After 35 years as theatre designer specializing in masks, Melody Anderson shifted her focus in 2012 to playwrighting. In the upcoming Arts Club Theatre Company premiere of Me and You, Anderson combines both creative forces in a comedy about sisters.
Me and You is the story of sisters, Liz and Lou. Told with the help of ten sets of masks to mark the passage of time, it follows the decades long story of the siblings as they clash over everything from hair dye, to cheating partners, to rebellious children.
“I made my first set of age masks thirty years ago and have been musing since that time about using masks to see a character age on stage over the course of a lifetime,” says Anderson.
More than simply an excuse to finally create her age masks, Anderson also saw her new play as an opportunity to explore relationships.
“I was inspired to write about sisters because sibling relationships are uniquely intimate and complex,” she says. “I was also inspired to explore the cultural shifts that have happened during my own lifetime, especially regarding attitudes towards women.”
Don’t look for some tell-all though, as while Anderson does draw on some personal experience, these are not stories from her own family relationships.
“The two sisters in my play are clearly fictional although, as a middle sister, I’ve drawn on my own personal perspective as both an older and younger sister,” she says.
An involved process, the creation of the masks for Me and You begins with a plaster of Paris replica of the actor’s faces. In this case, Patti Allan and Lois Anderson, who play the two sisters, Liz and Lou.
“I then sculpt with clay onto this plaster form, and apply five layers of laminated paper,” she explains. “Once dry, I trim the mask to fit and paint it with acrylic paint.”
The result, for Me and You at least, is what Anderson refers to as a minimal style of mask, covering only the actor’s nose and cheeks.
“This style allows for a more nuanced portrayal than would be possible with a traditional half-mask,” she says. “In masking a small portion of the face, the challenge was to provide enough differentiation from mask-to-mask.”
While Anderson remains interested in how audiences will respond to her latest masks, having created thousands over the course of her career it is in her new role as playwright where she is both excited and nervous to see how audiences will also react to her words.
“I’ve worked on several scripts as a co-writer but this is my first solo endeavour as a playwright,” she says.
Me and You opens on the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre on April 12 and runs through May 6. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.