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Work Samples

Theatre and Mask: being a Teaching Artist in Liberia, West Africa

In June of 2016, I traveled to Liberia, West Africa to work with students of the non-profit theatre, B4 Youth Theatre (Bridge for Youth) in performance and mask. This training is the only arts education most of these children have ever had, as B4 Youth is one of only 2 existing arts education groups in the country, and B4 is the ONLY one serving underserved youth in rural parts of the country, and the only company doing so without charging tuition.

Masks for Good: Making Masks and Drama Pedagogy for Liberian students during the Ebola crisis

In 2014 I joined a team of teaching artists whose non-profit called B4 Youth Theatre changed the lives of young people in Liberia, West Africa for the better. Between 2014 and 2015, during the Ebola outbreak, I made them masks and drama training materials so that they could tell the world about their struggles: their struggles with Ebola, and with the world that chided them for the epidemic. Read more about this work in "Masks for Good"

One Glitz Wish

An original play written by Kristin Harrison, produced by The Strand Theatre of Baltimore telling the story of little girls at a Little Girl Beauty Pageant who maybe aren't even little girls... This highly farcical "modern Commedia" features masks, outrageous characters, dynamic physical theatre all in the name of gender performance, asking questions like, "Why can't we just be on the outside who we are on the inside? and what's wrong with wanting to look fabulous anyway? and What is our culture telling our young girls about who they should be?"


About Tara

Baltimore City

Tara Cariaso's picture
I am a Baltimore-born Filipina-American theatre artist who is passionate for physical theatre, mask performance, and the cultivation of anti-oppression practices.  MY MISSION My mission as a theatre artist is to create transformational, imaginative, presentational theatre that interrogates, nurtures and collectively creates a vision for the world we want to live in. Founded in movement study and devising for the stage, my movement education and mask performance work is influenced by... more

An Examination of Emotional Gesture: Stages of Pedagogical development in a different culture

Last year, in 2016, I traveled to Liberia, West Africa to experience my pedagogy work in action with masks I made exclusively for the arts students of nonprofit, B4 Youth Theatre. I was there to put 3 years of work and guessing and hoping and wondering to rest, and to see for myself if my work was beneficial to the young people in their important work. In 2014-15, while the young people of Liberia were trying to stay alive during the Ebola outbreak, I was safe in the US, designing masks and training materials to assist them in making their important stories and messages louder to their communities. I had talked to them online. I had read their workbooks. Elated to finally meet the students who have been working with me remotely over space and time, I trained with young people whose cultural experience is nearly completely bereft of theatre or performative contexts for over 3 weeks and learned a great deal about my work, my intentions, my passions, this work, and what does and doesn't fit into their world.


    In my work as a theatre educator, I often hear that emotions are universal.

    "...I saw plenty of folks at the orphanage who brought goods and distributed them. The excitement was in the giving and revealing of the gifts: We’re giving you plastic recreation balls! We’re providing a bag of rice a month to your kitchen! The joy didn’t seem to be in the knowing of one another. The relationship was expected to be one directional: I give and you accept. Then one walks away and back to a very difficult daily life while the other goes to a fancy hotel and shovels in a Lobster special at the restaurant downstairs as a reward for doing something “good”.
    I didn’t want to be that person..."

    In this essay, I describe a mistake I made during my trip to Liberia, one that I wish I could take back, but one that I have since learned from in spades as I try to dismantle the myriad of invisible privileges that I as a western woman bring.

  • Liberia's only Stage

    Here, on Providence Island where the first boats carrying African Americans from the North American continent brought former slaves, there is the nation's one and only stage. Built by one of the nation's rulers 25 or so years ago, the stage and the island itself, have been abandoned and unused for several years now. At one time, there was a large celebration on this island for the incoming president. This stage hosted dancers and singers. Liberians making their culture amplified.
  • Using Energy

    In Gbarnga, here we are stretching wide to begin our physical theatre work for the day. This group is a mixture of inexperienced students and the Student Instructors. We found that the most inexperienced students learned a great deal this day in the response writing, possibly as a result of having a close experience training alongside the Student Instructors. This class lasted 3 hours, a long chunk of time, but the most reasonable time frame given our environmental circumstances.
  • Celebrating the completion of our training with a party!

    This photo of a raucous group of gleeful students is what you and I both want to see when we think about Liberia. From a photo like this, we assume that the student's have enjoyed and benefitted from the educational experience provided by the tuition free arts education program offered by B4 Youth Theatre, the non-profit company with whom I have been working for 3 years now.
  • Student Instructors choose masks for an exploration

    The training for actors in Emotion Masks is a way to engage actors physically creating recognizable human emotions, one at a time, using their bodies to tell the stories. Masks are half masks, allowing for speech and in character improvisation. In this way, the emotion of the mask focuses the actor's mind towards telling stories through that voice, simplifying the task from a complex representation of themselves before their peers, to a game of finding and staying in the character's mind set. In this image, we are getting started with an initial training using the masks.

Creating New TOOLS for Elementary SCHOOLS: Emotion Masks and new pedagogy to help develop Emotional Intelligence in young people through physical theatre

Baltimore, like most cities in the US, is a city that needs to continue to cultivate compassion to help our children grow.  Having worked in many Baltimore city schools over the last 3 years using EMOTION MASKS, I have come to respect the power of the mask to allow it's wearer to speak freely, to feel freely, to know immediately what to say and do.  

Psychologists suggest that providing young people with greater information as children about emotional expression, how it manifests on the face and in the body, can help prepare young people to deal more effectively with their own emotions, with cultivating compassion for themselves and others.

The underlying logic behind Emotional Intelligence supports the theory that confusion vulnerability and shame surrounding the experience of emotions in young people can predict the person's ability to handle to emotional experiences in later in their lives. This means that the sooner children learn and accept that emotional experiences are universal in human lives and not something to fear or be ashamed of, the easier it will be for them to process the experience of emotions and move through them in a healthy way.

Children who do not have the ability to process emotional experiences in a positive way are more likely to have issues of distrust with their community, unhealthy experiences with prolonged anger, will sometimes resort to more dangerous behaviors including drugs and violence, and will increasingly rely on outside solutions to solve their suffering over their lifetimes.

I have a step by step process that I use to bring students into a greater understanding of the emotion the mask represents BEFORE they put on the mask.  

Then we share ourselves with the mask on.  We speak the character's emotional truth.  And often, the truth comes flying out of our mouths.  And everyone understands.  The taboo of speaking is broken.  Hurts are released.  The actors are not embarassed.  The class knows that everyone is just acting, but we all sigh with the ease that is gained.

Because I cannot take photos in the classrooms where I work, I've taken images of these masks alone and on my 5 year old daughter, Nadya, and paired them with quotations about the significance of Emotional Intelligence in our culture.

I hope you will find them moving as I do.

  • Awe on a 5 year old

    “Emotional competence is the single most important personal quality that each of us must develop and access to experience a breakthrough. Only through managing our emotions can we access our intellect and our technical competence. An emotionally competent person performs better under pressure.” –Dave Lennick, Executive VP, American Express Financial Advisers
  • Sorrow on a 5 year old

    “75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.” — The Center for Creative Leadership
  • Joy on a 5 year old

    “The emotionally intelligent person is skilled in four areas: identifying emotions, using emotions, understanding emotions, and regulating emotions.” — John Mayer and Peter Salovey
  • Fear on a 5 year old

    “We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.” -— Marshall B. Rosenberg
  • Disgust on a 5 year old

    “Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.” —- Benjamin Franklin
  • Anger Mask on a 5 year old

    “It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.” — David Caruso
  • Half face Emotion Masks for small people

    “What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” — Daniel Goleman
  • Full Faced Emotion Masks

    “There is no separation of mind and emotions; emotions, thinking, and learning are all linked.” — Eric Jensen

MASKS FOR GOOD: Fight the Stigma! Liberian Arts Education using "Emotion Masks"

MASKS FOR GOOD is a multi-phase project that continues to challenge my heart, my mind, my intentions, my understanding, my craft, and my boundaries. I am grateful for the chance to share a taste of this work with you.

I created MASKS FOR GOOD as a way to merge two areas of theatre creation of which I am really passionate: social justice and mask. Separately, social justice nor mask are not new territories for me. Together, however, they create an expansion of my values and interest in theatre.

Over the course of this project, we have provided custom theatrical masks and performance training to youth in Liberia and Ghana in order to allow students to create social justice plays. The plays that the young people have made for 2 years now since the project's beginning in 2014 have talked about Ebola and aim to fight the stigma left on Liberian communities in the wake of the devastating Ebola virus.

-Phase 1, (2014,) I created one set of 9 original concept masks designed for B4 Youth Theatre, and gave their company in Baltimore a 2 hour training session with these masks.
-Phase 2, (2015,) Myself and collaborators created a 40 minute long video series of mask performance training videos, 50 page instructor manuals, and 39 masks (12 NEW designs) to suit the needs of the young players in Liberia.
-Phase 3, (2016,) I will travel to Liberia with B4 Youth Theatre Executive Director, Jasmine Blanks, to train Youth Instructors in mask play, in service of educating students in stage performance and character creation. Upon returning, I will begin putting together a culminating performance that shares characters, thoughts and ideas, and experiences from my journey as a teacher of a western art in a non-western setting. My goal is to explore the imperialism of the arts from the point of view of the well meaning but still invasive western artist.
(for a complete timeline, please look at the listed detail entitled, PROJECT TIMELINE)

Mask performance frees the actor as a participant in the theatrical event. Social justice frees the actor to be a participant in the conversation about their community and the greater world. I've seen so many plays made by young actors that were heartfelt and discussed very serious issues, but they didn't provide the actor with an experience of the fun of performing, nor the audience the imaginative 'lift' of heightened, presentational theatricality. I think an audience responds quickly to performances that embody the spirit of joy and play we often lack in our daily lives.

The materials me and my collaborators created between 2014 and 2015 for B4 Youth Theatre to train students in mask performance will be used in years to come in Liberia for Education Outreach causes, and certainly within the context of more play writing. The videos created will also continue to evolve as tools that my company, Waxing Moon Masks, will offer to global empowerment projects. The final facet of this work, my own first hand experience, will enable me to begin to codify how my training pedagogy functions in context to play writing for social justice, improve my video training series and instructor manuals, and offer this programming to non-profits around the world.

Please visit our website at:

  • An Introduction to MASKS FOR GOOD, by Tara Cariaso

    An Intro video describing the second phase this project in 2015, when we were preparing to send 39 masks and videos. Video by David Toia, the videographer and editor responsible for creating Masks For Good's Training Video Series.
  • B4 Youth Theatre, Arts and Literacy Non-Profit functioning in Liberia, West Africa

    B4 Youth Theatre is our partner organization in MASKS FOR GOOD. They have made a positive impact in Liberia already with their arts and literacy education programming, and currently have 4 training sites that are active year round in Liberia. B4 Youth Theatre Makes a Difference: In 2010 Liberian public school was free up to grade 7. Later that year, the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to see B4 Youth Theatre's inaugural performance, "Problems to Solve", which dealt heavily with access to education.
  • Masks For Good postcard for our Indiegogo Campaign

    Photographed by Baltimore's KINTZ PHOTOGRAPHY, this is one of 3 postcards we created to raise funds to make 39 masks, pay the videographer for the 10 video series and provide disinfectant wipes for mask play in Ghana and Liberia. The project was successfully funded, raising 500 dollars over our initial goal of 2000.00 dollars on Indiegogo. Donors, whom we called our "masktivists", received these postcards with out thanks. Featured in this image is Aaliyah Mullenix in the JOY mask that was created in our first customize set for Liberia, back in 2014.
  • Sample of Video from Training Video Series

    Here you see a sample portion of a video we filmed with videographer David Toia, featuring actor Connor Hogan in the Sorrow mask. Video made by David Toia, the videographer and editor responsible for creating Masks For Good's Training Video Series. This video is part of one of 10 separate training videos designed to introduce young instructors to mask performance using the Emotion Masks.
  • 2016 Travel to Liberia

    In 2016, Tara traveled to Liberia for Phase 3 of this three year long project, training youth instructors of the B4 Youth Theatre Summer Program in Mask Performance in hopes that the training will seed their communities with invigorated fervor for arts and arts education. Since the civil war in Liberia,
  • Shame Mask on young boy in Ghana

    This mask in particular was an addition to the mask set we made for B4 Youth in 2015, because the theme of "shame" continues to be a significant experience for Liberian children and the arts programming felt it was integral to address it. Liberians and West Africans at large are universally affected by the stigma placed on those who survived Ebola in their communities. Even now, after the Ebola outbreak has ended in Liberia and the country has not had any new cases of the horrible illness, discrimination against West Africans continues due to the fear of Ebola created worldwide.
  • FIGHT THE STIGMA, article in Liberian FRONT PAGE newspaper about our project

    "Even though the Ebola outbreak has been contained in parts of Africa like Liberia and Ghana, some survivors of the Ebola epidemic are now dealing with exclusion and discrimination in their local communities. According to an article on, many survivors return home to find their possessions destroyed. Fear and miseducation in local communities make it difficult for Ebola survivors to find work...

    ...Since the Liberian Civil War, an educational disparity was created between the younger and older generations. According to the 2014 demographics profile posted on, over 60% of Liberia's population are aged 24 and under. The plays {with B4 Youth Theatre} help the B4 executive committee make adjustments to the outreach curriculum. The goal of this work is to help bridge the gap between younger and older generations in Liberia."

    PDF icon FIGHT THE STIGMA, article in Liberian FRONT PAGE newspaper about our project
  • Old Age Mask with helpers, Ghana, West Africa

    Here you see a young man of maybe 11 wearing one of the old age masks made for the children of Liberia, brought to Ghana by Jasmine Blanks. Masks by Waxing Moon Masks. Jasmine brought 39 masks, disinfectant wipes, a 10 video series, and instructor training manuals with her in order to train students of her program, B4 Youth Theatre, in mask performance. Before getting to Liberia in the summer of 2015, she stopped here in Ghana to give this workshop to students as a part of Orphan Aid and to try out the masks.

One Glitz Wish: A Surreal Masked Comedy that talks about how we talk about Little Girls

ONE GLITZ WISH, this work respresents the full production world premiere of original COMMEDIA-INSPIRED play by Kristin Harrison, commissioned by Waxing Moon Masks, and directed by Tara Cariaso.

This is a play that came about because I complained to my best friend say 4 years ago that I didn't have a play that I really wanted to direct that was a modern Commedia in which to use both COMEDY and MASKS. Kristin is a little bit magical, okay a lot, and she surprised me several months later with a play. The criteria she integrated into the play that were important to us both:

1) The play needed to use masks
2) It needed to be a PRESENTATIONAL production, and not follow the rules of the fourth wall that keep out the audience. We wanted the full gammut of direct addresses, audience plants, improvisation, character schtick and yukking it up in this play. After all, it was a play that had to make us, me and Kristin, laugh.
3) It needed to be FUNNY.
4) It needed to feature women predominately, and speak plainly to concerns that address women's lives.

Kristin supplied these criteria in spades with the first draft of OGW, and we had a staged reading of the play at The Strand Theatre in 2012 where we packed the house to the gills with laughing patrons and jokes about ducks, lions and patriarchy bs.

Fast Forward 2 years, and I met Elissa Goetchius, the then Artistic Director at The Strand Theater, who agrees to do a full production in the Spring of 2014, much to mine and Kristin's elation. I am grateful to The Strand, specifically Elena Kostakis and Elissa for producing our multi-specied, absurdi feminist duck baby.

My work as director of this wacky Commedia/Toddler in Tiaras hybrid was to bring forward the talents and skills of an astounding group of women, (yes all women) to present dance, comedy, mask, singing, and audience interaction all from underneath 4 inches of hair spray and in honor of little girls everywhere. I hope you enjoy my collection of GLITZ moments and reflections.

This play is a culmination of many many people's hard work and talents, all directed fulfilling a simple need: to laugh at what gets us down.

  • Performing "Little Girls": Gender Performance and my five year old Hero

    This is a picture of my daughter, Nadya Elson. She is ferocious. She is strong willed. She is also a child who absorbs messages from the world around her and integrates them, instinctively, into her hard-wiring about how she should behave... all children do this. ONE GLITZ WISH aims at bringing awareness (through tears of laughter) to the attitudes and social mechanisms in our culture that dictate a 'weakness' in being female. I am proud to tell my daughter that she was a strong inspiration for this production, and her bold spirit continues to inspire me every day.
  • Summary of the Play

    "a semi-ridiculous comedy with teeth and heart, tries on notions about the performative nature of being a ‘little girl.’ The play’s absurd humor reconsiders the hierarchies of race, gender, and species using characters based on Commedia Dell’Arte stock types..."

    PDF icon Summary of the Play
  • A Sped Up Seduction Scene from ONE GLITZ WISH

    In order to help a viewer "get" my direction for the stage (and I mean, as the director, not a cab driver going uptown), it's sometimes useful to show my work in different ways. Here I've sampled a scene in the play entitled, The Pitch, and sped it up x2 to allow you to see how physically specific the actor's choices had to become to meet the height of the form "commedia". Then I slow it down again so that you too can revel in the fun of these actors playing a lion trying to woo a duck.
  • Live Performance of Galeano

    Performed by Ken Jordan
  • A Crown

    Although this was not OUR crown, the unique absurdity of the size of the crowns that young pageant contestants compete for and then, if a winner, eventually wear is startling. This image, an actual pageant crown, sparkles beyond the pale and represents the misplaced hopes and desires that get wrapped up in the hype of being perfect enough to win the contest. Its an excellent metaphor for all that is wrong with our cultural expectations of young girls.
  • Mask, Audience Interaction and the Metaphor of Mask

    This segment is a fun little "Intermezzo" from the show that features the character named Destinie. You'll notice her mask, hers is more prominent than most of the other girls' masks. This is not by accident. This character, who's mask is in the likeness of a baby, is actually trying to cheat in the competition--- she, (like the others, you'll find) is not really a little girl. Actually, she's an adult! But she's missing something special in her life, something that she only had back when she was much much younger.
  • The Play in the words of the Production Team

    Hear what its all about from the production's Dramaturg, Catherine Rodriguez, and Elissa Goetchius the play's producer... What is One Glitz Wish? (oh and me too!)
  • Arlen the Duck in Human Drag, and Mama the Lion in confusion

    THIS PRODUCTION WAS BEAUTIFUL. Here you see the gorgeous detail in costume design provided by the massively talented Kitt Cresenzo. Arlen, a male duck character played expertly (she actually won an award for her portrayal, folks) by Samrawit Belai in the forefront. In the background sitting is the Lion character, Mama Leonie played with ferocity and talons by my dear friend Mazie Baskin, with Make-up by Samantha Trionfo. Also, you can see the subtle but wholly face altering 1/3 face mask created by talented Waxing Moon Mask Associate Nick Martin.
  • The beautiful Cast and Creator Crew of ONE GLITZ WISH

    Our cast was a diverse group of women from Baltimore and DC. The playwright, center in blue, wrote that the production was, in its ideal realization, a piece to be played completely by women, allowing women to play male roles and amplify the gender performance theme of our work.
  • Review of ONE GLITZ WISH by Bad Oracle

    "...none of it matters because it was fully agreed that The Bad Oracle and myself have not had such a blast at a show in quite some time. This shit was funny, people. Really. clucking. funny. I laughed so loud at some points TBO turned to me and gave me the stink-eye..."

    PDF icon Review of ONE GLITZ WISH by Bad Oracle

A Commedia Christmas Carol: 19 Diverse Masks for 1 Wild Show that ran for 2 Holiday Seasons!

Tara and Waxing Moon Masks created 19 original masks for the 2012 Faction of Fools production of "A Commedia Christmas Carol" on a shoestring budget, spending 5 months of daily work to complete the set. Our largest set of custom originals to date at that time, both Tara and partner/husband Aaron Elson were excited to work with DC's only mask company and it's beloved director, Matt Wilson.

This set of masks was created to aid the company for years to come producing this classic in a new, inspired way. The production, running from November 29th till Dec 23rd of 2012, featured hearing and non-hearing actors, ASL, physical comedy and slapstick, original half masks (Commedia style) and some very surprising full head oversized masks.

The production has met great success, "A Commedia Christmas Carol" receiving critical acclaim from the Washington Post and the DCTheatrerescene reviewers alike. The production also received an official Helen Hayes recommendation. The talented cast and crew of this production should be exceedingly proud of their innovation, wit and love of making us laugh. Bravo!

  • Inspiration for Jacob Marley

    As a sample of the design work done for this show, I present to you my inspiration for the Jacob Marley character, J.P. Morgan, American financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. Check out that remarkable face! His bulbous, "Dottore" (from the Commedia)-like nose, the wide set jaw and the mouth that looks like it could chew through steel! That is a determined face, and for all these reasons, he was the primary reference for this production's Jacob Marley Mask.
  • Jacob Marley

    Sweet ad for the first production of CCC by Faction of Fools in 2012. Features our Jacob Marley mask at the VERY end....
  • Review by Missy Frederick at the Washingtonian

    "...It’s no surprise that Faction of Fools’ take on the Dickens classic would contain the traditional commedia dell’arte masks that figure into all of the company’s productions. But this production also features some gigantic, caricature-style heads (designed by Tara Cariaso and Aaron Elson of Waxing Moon Masks) that draw even greater attention to the characters donning them. That includes an adorable but pitiable Tiny Tim (Michael Sprouse), a wistful young Fan, Scrooge’s sister (Julie Garner), and an ebullient Ghost of Christmas Present (Toby Mulford).
  • Old and Young Scrooge, and Christmas Past

    "...And, of course, the masks, designed by Tara Cariaso and Aaron Elson of Waxing Moon Masks, are eye riveting, particularly the Tiny Tim / young Scrooge mask that beseeches the entire audience whenever it takes the stage..." Robert Michael Oliver
  • Ghost of Christmas Present

    "...The main parts of the piece, however, are the masks by Tara Cariaso and Aaron Elson. Made with thick wax and long, beaked noses and fluffy beards, they look amazing. Several characters have entire, huge heads that are beautifully crafted. The crowning glory is the Ghost of Christmas Present with a crown of berries and grass and who knows what else that extended a couple feet above the actor..." -Jessica Vaughan DC Metro Theatre Arts
  • Bob Cratchet and Scrooge don't see eye to eye

    "...Young Scrooge (Herman, wearing an enormous magnificent sculpted head, courtesy of Tara Cariaso and Aaron Elson of Waxing Moon Masks), his sister Fan (Garner) and his beloved Belle (Garner), and even Tiny Tim (Michael Sprouse, wearing another astonishing carved Waxing Moon head)..." -Tim Treanor, photo credit: Second Glance Photography
  • Fezziwig Mask completed

    And here's the finished product, Fezziwig Mask with ginormous glasses made by my amazing husband, Aaron Elson, who makes custom pieces like this for Waxing Moon Masks. This is an OLD, OLD, OLD character.
  • Sketch for Fezziwig

    Here is my original sketch for the Character Fezziwig from Commedia Christmas Carol. His inspiration animal was an Owl, his Commedia equivalent was the stock character known as "Tartaglia", and his real world person inspiration was Benny Hill.
  • Our masks get a shout out by the Washington Post

    "A Commedia Christmas Carol", They've got masks that put Daft Punk to shame."

Oedipus at Catholic University: A More Intimate Look at Mask Design

I designed and fabricated 4 primary character masks for the production OEDIPUS at Catholic University in October of 2014, directed by Orion Jones. (Gail Beach, primary contact for creating the design, new friend and long time teacher at Catholic, designed the beautiful costumes for this production.)

I was also engaged as resident movement consultant/trainer for the cast of undergrad and graduate students in this production.

Having been a strong aesthetic contributor both visually and structurally in this production, I feel that it offers a good look at what I do as a mask designer, which is integrate ideas of movement, intention, plot, interpretation and lighting and help them to float along a stage without falling off.

This project was absolutely a joy to participate in. The cast was stellar: strong and determined and noble. The set, lighting and costumes were stunning, sampling heightened shapes with neutral colors, bathed in saturated colors and nodding to traditional greek garb with a Brechtian awareness of the players as storytellers.

The energy of the production was buoyant. I am grateful to have been a part of such a special realization of this very rich, beautiful text by WB Yeats. It was joyous too to see our masks come to life in the rich educational setting that is Catholic University.

A Mask Design Company in Baltimore: Bringing masks to more audiences every year

I create custom Designs for Masks of all sizes for stage, film, training and performance. We have created over 100 new designs for masks in our 4 years, and have been called the Baltimore Washington region's "go to" source for all things Mask related.

I began making masks, not because I felt I was an adequate sculptor, but because I felt a need to share mask performance with actors. I wanted to make work that was interesting to me, and so I knew I had to build my own community in mask here in Baltimore. The masks themselves came as a means to an end- I simply wanted to have the masks as tools for my own work, and it was easier to make them myself than to buy them from another mask maker.

As a result of this chance decision to make my own tools, I have come to cherish and revel in the opportunity to devise my own lessons and meanings out of the mask sculpture. I feel it gives me a powerful way to interact with a community of players without having to use words or training. The masks can in so many ways speak for themselves.

Here are a few of my favorite examples of the pieces for which I have been commissioned and I am grateful to their owners for inviting me into their work.

  • The Spirit of Christmas Present: A poetic Carol in Three Movements, with Civic Ensemble of Ithaca, NY

    December 2015: Bringing holiday spirit and wordless wonder to Ithaca, NY is Civil Ensemble's original work, The Spirit of Christmas Present: A Poetic Carol in Three Movements. I am so pleased that they used our masks to make their piece this year!
  • Short film featuring our Robot Mask

    Custom design for film maker Steve Bradford for his charming, award winning short film, "Self, Designed" What can I say, I just love this piece, featuring the lovely and incredible Emma Crane Jaster.
  • 22 masks for Loyola Blakefield production of Caucasian Chalk Circle

    So many masks! All paper mache! So MANY HOURS!!! We fabricated these masks with the help of 14 middle and high school students, lead by myself and Christian Garrettson at Loyola Blakefield.
  • 7 Commedia mask set for IMAGINARY AUTOPSEE at UMBC with Colette Searls directing

    In this month long training residency and mask making commission, I had the joy of working with 7 wonderful actors from UMBC, my undergraduate alma mater, as well as the remarkable Collette Searls. Colette's work in puppetry runs parellel to mask work, and our interests in comedy, spectacle and play made for a completely invigorating collaboration. Imaginary Invalid had audiences falling out of their seats. Seeing this piece come together and recognizing the value of the training I provided was a true pivot point in my career.
  • Stag head for BOOM! Theatre

    BOOM! Theatre of Howard County created a production of STAG KING! that was featured at EMT Collective space. The piece had premiered in Howard County previous to coming to Baltimore. Directed by the very talented Ryan Anthony Nicotra, we created this piece ( a deer) and one other (a parrott) . Nicotra raised money for these pieces because he valued the role of the mask in this production, and we were honored and grateful to get to participate in making his vision come to life.
  • Mask Guide

    Here is a beautiful mask that I did not make, but did help a talented actor named Lily Kerrigan to birth during the DYSKOLOS project with Ambassador Theatre Cultural Center.
  • DYSKOLOS Mask Making for Ambassador Theatre Cultural Center

    "Tara Cariaso led our actors in creating a large number of masks in a short period of time. The task was a challenge, but her organizational skills, commitment to a high quality outcome, and mastery of the art resulted in a series of masks of which our cast is proud and which have drawn positive comments from our audience. Tara approached this demanding project with humor, grace, and insight which made the process enjoyable for all. Tara not only instructed the cast in the creation process, but also gave two immensely useful workshops on mask performance.
  • Shikami mask for Madame Butterfly, at Lyric Opera of Baltimore

    This mask was featured in James Harp's 2014 production of Madame Butterfly at the Lyric Opera Of Baltimore. It was 22 inches long, top to bottom, and was a shocking vision that haunted the hall while the amazing vocalists and orchestra took us on a passionate and glorious journey through time and cultures.
  • Pinocchio! by Faction of Fools and NextStep Theatre

    Creation of 5 original designs for this classic play with a heart warming Commedia interpretation: Pinocchio, Fox, Cat, Geppetto, and Fire Eater. This production, directed by the marvelous Paul Reisman, has had 2 full runs between 2014 and 2015, and is still booking school shows. Our favorite piece we made for this show was the tricky nose that must sprout from Pinocchio's face when he lies. With the help of my husband's engineering savvy, we made the nose attachment super fast by using magnets to attach it!
  • Greek Masks in service to children with different abilities and the Magical Experiences Art Company

    These masks, representing the ancient Greek faces of "Comedy and Tragedy" were used by Joanne Margolius in Magical Experiences Arts Company's (MEAC) newest production. MEAC is a Baltimore based company that works exclusively with and for student's with developmental challenges, claiming residency at The Baltimore School for the Blind. These masks are used to facilitate a tactile and visual understanding with students as the play's drama unfolds.

Larval Project: A Full Face Mask Performance and Ensemble Theatre Creation Research Project for Baltimore Actors

The Larval Project developed over 2 years and many stages since inception: including original mask design and fabrication, community training, ensemble development, original work devising and performance.

The Larval masks used by LARVAL PROJECT were designed throughout the year of 2011 and fabricated in November 2011 by Tara Cariaso, the Artist Director of Waxing Moon Masks. Four distinct masks were created, all four forms were fabricated in both neoprene and paper mache and prepared for actors to wear. The four shapes each offer unique geometric curves, planes and angles to challenge and aid to actor to physically inhabit the body of the mask.

In January of 2011, Tara hosted the first Larval Mask Workshop to introduce Baltimore performers to this style of mask and it's unique play on stage. This workshop was also important in developing the identity and play of the masks.

Due to active interest to continue the larval mask work, WMM began a 4 month training program in April of 2012 and invited the Baltimore community to participate in the training. The training was free of charge, save the expenses to sublet a performance space, which was an expense the group shared. This group, known as the the Larval Project Ensemble, met every Friday April through July, training in ensemble theatre techniques, mask performance, devising, story writing, puppetry and gesture/mime. We had our own resident Foley artist/musician who created original improvised soundscapes with a number of instruments and objects.

The work was a collaboration between actors, directors and musicians. Registration and participation in this ensemble work remained open throughout it's existence to encourage more people to participate and get exposure to this work.

The project was an experiment in ensemble decision making and devising for the stage in these masks. As a result of the work of this workshop process, there exists a great depth of knowledge among the ensemble members about these masks, how they work, play, and read to an audience, what stories they tell and how they relate to an audience.

The workshop period of the project ended in July of 2012, and two members, Tara Cariaso and Chris Yeiser, continued to devise in these masks, honing story and style to cultivate a unique "Larval Culture of Play" and storytelling for these masks.

In September of 2012, Yeiser and Cariaso performed two short works, about 10 minutes each, showcasing their work in Larval Masks at the 2012 Baltimore Book Festival on the Pearl Stage at Centerstage, as a part of "50FEST". The piece performed featured 2 full face larval masks, found object puppetry, and mime, and was received with great enthusiasm by the 50FEST audience.

  • Larval mask 4

    This mask has a strong presence, though he may not always know what he wants.
  • Live Foley Musician

    Our Live Foley musician and sound scape expert, Mike Castor improvises with the actors, bringing size and greater timing to their mask research.
  • Larval mask 3

    Ever the naive, this mask can't help but wander out of bounds time and time again.
  • Initial Larval Workshop, movement

    This image features the 7 participants in the 2 day weekend workshop series in Larval Masks, January 2012. Expanding the actor's movement vocabulary is the foundation of all mask exploration. Here you see actors crossing the space with individual rhythms. Taken in the In-Flight Theatre studio space at Load of Fun.
  • The Weightlifters

    Brilliant short improvisation between two larval masks inhabited by characters with very different bodies. Performed by ensemble researchers, Brian Francoise and Jeff Tremper.
  • Description of Larval Masks and their use

    The Larval mask lives in a realm of highly stylized theatre performance, a realm which ignites an audience’s imagination and provides moments of discovery, surprise and delight. For the actor, the masks inspire a child-like glee in the quality of play and provide essential tools for communicating
    character through the body.

    PDF icon Description of Larval Masks and their use
  • Larval mask 2

    An invention of both sharp points and curves, this mask finds himself lost quite often it seems.
  • Larval mask

    Long nosed and always curious, this larval mask is always going somewhere specific.
  • Alternate Uses of a Larval Mask

    The mask is generally worn on a head, it's true. But mask is a very close cousin to PUPPETRY. These short video clips share with you some of the research done in examining how these specific masks might be used to create eccentric characters and unexpected stories without being worn on the face. Some of my favorite images of mask work come from these explorations, and I hope you are as provoked into curiousity as I am upon watching them.

Larval Project Performance at 50fest: An All-Ages, Full Face Masked Performance in Baltimore!

Larval Project Performance at 50 Fest is the culmination of the work done in the Larval Project workshop process, and is a performance collaboration between Christopher Yeiser and Tara Cariaso.

Here are two works created, "Little Fat Guy", and "The Janitor" which were presented at Centerstage, "50 Fest", a celebration of 50 years of Centerstage theatre in Baltimore where more than a dozen companies presented short works free to audiences all day long.

It is rare for mask work to be done on professional US stages in modern day. I believe that this trend is changing as companies like WONDERHEADS and FACTION OF FOOLS offer audiences delightful, contemporary, devised works that celebrate full body expressiveness in the way that only mask does.

Both short pieces presented by Waxing Moon Masks, co-directed by myself and Chris Yeiser and devised by us, are full face speechless works made for all ages audiences. We work primarily with gesture, rhythm, music and a playful spirit. These scenes use ample amounts of charm, discovery and mundane-things-turned-magical to delight the audience.

  • Program Flier

    50 Fest at Centerstage, free and all ages friendly! Masked performance in Baltimore! Hurrah!
  • Little Fat Guy

    The friend he found in the most unlikely of places. photo credit: Megan Wills
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop... or a Janitor?

    The Janitor of a simple industrial facility is alone at night cleaning up while listening to his favorite boom box, circa 1985. But what happens when he puts on the mysterious trench coat left on the work floor? Is he solving crime? And was that sound cue from Law and Order??? photo credit: Megan Wills
  • Toilet Paper Plenty

    Here we see Little Fat Guy reaching for the most mundane thing one might imagine: toilet paper. What he gets is more than he expected... photo credit: Megan Wills
  • The Janitor makes a discovery!

    It's the COAT! The poor janitor of this facility has come to clean the space with his trusty mop, and finds a fairly nice coat laying rumpled on the floor. Expecting nothing extraordinary, he puts it on and begins a ride of unexpected tranformations. It's the COAT! photo credit: Megan Wills
  • Little Fat Guy Wakes!

    Typical of so many enchanting stories about eccentric characters, say, like a Mr. Bean story might do, we begin with character waking up. however, in this tale, the character's own feet have minds of their own... photo credit: Megan Wills
  • Larval Love Birds

    Two Larval Masks, both designed by me in 2011 for the Larval Project Workshop Series, a free series of classes in mask performance hosted by my company, Waxing Moon Masks.
  • Little Fat Guy, in the Loo

    Here are two moments of my masked character piece, "Little Fat Guy". They feature foot puppetry, toilet humor, and a cordless drill for fun. Chris Yeiser plays the ukelele.

BULLY, regional premiere of a play by Amina Henry with Interrobang Theatre

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