CTC’s Late Night Mask Show full of silly fun


The five Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actors taking part in Saturday’s Late Night Mask Show pose with their clown noses in front of Rehearsal Shack 65, where the performance will take place. Submitted photo.

Suzi Starheim | Staff Writer

Masks, clown noses and a silly show are scheduled to take place at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the Chautauqua Theater Company’s Late Night Mask Show. The show will take place outside rehearsal shacks 64 and 65.

Although it falls during Week Two programming dates, the show will take on the theme from Week Three, which is “American Intelligence: Technology, Espionage and Alliances,” said Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch.

“It will be a devised theater and mask piece to be performed late night on the theme of spies,” Benesch said.

This is the third year Director Aole Miller has been putting on the Late Night Mask Show, and this year’s production is titled “Top Secret Rock Opera-ation Mission: Little Cranky Pumkin Goes to Hell, aka the one-night-only shacktacular spectacular fancy jamboree brought to you by the wiggle in the back of your pants.”

Like the title of the show, Miller said this production is an opportunity for actors and audience members to have fun.

“It’ll be funny. It’ll be silly. It’s fun for everyone,” Miller said. “It’s just about coming to watch a silly story.”

The five conservatory members not acting in CTC’s production of “Three Sisters” are taking part in the Mask Show tonight. They are Josh Tobin, Marinda Anderson, Benjamin Mehl, Helen Cespedes and Josiah Bania.

“It’s an opportunity for these company members to work as an ensemble, to develop some work and play with masks and clown and improvisation and develop a fun little comedy piece,” Miller said.

Conservatory member Tobin spoke of his work on the Mask Show at the June 30 Brown Bag lunch and said even the process of creating the show has been fun for the actors.

“We are working in a kind of secret envelope,” Tobin said. “It is very, very shrouded, because the performance itself, which is one night only, is meant to be sort of a surprise. There will be masks, there will be fun, and we’re having a lot of fun rehearsing and developing it right now.”

To come up with the production, Miller said he and the conservatory members in the show looked at the Week Three theme and did some research. They then took information from that research and began to play with ideas using improvisation with masks and clown noses.

While tonight’s performance will be a finished show for audience members, Miller said the way he and the actors got to the
finished product was through playing.

“Literally, it all comes out of improvisation,” Miller said. “We have a little idea, and the way I like to direct is I put them in a mask or let the clowns play, and then I watch what they’re doing and say, ‘That’s interesting. Let’s develop that.’”

Miller said the process of playing during rehearsals and working with these conservatory members has been one of the most enjoyable parts of developing the show for him.

“I’m just really excited to get to work with these five actors who are accomplished and professional and talented and interesting and fun and playful and very generous,” Miller said. “Because the skill level is so high, I don’t have to train them to play. They already know how to play. So it’s a matter of just putting situations together and letting them play.”

Included in tonight’s show are traditional Peruvian masks, a Bolognese mask and clown noses.

The performance will last approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and Miller said what makes it even more fun is the fact that the performers are collaborating with Chautauqua Symphony percussionists.

“There will be a lot of music and dancing and fun,” Miller said. “It’s family entertainment.”

Associate Artistic Director Andrew Borba said that in the past, these Mask Shows have been very enjoyable for audience members, including himself.

“It’s one of the purest and, for me, most enjoyable evenings,” Borba said. “It’s a magical thing, and it feels so present and so alive.”

Tonight’s show is free to attend, and audience members can bring chairs to sit in by the rehearsal shacks.