most of my college essays were written while working stage door!) because I want to understand and practice as much as I can. The most important word in my vocabulary is “learn”. That comes from an old college lecturer and his deep rooted enthusiasm for sharing knowledge was an inspiration.

How did the idea for Maskcraft emerge?

I’ve had a long interest in masks and in my final year at university I used my dissertation to research their use in Japanese Noh theatre, Commedia dell’Arte and African ceremony. Over the years I’ve continued to experiment and research, however further training primarily had to take place out with Scotland. There are some excellent companies south of the border like Trestle, Geese and Strangeface, and a lot of development internationally, but not a lot here in Scotland. This has formed the foundation of our mission statement; to preserve, create and share mask theatre practice. Our aim is to advance the cultural life of Scotland and we hope to provide a platform for training and research here.

How did participating in the Creative Incubator help you develop your idea?

Prior to the Creative Incubator, Maskcraft didn’t have a name or a structure – the concept was bubbling beneath the surface but hadn’t taken form yet. The Creative Incubator provided a space free from distraction to reflect on what was important as an artist and to define core principles, ethos and pedagogy. The Creative Incubator team helped to facilitate a connection between my professional goals and passion for masks. By the end of the Creative Incubator I had clear structure and targets to achieve, and also a support network from both YTAS and the other Incubator participants.

What have been the most challenging and exciting things about setting up on your own?

It was a difficult decision to leave some of the youth theatre classes I was teaching. The months following the Incubator were spent mostly secluded, developing the business plan, marketing and finance strategies, website etc. My partner Heather brought me many a cup of tea! Building a good foundation was important so I dedicated time to this. We’re now at a point where dialogue is opening up and recently I’ve been meeting with people who are really interested in mask work and its development in Scotland. It’s incredibly exciting to see real enthusiasm for our projects from the community.

What is it about mask work that you find so exciting?

There is a simplicity inherent within mask theatre. A mask automatically transforms the wearer. Jonothan Neelands discusses the importance of the symbolic dimension at the heart of drama: masks provide immediate access to that regardless of age or experience. No matter what culture or period, the mask theatre we find is resonant with emotion, metaphor and symbolism; they provide narrative, humour and tragedy; they incite socio-political debate. Working with masks is fun and I find a lot of joy and creativity in the rehearsal room whenever they are introduced.

What advice do you have for youth theatre groups interested in exploring mask work?

The go-to books for me are The Mask Handbook by Toby Wilsher, and Impro by Keith Johnstone. Wilsher contributed to the resource packs that accompany mask sets from Trestle Theatre that a lot of youth theatres may have already purchased. Vamos Theatre, Geese Theatre and Strangeface Theatre are other good companies to have a look at. Also, contact us! Our mission is to share and disseminate what we know and we’re more than happy to meet for a chat about how to incorporate mask work into your practice. On Wednesday evenings we meet in Merchiston, Edinburgh for MaskLab. We provide a huge selection of masks to workshop with (full-face and half-face character masks, neutral masks, Greek choral masks, commedia etc.) so please come along if you want some hands on experience. Additionally I’d also encourage you to make your own masks with the groups and play with them.

What’s next for you?

In addition to MaskLab we are devising a family educational play about James IV to be performed at the Wigtown Book Festival in September. At the Edinburgh Horror Festival in October we’re collaborating with Strawmoddie Theatre to produce a site specific zombie survival show set on a canal boat. We’re collaborating with local libraries to run mask making workshops with children and part of the long term business plan is to build on that to establish our own youth theatre.

Find out more about Maskcraft at their website www.maskcraft.co.uk, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/maskcraftdrama or email them at info@maskcraft.co.uk.

Share

You might also like...

Stay up to date with the latest news from YTAS and the youth theatre industry in Scotland

Ayr in the spotlight with the return of National Festival of Youth Theatre 
Budding young talent will fill the stalls of the Gaiety Theatre on Friday as National Festival of Youth Theatre participants descend on Ayr.
Our Survey Says…
Next week we’ll be launching a survey as part of our research project aiming to evidence the long-term impact of participation in youth theatre.