Whole-System Change LO5723

Barry Mallis (bmallis@smtp.markem.com)
19 Feb 1996 10:59:31 -0500

Reply to: RE>Whole-System Change LO5701

Tobin quoted the Tao te Ching in commenting on John Warfield's wit and
wisdom. His words reminded me of a personal experience I'd like to share.

While studying Mime and Movement in Europe one year, I was introduced to a
form of negative reinforcement. The particular studio class involved
using a neutral mask ("le masque neutre") made of fiberglass. This mask
was molded into a relatively expressionless face, gray in color, with
nostril, eye and mouth holes. Upon donning the mask, the carrier was
"sworn" to vocal silence. Yet this mask revealed absolutely every
innuendo of physical movement, because the "audience" had only the body to
correspond with. The power of this mask is overwhelming.

As part of improvisation exercises, we had to put on the Mask and do
something like this: in the studio, pretend that the Mask runs out onto a
dock, it sees a ship moving away into the distance, it waves to the ship,
it turns around, it walks out in the direction from which it ran in.

While this seems easy enough, the instructor made it clear that the run
had to be THE Run (with a capital R)--no story attached; the Wave had to
be a Wave with a capital W--no subtext--just a wave. No emotion, no
drama, no tragedy.

Of course we demanded that the instructor demonstrate what was meant.
Nothing doing. He told us several times that first session that we would
KNOW when it was right. If I carried that mask and failed to do it
"right", the teacher said simply, "That's not it. Sit down."

But on the day when a student broke through fear of failure and came into
touch with another level, on that day surely we all knew what was "right"
as much as the carrier of the mask knew she or he had succeeded. We saw
how an individual could become a neutral vehicle in movement by grappling
successfully with those physical idiosyncrasies that manifest themselves
in movement. I will take these images and peculiar lessons with me to my

And, to quote my friend Tobin, "Now just how and if this all relates, I
will leave to those wiser than I, but for a "student" and a "teacher", it
is a sobering and refreshing perspective..."

Best regards,

Barry Mallis

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>