NAFOL profile: Ann Karin Orset

Sharing the mask teachers’ practical knowledge

Ann Karin OrsetAfter finishing teacher education at Bodø University College in 1998, I started my drama and theatre studies at Oslo University College. This was the starting point of my still growing passion for masks, and led to my decision to participate in Acting with Masks (30 ECT) at the same college. In 2004 I finished my Master thesis at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology titled “Neutral mask – a suitable teaching tool”. Based on my own experiences of mask work I examined the teaching tradition of the French pedagogue, instructor and choreographer Jacques Lecoq. Since then my interest in mask work has grown even stronger, a fact that has brought me to my nearly started PhD project through which I will try to explore the practical knowledge of mask teachers.

My experience is that the mask teachers’ knowledge is both intellectual, situational and an experience related to the physical body itself. Very often I find that it is hard to explain this in already established terms. This leaves the mask teacher facing of complex didactic challenges.

Mask work has traditionally been handed through generations in actor training programs as a practice, without being tied in to any extensive theoretical approach. Personally, I find that it is important to try to further investigate and describe the practical knowledge that the mask teacher possesses, to try to strengthen the field of actor training.

In my research project I will also put particular focus to and try to explain the use of neutral mask as a teaching resource in actor training. This way I hope to be able to strengthen the training of actors by making them more aware of their ability to create stage presence and make use of the body as an expressive resource.

My teaching experience includes primary and secondary school, high school, art schools, Universities, University Colleges and the private sector. From 2005 – 2008 I was in charge of the BA-program “Faglærerutdanning i drama” at the University of Nordland. After a year of maternity leave I was director and head of Research at The Norwegian Centre for Arts and Culture in Education until another maternity leave in 2011. Finally, after that, I was ready to continue my PhD- program which first was assigned in 2008. Besides doing research I also do freelance, both as author, instructor, mask maker and artist. I run a project based theatre group named Jegerne that mainly produce theatre for children using masks and physical theatre as our main form of artistic expression.

Keywords: Mask, tacit knowledge, theatre, actor training, didactic