Photo by David Bjorgen
Last night, after seeing The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity for the third time, I realized I couldn’t shake the image of the way Mace clutches his mask. In the entire first act, he either has his mask in his hand, in his pocket, or on his face. He wouldn’t let it go, and that was powerful. To many it may have passed by, but how tightly he held onto that piece of fabric really struck me and got me thinking.
Maybe it’s just my actor mindset, or my love for understanding how and in what ways we think about questions like “what different masks do I wear”, but I have ALWAYS thought about this. I know I have several masks. One for when I interact with my Mom and then one when we are with her side of the family. I have one mask for my dad and his side of the family. I have a different mask for both of my jobs, and a similar mask for each of my group of friends yet with subtle differences that can change dealing with each situation. I think of my masks as a Mrs. Potato Head face, you can just take off and pop on pieces that fit for the occasion. I have a lot of different masks, to say the least. Not because I choose to have different ones, but because they subconsciously slip out.
You know how it is! You grow up, you gain new experiences, you learn to accommodate to each social/professional/educational situation and somehow they appear. Before you know it you have 5, or 27 different similar but different masks to choose from. That’s life.
How many of us know all of our masks? Are you overly aware of them? Do you not notice them? Do they control you or do you control them?
These are questions that we don’t think about often. If we do, it’s every once in a long while. Yet, we should. Wearing a different mask all the time is a lot of work! Of course we’d all like to say that “I only wear one mask and that is who I am, and I know who I am.” Impossible. As a productive being in this society, you will not use the same mask in every situation. You simply can’t! If you completely disagree with me, leave me a comment because you have found the secret to life.
I digress. Of course we all have core characteristics that (we hope) radiate through our masks. For example, my core characteristic, my Mrs. Potato Head face without any features on it, would be kindness. You better believe that I make that radiate through whatever mask I might have on that day. I believe that one act of kindness can turn someone’s awful day around; and we never truly know how awful someone’s day might be. It doesn’t always stay with me: but sue me, I’m not perfect.
Kristoffer Diaz, author of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, understands all of this using a powerful metaphor. He uses wrestling, and theatre as a medium to explain these “masks” we wear. More specifically, the masks that humans of various racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds wear and the battles they face under these masks.
Many come to see this piece thinking it’s a show about wrestling, but through Diaz’s use of the mask metaphor, he has created so many layers through allowing the audience to see this work through three various different lenses; the theatre, wrestling, and humanity. Diaz makes clear that masks in wrestling and theatre are not solely for the show. They tell the story of their “characters” life. Usually, we only see one mask in televised wrestling, and even in poorly written or performed theatre. The beauty of this piece comes from the offer Diaz laid on our table. We are given a look at Mace’s, VP’s, and even Chad’s different masks. These men seem like caricatures, and they need to for THE business, but they are still people.
See if you can figure out the different masks they have to wear in their lives, and why. Even more importantly, see if you can find when their masks come off; when they are raw. Who knows, you might find these caricatures and the masks they wear more similar to you than you think.
We are all human, and therefore we all get caught in humdrum routines. Too often these routines make us are unaware that we use each other as props, or allow ourselves to be used. Too often are we solely fighting for ourselves and not looking out for our brothers and sisters, unlike Mace who desires communion through the creation of one perfect story. While watching this show, take off your masks and allow yourself to be raw. It will be a nice change from that constant work to keep your masks in place and who knows? You might make some interesting connections to people you did not think you had anything in common with.
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