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Joe Osheroff’s take on theatrical masks

Sid Peterson, [email protected]

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Joe Osheroff, a current Grant Wood Art Colony Fellow, will present a talk on theatrical masks today at Art Building West at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to hear the special lecture.

The Grant Wood Art Colony granted the Interdisciplinary Performance Fellowship for the 2017-18 cycle to Osheroff, who resides in New York, where he is involved in theater. He specializes in mask performance at his company, the Homunculus Mask Theater, and is also a professor of acting at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Each year, the Wood Colony invites three creative people to the University of Iowa as Grant Wood fellows. Three professional artists are granted fellowships in one of three areas of expertise: printmaking, painting and drawing, and interdisciplinary performance.

Each is given a place to live, a salary, a space to focus on their personal work, and the opportunity to teach one course a semester at the UI. This one-year fellowship offers the artists time to focus on their personal art and chance to share their experience with students.

“We want to make sure the relationships are mutual — that the fellows will benefit in their careers as well as the students on campus will benefit with their presence here,” Colony Director Maura Pilcher said. “I think that Joe’s work is abstract or foreign enough to most people in the area, so it will be an amazing opportunity to have him talk to the broader audience about his practice.”

In Osheroff’s talk, audience members will be exposed to the historical roots of theatrical masks starting with the Ancient Greeks leading up to modern American theater.

He will also share his perspective on contemporary masks and insight on how his productions are moving forward in terms of mask work. Everyone is encouraged to attend Osheroff’s talk to explore the historical context of theatrical masks and how they are evolving.

“I think people should go to gain different perspectives,” said Paul Kalina, a UI associate professor of theater and movement. “It is not just theater kids or art kids.”

Osheroff is in the process of creating a project called “Visual Mixtape” that will be performed in April. This production will feature 10 students, full-face masks, no dialogue, and interestingly enough, some rock and roll.

“I am sort-of creating a masked music video,” Osheroff said. “I want to bombard the audience with imagery, and the work we are doing is all based in classical techniques. But I’m creating rock and roll and not folktales. A lot of the mask work we have been seeing over the past few years is still rooted in mythology, folktales, and commedia. But I want to step out of that world a little bit.”

Osheroff noted that while the masks of the past deserve the utmost respect and appreciation, his interests are undoubtedly in innovation and a new kind of mask in the future.

“I am most interested in that transformation of the mask as a thing you can hold in your hands, to a new identity once you put it on your face,” Osheroff said.

When: Today at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Art Building West, 240

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