Work samples

  • Director/ Designer/ Development for CRISIS MODE: Living Pilipino in America

    Telling Filipina stories

    How does colonialism continue to impact US citizens today?

    Like me, Cori Dioquino is a filipina woman raised in America. We have some big problems with how Filipino history is told in the US. In this excerpt from the one person show "Crisis Mode: Living Pilipino in America", I staged Cori reenacting a 5th grade memory about how she learned the fate of the explorer Magellan in the Philippines. Throughout the show, we talk straight on the impacts of colonization on mental health and identity, and uplift the importance of telling the truth to power. With a team of other filipina artists and scholars, we explore the depths of indignity and pain of growing up filipina in the same country that colonized the Philippine Islands.  

  • Encouraging A Movement: Reimagining Commedia, Justice and Joy Centered Theatre Education


    "How can we remove the harm, and amplify justice and joy?"  

    This article was published in Dec of 2023 by HowlRound details the process I went through in deconstructing the harm built in traditional Commedia masks, and how I reconstructed meaningful features and characteristics for the NEW MASK FAMILY, currently in use across the US. (This is a sample, you can read the article in it's entirety in the "Encouraging a Movement" full project page.) Reimagining Commedia is a growing national movement of actor/creators, sparked by the work I've done with Faction of Fools in DC.. 

    Also on the full project page, you can watch:  

    • Interview on THED TALKS, a theatre educator podcast with Dr Jimmy Chrismon

  • Equitable Representation through Mask Making in "Love Like Tuesday" by Faction of Fools

    Changing the focus of design

    What changes need to happen in design and the theatre industry to make more space for diverse representation on our stage?

    I used my two decades of craft experience in mask making to serve actors' racial and ethnic representation on the stage, along with fulfilling larger commitments to increasing actor agency in a process that often white-washes actors of color. Design of masks for this show pushed the boundaries of expectation for designers, staff and actors, making more space for equitable representation on stage. 

    Within you'll find: 

  • New Masks for a New Generation of Comic Actors
    New Masks for a New Generation of Comic Actors

    Breaking with 500 year old Tradition

    How can we change the tools for theatre education to better serve the next generation?

    Tara created 6 masks in partnership with Faction of Fools Theatre Company of DC that remove stereotypes from the traditional form of Commedia dell'arte, and uses archetypes that are anti-oppressive and liberation-centered!  This set is known as the THE NEW MASK FAMILY, and is a step towards diversity, equity and inclusion in educational theatre and performance culture.

    Read more and see:

    • Learn about the six new masks for actor training to replace harmful, traditional pieces
    • Video with narration to see how the masks evolved to eliminate stereotypes
    • View an all Asian women Commedia representation, probably one of the least represented populations in masked comedy in the US.
    *image by Cat Rice Photography
    Available for Purchase

About Tara

Baltimore City

Tara Cariaso is a performing artist and movement worker, binding her work as a director, educator, mask maker, performer, and writer to create new anti-oppressive principles for stage work and cultural representation using theatrical mask.  A Baltimore-born Filipina-American, she is a queer theatre artist whose aim is to create… more

Encouraging a movement: Reimagining Commedia, justice and joy-centered theatre education

What is Reimagining Commedia?

It’s a growing movement of actor/creators, largely from the ensemble theatre training lineages, that have realized harm created by theatre making practices that stem from a very old source.  The theatre form known as Commedia Dell’Arte was the first professional actor’s theatre outside of the church, and its many theatrical building blocks still form the spine of western comedy as we know it today. As a relic of western history, however, Commedia’s tried and true comic elements, (including stock characters, masks, storylines and tropes,) cause harm to students whose intersecting identities are outside of what dominant culture would like to enforce. We want dynamic, physical comedy without racism, ageism, misogyny, gender biases, body or ability biases! So acting colleagues across the field are independently and collectively beginning to reimagine what the form Commedia Dell’Arte could be through a lens of joy, justice and liberation.  This is us reinventing, reengaging, and reasserting our joy through dynamic physical theatre.

I have been promoting the practice of addressing concerns, writing essays, hosting workshops, offering the example of my work with Faction of Fools, offering restorative justice workshops, and generating dialogue across the field on the topic of how we can make physical theatre spaces safer. Below are some of my most recent efforts.

  • TikTok video to promote COMMEDIA GETS A NEW FACE

    This video was made to further promote conversation on the topic of Reimagining Commedia on HowlRound Theatre Commons.  I was asked by the journal to create this promotion because they have been receiving a lot of positive feedback about the article and felt that it would direct more traffic back to the article.

  • Symposium on Anti-Oppressive Practices in Physical Theatre, Philadelphia, PA in July 2023
    Symposium on Anti-Oppressive Practices in Physical Theatre, Philadelphia, PA in July 2023

    Symposium on Anti-Oppressive Practices in Physical Theatre

    We had 900 dollars left from a professional development grant, and my team-mates said, "Tara, go to Philly."

    I was granted that money from my collaborators to host the symposium in July of 2023 at The Deep End Studio. 

    Participants were invited to a free 6 hour event where we shared experiences that felt inequitable from our time in physical theatre training, discussed restorative justice practices, and generated imaginative conversation on what we would love to see shift in our field.  We paid for lunch, drinks, the space, and got surveys returned to us saying that the whole process was powerful and transformative.  The event was attended by 15 professionals from both Philly and DC. 

    I've proposed a similar session to TCG for 2024's conference, and hope to share this work with more educators.

  • List of ways that we would like to see justice *and* joy on our stages
    List of ways that we would like to see justice *and* joy on our stages

    In the Reimagining Commedia workshops at Baltimore Center Stage, we made lists. Lists about the harms, and lists about what we envision *might be*.  This is a list of beautiful goals that this group wants to bring into the world through theatre creation, and it's wonderful.  I'm grateful to have shared the room with this group of 20 theatre makers, space holders, and professional educators in Sept of 2023.  

  • The Harms of Commedia dell'arte

    The following is a sample of the text from an article I wrote in 2023 with the support of an MSAC Professional Development grant that is not yet published but has been submitted for publication, entitled, "The Harms of Commedia Dell'arte"


  • Slideshow for Reimagining Commedia Values with Narration

    These are the goals of the anti-oppressive work of Reimagining Commedia, with narration from Tara explaining the origins of and purpose of these values in her work as an educator.

  • Article, "Commedia Gets a New Face"
    Article written by Tara Cariaso and published by international journal, HowlRound Theatre Commons, on 12/14/23 "Commedia Gets a New Face" explains mask-maker and theorist, Tara Cariaso's process of creating a new pedagogy and mask set for the traditional form of Commedia dell'arte without the harms that the form carries.
  • Tara is interviewed on THED Talks podcast
    Tara talks about why she pursued mask performance and education professionally, some of her experience with harm and bias in the theatre classroom, and her work in Reimagining Commedia.
  • Restorative Justice for Theatre Makers
    Restorative Justice for Theatre Makers

    Part of the work I'm taking into the world comes from the practice of Restorative Justice. 

    After taking several training workshops and consultations with RJ professionals, I planned and hosted a session for physical theatre educators interested in addressing harms in our field.  The session took place in July of 2023 at The Deep End Studio in Philadelphia, PA, entitled, "Symposium for Anti-Oppressive Practice in Physical Theatre".

    This document is one of the materials I provided for participants of this symposium, recounting my own journey using restorative justice principals and techniques to work through my feelings of frustration, sorrow, shame and confusion as a teacher using sometimes harmful curriculum.


  • Lecture on the harms of Commedia dell'arte at TSU's Invisible Architectures Conference in 2023
    This is an hour long powerpoint lecture from June 2023. Tara gave an academic presentation at the Invisible Architectures Conference on the topic of the harms of modern players practicing historic Commedia dell'arte in classrooms and in rehearsal rooms, how and why to use archetypes instead of stereotypes, and how to recognize the differences between archetypes and stereotypes.
  • Pedagogy and Design, hand in hand
    Pedagogy and Design, hand in hand
    I am a visual and performing artist who primarily works in theater education, and, over the last 3 years, I have been designing new masks, and new pedagogy, for an old form called Commedia dell'Arte. In 2021, my company Waxing Moon Masks and our partner company, Faction of Fools Theatre Company of DC, created the first 6 mask designs for Commedia-inspired play, called, “The New Mask Family.” This mask set has been used for one production, is in process for a second production, and is used regularly in training spaces. The pedagogy created alongside the new masks is known as “Reimagining Commedia,” and it is already in use in the United States. Traditionally, Commedia masks center historical features present in the masks hundreds of years ago, even when crafted by today’s artisans. We’ve broken from that tradition, and in my work as an educator, mask-maker and lecturer I share why and how we use archetypes and emotions in our masks as we re-configure Commedia dell’arte for contemporary artists. My work in the Reimagining Commedia movement includes: 1. Restorative Justice workshops for educators who have and want to continue to use the form, Commedia dell'arte 2. A reimagined set of theatrical Masks that are available through my company, Waxing Moon Masks, ( 3. A pedagogy for performing theatrical masks, the spirit and tradition reimagined for modern comic actors. 4. An ongoing collaboration with DC's premiere Commedia-style theatre company, Faction of Fools, where we continue to refine our practices for greater justice and joy in our creative theatrical work. 5. A series of lectures and articles that articulate the tools and story of Reimagining Commedia, including documentation of my own journey decolonizing the traditional form as a mask-maker, actor and educator.

Equitable Representation in Theatrical Masks,"Love Like Tuesday"

In early Spring of 2023, I completed a commission of 21 masks that changed how I thought about mask design, collaborative processes, the theatre industry, design, and most especially, the need for equitable representation in mask-making.

"Love Like Tuesday" was the first time I was able to put all my energy and collaboration into using the new pedagogy, Reimagining Commedia, into practice with mask design for an original production where the actors were shaping the characters, and the characters were each receiving masks that were designed collaboratively with and explicitly for those actors. In doing so, I encountered numerous realities regarding the state of theatrical mask in theatre practice. 





  • New Processes for Mask Designs: The Collaborative Mask Making Process

    New Processes for Mask Designs:  The Collaborative Mask Making Process

    This document shares through a timeline, images and descriptions the Collaborative Mask Making process that we used for "Love Like Tuesday", and will be using for future new productions at Faction of Fools, the next of which will be, "The Moors". This process was proposed initially by me, and then developed with the support and encouragement of my wonderful partners, the co-artistic directors of the company, Kathryn Zoerb and Francesca Chilcote, as well as our marvelous stage manager, Sarah Kamins.

  • Video clip of the performance, "Love Like Tuesday" featuring Barry and Juno

    "Love Like Tuesday" clip featuring many of the 21 masks made by Tara Cariaso of Waxing Moon Masks, including the masks of Barry and Juno.
    Directed by Francesca Chilcote, produced by Faction of Fools Theatre Company at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in 2023.

  • A Designers Lessons from the Trenches: Mask Making for "Love Like Tuesday"

    I made this video to speak to some of the lessons I've learned as a professional designer in the theatre industry, specifically as a mask maker, and the ways that designers and companies can grow in their practices to better serve equitable representation of their actors.

    Lessons from trenches: Custom Mask Making 21 pieces for Love Like Tuesday and uplifting cultural representation


    LOVE LIKE TUESDAY by Faction of Fools Theatre Company was a big show for me for a lot of reasons.  Since becoming the resident mask maker for the company in 2023, I have needed to confront many challenging scenarios that mask makers and other designers also find.  

  • The days are chilly but our hearts are warm
    The days are chilly but our hearts are warm
    Here are actors Jordan and Jasmine in the masks of their elderly characters, Barry and Juno, at the assisted living center. The masks they wear are one of three each of these actors used throughout this show.
  • Actors unmask
    Actors unmask
    Actors unmask
  • Max, Perry and Barry:  the masks worn and co-created by actor Jordan
    Max, Perry and Barry: the masks worn and co-created by actor Jordan
    Max, Perry and Barry: the masks worn and co-created by actor Jordan
  • 21 custom masks for Love Like Tuesday
    21 custom masks for "Love Like Tuesday"
    Here you can see the scope of individual, custom masks for the show, Love Like Tuesday. 21 unique masks, each the product of collaboration between designer and actor using the archetypes as a common vocabulary. In this image you can see masks that were built on the faces of actors of different heritages, different racial backgrounds. The triumph for me of this project was that all of these masks successfully bridged the actor and the character *without* sacrificing representation of that actor's heritage onstage. For me, this was a huge win. Throughout this process I heard from actor's of color that they had never worn a mask that was made for *them*, to reflect *them*. Yes, acting is taking on another character, but racial and inherited identity is one that we cannot leave behind when we walk on the stage. For the betterment of EVERYONE, we need to bring our heritage and our stories *with* us on stage.
  • Jordan's character, Barry, Sculpture
    Jordan's character, Barry, Sculpture
    The in-process sculpture of Barry. After this sculpture was completed, I used paper mache to cover it, and this will become the mask of Barry.
  • Sketch of Jordan's character, Barry
    Sketch of Jordan's character, Barry
    Here you see the sketch of Barry, the elderly man living with his wife Juno at the assisted living center. You can see the archetypes that Jordan chose for this character in the margins, the elements that I was working to emphasize. From here in my process, I use this sketch to begin the sculpture of this character on top of the plaster positive of the actor's own face.
  • Three masks for Jordan
    Three masks for Jordan
    The masks for Jordan's three characters were all sculpted upon a plaster positive of his own face, using archetypal qualities that were decided upon by Jordan and his director, Francesca. After the initial decision on archetypes that he saw in the character, Jordan communicated with me throughout the development process for the mask, giving me feedback on the sketch, the sculpture, and ultimately, the colors on the paper mache mask.

CRISIS MODE: Living Pilipino in America (director, collaborator, set designer)

Crisis Mode: Living Pilipino in America In this one-person piece, Cori Dioquino explores the complexities of her own identity as she navigates through the three major identity crises of her life. “Crisis Mode'' weaves Dioquino’s personal history with that of her motherland - The Philippines - and its complicated relationship to the United States through dance, movement, music and art. With each crisis, she shares her experiences growing up an immigrant in the “Land of the Free”, coping with hidden mental health issues, and her gradual transition from “Proud Pinoy” to “Generic Asian.”  Virtual and in-person at the Strand Theater in Baltimore, Virtual: March 30 - April 16; In-person: March 17 - April 2 2023

  • A Narration with images with the Director/Development/Designer of CRISIS MODE

    Cori Dioquino is a filipina woman raised in America. She's got some big problems with how her country of origin's history is told in the US.  This video walks you through images from the show from the point of view of Tara Cariaso, the director of the show who was also a primary developer and designer for the piece.

  • Traditional dance and clothing
    Traditional dance and clothing

    In talking about the Philippine Islands before colonization, Cori shares this beautiful moment of traditional dance with the audience.  She speaks about the indigenous Tao (the people of these islands) as having matriarchal societies with rich cultural traditions of writing and dance.

  • Catrece Choreographs with Cori for the Tinikling dance

    Short video of choreography rehearsal for CRISIS MODE, as Catrece teaches movement for the Tinikling dance, a traditional Filipino dance known for it's playful jumping over sticks. This piece, using the traditional Tinikling steps, also brought into question the colonial origins of the dance. Was it choreographed originally for the bird known as tinikling, or was it hold over from avoiding Spanish colonial abuse?

  • corithescream.jpg

    Cori had a draft of a script that was not yet shaped for the stage. With the help of a filipina historian who intimately knows Philippine history (Maria Paz), a dramaturg and playwright who was also a woman of color whose people had been colonized by the Spanish and then the US (Jalice), a filipina who is a professional dance and Kali student (Catrece), and me, (a filipina actor/creator/director), our team led the development of CRISIS MODE based on Cori's story of realizing that much of her lifelong trauma had come from generationally, as a result of her homeland's colonization by the Spanish, (and then the same land was immediately colonized by the US.) This process was a deeply healing one for all of us involved, but it was especially powerful in that this team of women who had so much in common came together to reveal the common themes and challenges faced by colonized peoples worldwide. It was a release to stage the truth. It was catharsis to acknowledge suffering and hurt caused by political forces. It was healing to make a piece about pride and resilence. It was community to do it together.

  • Filipina Excellence:  Written/Directed/Designed/Choreographed/Developed by Filipinas
    Filipina Excellence: Written/Directed/Designed/Choreographed/Developed by Filipinas
  • Crisis Mode: Living Pilipino in America
    Crisis Mode: Living Pilipino in America
  • Designing the set for Crisis Mode
    Designing the set for Crisis Mode
    I played three roles in this production: Director, Development collaborator, and Set Designer. This set that I created at The Strand utilized many elements to suit the developing script: a screen for content that is a look inside Cori's head, a space with objects to evoke memories or associations, and a floor that contains all the protagonist's experiences. In this case, my daughter and I painted the floor to look like a deeply angled wood floor with the sun and stars of the Philippine flag embedded, and lines of fracture to serve as the primary metaphor in the space for Cori's experience of trauma.
  • Telling truths about being Filipina in the US
    Telling truths about being Filipina in the US
    Review of CRISIS MODE from Kateri Pelton: MD Theatre Guide, Kateri Pelton Quotes “Creator, writer, and performer Cori Dioquino’s vision of the knife’s edge experience of an immigrant in the land of opportunity is a searing critique of colonialism, American white knight syndrome, and the joy and passion of Filipino culture.” “…This play is a must see for anyone who is lucky enough to know or love an immigrant (hint: all of us!).” “Through traditional Filipino dance, college style lectures (with candy!), surrealist narrative, and well-timed humor, one human’s story is indisputably interwoven with the rich and brutal history of her home country. Dioquino made effective comparisons to engage with the audience, simultaneously subverting common narrative.” “Imagine being the product of a strategically forgotten culture. How could you begin to reckon with the core of your identity? There is a painful duality to assimilation. This is what the audience is tasked with—to transport ourselves into the experience of a struggle to break free from a pan-Asian monolith; seek acceptance in both a foreign home and home country that has become foreign; and find that, somehow, you are neither American or Asian ‘enough.’” Theatre Bloom, Erin Tarpley Five stars of five stars rating “For those that have also experienced identity crisis as a result of colonialism, there is a sense of catharsis in shared similar differences. For those with limited exposure to immigrant stories, stories like these expose the brutal truth that even immigrating through legal means still causes trauma and heartache. Dioquino also addresses a very sensitive aspect and reminder of the immigration journey: that each story is unique and worthy of the acknowledgement of such. Additionally, that it is unfair for others to lump every immigrant together under the same homogeneous group and wave off their experiences because “they chose” to come to America or discount their pain because of how “lucky” they are to now be “here” instead of “there.” Dioquino’s production is a powerful reminder, or lesson to some listening for the first time: immigration is not always a happy story and all too often immigration tears families apart.”

Reimagining Commedia: New Masks for a New Age of Comic Devisors

Remaking a traditional form to do less harm is the way I promise to make the world better. It is my world, too, and I want to see greater care and less harm.

These masks were built in collaboration with my partners at Faction of Fools.  I am the mask-maker.  Using my pedagogy that parses out Stereotypes from Archetypes, I built a series of archetypal containers from which to choose less harmful performance qualities with which an actor may build a character for comedy.


  • New Masks for a New Age of Comic Devisors:  Reimagining Commedia's NEW MASK FAMILY
    New Masks for a New Age of Comic Devisors: Reimagining Commedia's NEW MASK FAMILY

    These are the reimagined masks for practicing the theatre form known as Commedia dell'arte, a traditional form that integrates stock characters with ferocious play, improvisation, and character masks.  We are taking the historic harms out of the masks to make new tools for actors to make themselves and others laugh!

  • Sketches for Reimagining Commedia (Masks)

    In this 7 minute slideshow with narration, I explain a little about the six masks we reimagined from the traditional stock characters.

  • MISSED CONNECTIONS by Faction of Fools Theatre Company
    MISSED CONNECTIONS by Faction of Fools Theatre Company

    Ruth, Natalie and Andrew wear the Magnifica, Second Zanni, and Capitana masks in MISSED CONNECTIONS

  • Why this important to me?
    Why this important to me?

    Some background on why reimagining these characters and this form is important to me.

  • Dottora mask in Faction of Fools' MISSED CONNECTIONS
    Dottora mask in Faction of Fools' MISSED CONNECTIONS

    MISSED CONNECTIONS was the first production by Faction of Fools Theatre Company to feature reimagined masks and stock characters.  Deimoni wears the Dottora mask in this image taken during the covid pandemic when the company held their production outside in a DC park.

  • Anti-Oppressive Theatre Tools
    Anti-Oppressive Theatre Tools

    Anti-Oppressive Theatre Tools for a new age of comic actors, described

  • Fabulous actor and creator, Tina Canady, at the Reimagining Commedia workshop
    Fabulous actor and creator, Tina Canady, at the Reimagining Commedia workshop

    Tina is wearing the Zannia 3 mask, also known as the mask derived of the character known as Arrlechino.

  • Why remake the masks from Traditional Commedia dell'arte?
    Why remake the masks from Traditional Commedia dell'arte?

    This is why we are re-making the traditional theatre masks used in the play of Commedia dell'arte

  • Portrait of the woman the mask *might* be
    Portrait of the woman the mask *might* be

    Part of my creative process when creating these mask designs was to have a vision for the actors that might wear these masks.  The first impulse I had was to create masks in the image of Asian women's faces, exclusively.  Although I did not design these masks with exclusively Asian features, I did a post-design imaginative session where I used the official "Reimagining..." sketches to delight in a fantasy of an all Asian cast, and from that came this portrait. 

    I revel in the idea that one day I might direct an all Asian women commedia piece using these masks as a pushing-off point.  Of all the sketches in this post-design imaginative session, this was my favorite, and holds a place.  BECAUSE OF COURSE ASIAN WOMEN COULD PLAY ALL THE CHARACTERS OF THIS SET. We are also *all* those qualities and more.

    Sometimes the world forgets this, but I don't.

Masks Channel Energy! Month-long Theatrical Mask Performance Workshop Series at Baltimore Center Stage

In September of 2023, Tara Cariaso and Parker Matthews joined forces to provide the Baltimore area professional theatre training in the territory of theatrical mask performance. Seeded by a Maryland State Arts Council Creativity Grant in 2023, the workshops welcomed students age 16+ to explore specific mask territories in each class, developing devising skills and learning new, anti-oppression techniques in character creation processes. Attendees came from all over Baltimore, DC, Virginia and Philadelphia, PA to train in these often rare mask performance territories, and offered many theatre educators a chance to be together and reconsider their formal practices for anti-oppressive values... as well as have fun playing!

The workshops included:

Larval Masks and Body Masks  *  Emotion Masks  *  Solo Clown  *  Ensemble Clown  *  Reimagining Commedia Day 1  *  Reimagining Commedia Day 2  *

The six workshops featured 24 masks, (not including clown noses) which were all designed and fabricated by Tara and her 13 years as designer and fabricator at Waxing Moon Masks.  


  • Reimagining Commedia workshop, Day 1
    Reimagining Commedia workshop, Day 1
  • Reimagining Commedia workshop Day 1
    Reimagining Commedia workshop Day 1
    Day 1 of the Reimagining Commedia workshop and the participants are trying on the masks to see themselves and one another. Traditionally, these masks would be made in leather or neoprene and painted in leather tones of brown. This can be confusing for actors whose skin is not similar to the character mask skin tone. In the new set of masks, The New Mask Family, we use rainbow tones for each different mask, as well as features that are not based on animal features, but amplified archetypes of emotion and inner energy, (Jungian archetypes.)
  • Ensemble Clown Workshop:  Masks Channel Energy! workshop series
    Ensemble Clown Workshop: Masks Channel Energy! workshop series
  • Solo Clown Workshop
    Solo Clown Workshop
  • Emotion Masks Workshop
    Emotion Masks Workshop
  • Larval Mask Workshops
    Larval Mask Workshops
  • Playing a traditional form with reimagined stock characters
    Playing a traditional form with reimagined stock characters
    On Day 2 of the Reimagining Commedia Workshop, we created scenes using the new archetypal information for play. Sheila and Julia were very funny together playing a boss and employee.

Emotional Gesture: a comparison between how bodies express emotion in Liberia and US

In 2016, I traveled to Liberia, West Africa to work with the arts students of nonprofit, B4 Youth Theatre who were using masks to create performances that told their own stories.

Elated to finally meet the students who have been working with me remotely over space and time, I trained with young people and learned about how differently Liberian people and US folks articulate their emotional experiences through the body.

  • A segment from the article, "Re-learning the Teacher Archetype"
    In this essay, Tara Cariaso reflects on the ways that her privileges and learned western traditions in education disadvantaged her from being present and in service to her students when visiting Liberia, West Africa.
  • Magda Rakita's photojournalism using our masks and Liberian youth
    Magda Rakita's photojournalism using our masks and Liberian youth
    Photojournalist Magda Rakita created this series of images along with youth interviews connecting their emotional life with their choice of mask and location for the shoot. She was inspired to tell the youth's stories through the lens of our emotion masks.
  • Expression of Emotions is Not Universal
    Some notes on the expression of emotion through the body, comparing actors from two countries that have colonial connection, but who are culturally very dissimilar: The USA and Liberia, West Africa.
  • Student Instructors choose masks for an exploration
    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. You'll see that the majority of these Student Instructors are young women. In Liberia, young women in the 15-20 year age range are commonly challenged by their community to accomplish family and domestic tasks in lieu of attending school. In this case, these young women who live at an orphanage in Mt Barclay have been part of the B4 Youth Theatre arts education training for 2 to 3 years already, and have articulated that they want to be here. In many cases, their dedication to the training is challenged by the adults around them who expect them to prepare food or care for smaller children rather than train, as this is the cultural norm in Liberia for women, whereas the men are more encouraged to get education. These young women have to learn to steel themselves in a direction of self interest to take up even a tuition-free education, let alone find funds for a costly high school/university education experience. I am grateful I was there to learn from their strength and perseverance.
  • Using Energy
    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. We were fortunate on this day that we were not at the mercy of the torrential rains that happen at Liberia during this time of year. On other days, in order to train several classes in theatre, music, sewing, and dance, we have to break up the large group of maybe 30 students into smaller groups that work in different buildings. This building is one used very often, a school house, and is supplied with chairs and desks, however not all of the spaces we used were as welcoming. Some days, the rain came down so hard that we could not hear one another's voices below the tin roof panels and lost entire classes. I did find at times that students lacked endurance for the constant movement work on our feet. The movement training of western theatre uses different muscles and movement than that which these kids use in daily life, so some struggle was there to encourage them to continue from time to time. That said, the weird things that I might ask them to do were part and parcel of the overall oddness which this training presented in contrast to their way of life. I often wondered how fair it was to ask them to use so much energy, to deplete their energy, when they possibly had no way to refuel adequately at the end of the day. I wondered if my presence was an imposition of something western and inappropriate in their lives constantly. I wondered if the exchange of information would help any them in any useful ways. I wondered if I wasn't just doing all of this in their names but actually might be the only one receiving benefit. Now, 6 months later, I still wonder all of these things.
  • Liberia's only Stage
    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. But since the civil war, this has all stopped. The last 8 years of Liberia's history have been ones of fundamental change, a rebuilding time. But with limited resources financially for infrastructure like roads, sanitation, clean water delivery systems, and without a functional tax collection system in place, even without debt to world power countries like the USA, Liberia is not likely to strengthen her commitment to Liberian cultural arts practices. Some visual art education, such as drawing and painting, exists at the university level. But so far as we can tell, no other arts training but B4 Youth Theatre and one other 'arts camp' exist in Liberia.
  • Celebrating the completion of our training with a party!
    Celebrating the completion of our training with a party!
    The students have enjoyed the educational experience provided by the tuition free arts education program by B4 Youth Theatre. B4 Youth Theatre is the non-profit company with whom I have been working for 8 years as an educator in mask/performance techniques, as well as liberatory and anti-oppressive practices. This group of children in Gbarnga are certainly the more fortunate of many kids in Liberia, as they have families in the village that care for them and feed them as best they can. But you cannot see that these kids possibly have not eaten today before our party. You cannot see that some of them had to leave children behind to come to be a part of the training and that this posed a series of problems for them. You cannot see that some of these children are also responsible for provding some measure of financial wealth to their familial well-being and that this too acts as a deterrent to students taking advantage of a free education opportunity. At this celebration, at the end of our training time together, the students took streams of photos with their instructors and fellow classmates, we danced to music, and we talked about our lives. Lots and lots of posing for photos! And in this time, it became abundantly clear to me that these children had hard won the experience of this arts training in ways that I never had to. The program required they come to each training, that they be on time to the training, and that they behave cooperatively and respectfully within the program. We did not provide any food daily, except this one time celebratory meal of rice and "soup"(Liberian stew) with fish. Our work was very physical, and exhausting in the 95 degree heat each day, and we worked for periods of time ranging between 1 hour to 3 hours. In short, we asked a lot of them.

MASKS FOR GOOD: Liberian youth use Emotion Masks to tell their own stories

B4 Youth Theatre (B4YT) is a non-profit that serves youth with free arts education programming in Liberia, West Africa.  Founded by Dr Jasmine Blanks-Jones, who was until just last year the executive director of the organization, B4YT's mission is, "Empowering young people to become educated citizens through the arts!" 

Through conversation and communication with company members, Tara's mask fabrication company, Waxing Moon Masks, conceived, designed, and created the masks and pedagogical materials for B4 Youth Theatre instructors and participants in their summer programs, and then sent all the supplies to youth instructors in Liberia.

The masks were made to incite conversation about student's life experiences so that these stories could be played out on a stage.

The plays that the young people made talked about many things that impact young people.  Importantly, among the issues explored was the issue of the Ebola virus, it's impact on student lives and communities, and the stigma left on Liberian communities in the wake of the devastating Ebola virus.


"I was very fortunate to be a contributor to this project by B4 Youth Theatre, led by Dr Jasmine Blanks-Jones.  This project collaboration, MASKS FOR GOOD, merges social justice and mask, and was performed by young Liberian artists in their homeland. This step, phase 2 in a 3-phase project, included:

  • Generating a 10 video Mask Performance training series with professional performers and video editing
  • Fundraising for materials to make 48 Emotion Masks to go to 4 training locations in Liberia
  • Designing unique mask designs to serve the students telling their own stories through devising
  • Fabricating 48 masks
  • Getting donations for devices on which the Liberian student instructors might watch the training videos
  • Creating a training workbook for student instructors"



-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 traveled 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, and wrote about my journey as a teacher of a western art in a non-western setting, exploring 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 and outreach causes, for training actors, and for devising/ play writing.




  • B4 Youth Theatre, Arts and Literacy Non-Profit functioning in Liberia, West Africa
    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. The next year, free and public school was extended through grade 9 as compulsory for all Liberian children. In the Summer of 2014 and 15, B4 Youth integrated mask performance into the playwriting work of all four current training sites in Liberia in order to help the students tell the story of Ebola and Stigma in their lives and communities. Their summer training in 2016 was with Tara there as part of the programming.
  • Masks For Good postcard for our Indiegogo Campaign
    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. This series of training videos were viewed in Liberia by 6 youth instructors who then used masks with their students in 4 training sites across the country. The video series covers: an Intro, Warm up, Why Mask?, How to address the Awkwardness of wearing something on your face to perform, a step by step process for engaging the whole body in creating "Emotional" shapes, improvisations for play writing purposes, work on status, the Importance of Eye Contact, and much more.
  • Shame Mask on young boy in Ghana
    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. In country, Magda Kakita wrote this about stigma in the wake of Ebola: "Even though the Ebola outbreak has been contained in parts of Africa like Liberia and Ghana, some survivors of the Ebola epidemic face exclusion and discrimination in their local communities. According to an article on many survivors return home to find their possessions destroyed. Fear and mis-education in local communities make it difficult for Ebola survivors to find work." Stigma exists within Liberia and across the world as a result of the devastation left by the illness.
  • 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."
  • Old Age Mask with helpers, Ghana, West Africa
    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. She said the students were very excited to play! In 2016, Tara will travel to Liberia to work with youth instructors in 2 B4 Youth Training sites and offer a workshop at the local upper high school/college in Kakata.

Submersive Production's Immersive Theatre in Baltimore

Tara is a proud collective member of Submersive Productions for the last 3 years, and in that time has performed in 4 productions, including:  

  • "see also", a site-specific, immersive theater experience exploring Baltimore’s historic George Peabody Library and other Johns Hopkins collections.
  • "rECHOllection", futuristic outside theatre experience in Druid Hill Park where community disconnected by disease work to restore collective memory.
  • "The Boundary", an immersive experience that invites you to explore your own relationship with death, grief and loss.
  • "MASS/RABBLE", an immersive, site specific event at the Baltimore War Memorial composed of 30 individuals exploring the themes and journeys of human mass migration.


  • see also, An immersive, site specific experience at the Peabody Library
    see also, An immersive, site specific experience at the Peabody Library
    "see also" was a show about connection across vast and old structures. For my character, I devised a character arc based on uncovering parts of her past to which she was disconnected. As a Filipina American, I must work extra hard to trace the threads of my familial lineage, as immigrants (specifically immigrants of color) records are less available in historical libraries like The Peabody Library.
  • see also, An immersive, site specific experience at the Peabody Library
    see also, An immersive, site specific experience at the Peabody Library
    For "see also", Tara created a character looking for proof of their family in Baltimore over the last 100 years. In addition to the ensemble work for the spectacle and story experience of "see also", Tara created one-on-one moments where participants were told about her Filipina and Irish heritage as a mixed race person. In this intimate collaboration, the participant and Tara together placed books about Filipina heritage on the shelves brought by the character. She called adding her own heritage records to the collection, "bringing medicine to the hospital."
  • Trading for food in a dystopian time
    Trading for food in a dystopian time
    The traders had many purposes during this time together at Druid Hill Park: to trade objects for food, to engage possible new community allies and friends, and to share the moments of grief surrounding the loss of livable habitat in the far future. "This tree isn't alive anymore, in my time," Tara's character told participants in one-on-one moments of immersive content. "I hope you will cherish it. It is a magnificent friend to many creatures and people across many years."
  • Mother and Daughter in conflict in dystopian times
    Mother and Daughter in conflict in dystopian times
    rECHOllection was devised and performed by Submersive Productions. Cariaso and her daughter, Nadya Elson, are shown here in conflict; one wants to go, the other does not. The characters that Cariaso and Elson created were traders, looking for food in a future time of food scarcity, and they had set up a shop to trade good acorns to make flour for objects found by Elson at the park, including small plastic creatures, tops, small toys and other wonders, largely made of time-weathering plastic.
  • MASS/RABBLE and Masks!
    MASS/RABBLE and Masks!
    Movement theatre and masks! Masks were designed to represent neighboring communities at war in this immersive piece about human migration set at the Baltimore War Memorial. The masks were designed by four of the show's designers, amongst them: Lisi Stoessel, Ursula Marcum, Jess Rassp, and Tara Cariaso.
  • Mass Rabble
    Mass Rabble
  • The good doctor at Bar Do in Submersive Productions' The Boundary
    The good doctor at Bar Do in Submersive Productions' "The Boundary"
    From the Submersive Productions website: “Visit Boundry, a brand-new startup that allows you to pre-plan and customize your afterlife experience. As part of our exclusive market research team, tour our state-of-the-art facilities and afterlife showroom. For every door that closes, another will open.” The Boundary was created by a diverse team of artists and the content presented references a wide range of spiritual, religious andnon-theistic perspectives concerning the concept of the afterlife. This experience invites you to explore your own relationship withdeath, grief and loss as you are willing and able. **** BmoreArt’s Picks: August 29 – September 4 **** From “The beauty of The Boundary is that it invites you to explore your own relationship with death, grief and loss as you are willing and able,” said Josh Aterovis, another member of the core creative team. “But there’s still a lightness about it… and a lot of humor. Humor was the only way we could get through it, really, and that comes through in both the design and the performance.” According to the press release, “Submersive has formed a reputation for taking on dark topics by approaching them with humor, sensitivity, and wild imagination.” Glenn Ricci is also Submersive’s Co-artistic Director, in addition to being a core team member. “When we returned to making full-on immersive experiences earlier this year with Katalepsis, we were heartened to see a real hunger for what we do. That show took on themes of loss and isolation through a far-future science fiction lens. Death can be difficult to grapple with, but we’re approaching it from a lot of angles.” said Ricci. “As with all our work, The Boundary tries to meet the audience where they are. We create a world and a set of conditions and from there the journey is largely up to them.” The experience runs around 75 minutes, with an assortment of start times available for each evening. “Participants enter in ‘focus groups’ of up to seven individuals and are encouraged to participate at their level of comfort. The top-secret location of the Boundary labs is accessible, but it is recommended to contact Submersive Productions for accommodations and special instructions,” reads the press release. end quote

Masks for "Midsummer Night's Dream" with Chesapeake Shakespeare Theatre Company in Shakespeare Beyond program, outdoors performances in city park spaces

Directed by Ian Gallanar
By William Shakespeare

On a Midsummer’s night, four young lovers find themselves
in an enchanted forest where sprites lurk and fairies rule.

Under a love potion’s spell, the couples pursue each other
while the fairy King’s servant helps their master play a trick on the fairy Queen.
In the end, the magic is reversed, and the couples reconcile and marry. All you need is love

  • Faces fabricated on Face Positives for both fit, and socially-just representation
    Faces fabricated on Face Positives for both fit, and socially-just representation
    Tara created face positives of actors' faces so that the masks will fit perfectly... BUT ALSO... Tara created masks on positives of actors' faces so that her work as designer did not erase fundamental racial representation on our stages. Masks can be exciting objects from which to build a character, but the character should never be devoid of the actor embodying the character so much that their diversity in the world is eclipsed. This is work that Tara has been doing in the field of design: creating masks that evoke character without eclipsing integral personal data.
  • Mayan-inspired design for the Princess of the Amazon, Theseus's future queen, Hippolyta
    Mayan-inspired design for the Princess of the Amazon, Theseus's future queen, Hippolyta
    Dramaturg Jalice Coral deeply impacted and steered the designs for HIPPOLYTA's mask, delving into Mayan tradition on royalty, headgear, sculpture, goddesses, and precious stones and metals.
  • Actors learn to use masks in rehearsal
    Actors learn to use masks in rehearsal
    Mask Performance is not for the faint of heart. In this image, you see actors putting masks to the boards for the first time, finding their character bodies, and learning to use the mask to report back to the audience.
  • Masks to amplify a classic Shakespeare play
    Masks to amplify a classic Shakespeare play
  • Mayan and Aztec design inspiration for outrageously beautiful masks
    Mayan and Aztec design inspiration for outrageously beautiful masks
  • Masks made for outdoor performance
    Masks made for outdoor performance
  • Mask Design for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's Midsummer Night's Dream
    Mask Design for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's "Midsummer Night's Dream"

Mask Making Away from the Dominant

When I was young, I didn't know how significant it was that I was a brown girl in a white family. In this private project, I explore the phenomenon of being a creator who changes my face, and the tension that creates with my own experience of being a brown woman in the time of Donald Trump's America.

  • Audio walk-through of making this personal project, with Slides

    In this video, you'll see process-slides and images along with the artist's narration that help you understand the tensions of belonging and not-belonging of this work, "Mask-Making Away from the Dominant".  

  • Mask Making Away from the Dominant:  A private project
    Mask Making Away from the Dominant: A private project