Puppetry & Masks

Noh Theatre

 

Noh is the world's oldest unbroken theatrical tradition, having remained virtually unchanged for over 600 years. While living in Osaka, Ben studied traditional mask carving with Yoshitake Hiroshi at the Noh Mask Society.

Ben's second mask, Komote, which is considered one of the most difficult masks to carve due to its perfect symmetry. The face epitomizes classical Japanese definitions of female beauty.

Ben's first mask, Shojo, depicts a sprite, or god, of Sake, the traditional drink. This mask was featured in an exhibition at Osaka City Hall.

Commedia dell'Arte

 

Commedia is an Italian street performance art that originated in the middle ages.  Ben crafted two masks under the supervision of mask-maker and performer Andrea Cavarra at his studio in northern Italy.

A Pantalone (old miser) mask, starting with the wooden matrix, then the leather mold, and finally the finished mask, complete with hair.

A comic Pulcinella (Punch) mask.

Outdoor Extravaganza

 

This is a selection of oversized puppets and headdress-style masks that Ben designed and led construction on for an outdoor production of Ben Jonson's Volpone. The masks were based upon the animals that the characters are named after, and were inspired by both Venetian carnival and Commedia dell'Arte (see more about Commedia, below).

Found-Objects

 

For a dramatization of the Schubert song cycle The Lovely Miller-Maid, Ben designed and built a series of puppets made from objects that could be found floating in a stream. The main character's mother was made of a marionette corn-husk doll. The miller-maid herself was formed from flowers, and the rival for her love was fashioned from a barrel and pistol that came together onstage to form a face.

Below: Ben assisted Broadway puppeteer Jessica Scott during a workshop of Mabou Mines' La Divina Caricatura. It eventually premiered at La MaMa in NYC under the direction of MacArthur Genius Award Winner Lee Breuer. Pictured are the "Poppers" that Ben helped to carve out of foam.

Ben designed the "Grief Monster" puppet for Chrysalis, a solo show by Evangeline Crittenden, which toured the US and performed at the NYC Fringe Festival.

Above: A puppet Ben helped build under the guidance of international puppet artist Anurupa Roy for a production in Los Angeles.  Ben also studied with her at the 

Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust in New Delhi.

© 2020 by Ben Prusiner