NET/TEN Shareback: Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras & The Imaginists - Cultivating an Artistic Relationship with Masks, Tableaux, and Objects

2012-13 Grant Recipient

Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras of Cornerstone Theatre Company (Los Angeles, CA) and The Imaginists (Santa Rosa, CA) collaborated to create an original performance piece together. Throughout the creation process, the groups shared methods and experiences in making theater on socially relevant themes with immigrant and day labor communities.


As part of the artistic exchange between The Imaginists and TJSF (Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras or Day Laborer Theater Without Borders), each group led workshops and theater exercises with the objective of cultivating an artistic relationship and to initiate community participants into a collaboration that would result in a short presentation at a theater center. These exercises helped us to begin the artistic process by developing ideas about our theme: the work of a day laborer. We found that these exercises were a good method for two ensembles to begin a collaboration and for community participants to become acquainted with and immersed in a generative artistic environment.

In what follows we describe three activities that can be used to cultivate an artistic relationship between two theater ensembles and at the same time engage members of the community. 

-Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras & The Imaginists


NET/TEN Collaboration - The Imaginists and Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras from Cornerstone Theater Company on Vimeo.



Mask Workshop

Leader: The Imaginists

We began with a brief explanation of how masks have been used in social and religious rituals, a powerful and external element that allows for the communication of a sentiment or idea. The masks have been a bridging tool within communities and have conserved traditions, iconizing a deity, or expressing a common desire. At the same time, the mask protects who wears it by hiding his or her identity but unveiling an emotion.

As can be seen in our video, the body’s posture can change a character without the mask changing. The mask exercise is therefore a good way to emphasize the importance of stance, gait, and movement in the representation of a character.

The objectives of this exercise include valuing group work and collaboration since an actor’s work can depend on the social semiotics created by those that surround him or her. The exchange between two or more masked persons emphasizes and prioritizes context and shape of a scene for communication rather than verbal language. This emphasis allows for the expression of emotions

The method and development included giving a brief introduction as to the origin of the different styles from various countries and cultures that have used masks as a form of communications.

We then divided ourselves into groups with an equal number of people and used various masks, changing character in accord to what the mask, taken on its own, would suggest as the represented emotion or physical state. We then experimented changing what the mask communicated by altering our stance and gait. We each aimed to communicate a feeling associated with our theme of day labor.

Tableaux Workshop
Leader: TJSF (Day Laborer Theater Without Borders)

We began with warm up exercises. The participants were then divided into two groups, mixing members of each ensemble and community members. Group A stepped outside for a brief break while group B stayed in the room and was given instructions for the activities. Group B would be statues in the museum and would freeze in poses that without words or movement would communicate a message having to do with the theme of day labor to those who attended the museum.

Group A were welcomed back to the museum and were asked to take 10 minutes to observe each statue closely. They attendees were then asked to choose a statue with which they most identified through their personal stories of labor. Each attendee then gave an interpretation of the statue they chose and described what the statue represented to them. The person posing would then respond and discuss how the interpretation corresponded to his or her intention.

This exercise provided a structured opportunity for conversation and allowed the participants to share more deeply their personal stories, both happy and challenging, about day labor and the journey of the immigrant.

Object-Based Improvisation

The participants broke into three groups. Each group received a bag of props. Each individual within a group chose a prop and improvised a micro-scene. The props consisted of day labor tools like cleaning supplies and construction equipment, as well as more general items like flowers, clothing, etc.

Using the chosen prop, each participant improvised a very short story. Among those, each group picked the story that had the most in common with the others or the story that synthesized the other stories. Each group dramatized the story and presented it to the entire group.

We then discussed the similarities and differences of the three presentations. We chose one story, based in the same way on the story that included the themes most present in the others, and that would best provide a dramatic structure to a scene. This story could then be further workshopped for a final presentation.

This is a fun process because each participant had the opportunity to take a moment to share their point view and their story, as well as inclusive in the process of arriving at a story.

Above all, because the theme was about day labor and because of the fact that the groups were from different cities, this exercise created a bridge between the experience of a day laborer/artist from Santa Rosa and a day laborer/artist from Los Angeles.




San Francisco Bay Guardian Article: Labors of Love 


The Imaginists:

Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras:

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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