Toronto Masque Theatre, or Clowning Around Photo: Tariq Kieran

Toronto Masque Theatre, or Clowning Around

Jenna Simeonov

Last night I went for the first time to see Toronto Masque Theatre, who are in the middle of their 11th season. I don’t know much bout the masque tradition, but I’ve learned that it was most popular in the 16th and early 17th centuries, and combined music, acting, dancing, and even architecture into a piece of theatre meant to flatter the man paying for all of it. So You Want To Write A Masque? was a fun look at how this art form comes together. The music was provided by soprano Michele DeBoer, lutenist Lucas Harris, and violinist and “maestro” Larry Beckwith, who is also the founder and Artistic Director of Toronto Masque Theatre. The acting, dancing, and architecture were covered by improv clown duo Nicholas Dénoument and Mina Kalishnikova of the Gorgonetrevitch Corps de Ballet Nationale (true names: David-Benjamin Tomlinson and Diana Kolpak).

As a newcomer to Toronto Masque Theatre, I doubt that So You Want To Write A Masque? is indicative of the rest of their season. I still had fun in what was a quasi-staged, quasi-improvised unfurling of a masque, complete with audience volunteers, and a makeshift set of scarves, chairs, and hand puppets. Nicholas and Mina were hilarious as the disruptive clown troupe, interrupting a pleasant night of Renaissance and Baroque music. Beckwith, DeBoer, and Harris were a fantastic trio, both musically, and in accommodating the unruly demands of the pushy clowns. The improv factor was exciting, since I realized it had been a long time since I’d really seen that live; at times the delivery was corny, and the audience members seemed less than enthusiastic about their involvement in the masque. Still, I think its a good idea that I hope will start to reach younger listeners; I think a sense of humour is a perfect bridge between arguably obscure music and its potential audience.

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