A performer on the stage, an artist in his heart – the energetic actor, puppeteer and mask maker Pierre Filliez brings a centuries-old tradition to the modern stage.
Born in Switzerland, he was always inspired by his father’s and grand-fathers’ wood-working techniques. He learned the art of leather mask-making from Jessica Nicholls and Gilles Brot, who were respectively students of Antonio Fava and Donato Sartori. Later he graduated from the Jacques Lecoq International Theater School in Paris. Known for his distinct approach, Lecoq was among the first to use the traditional masks as a training tool. His goal was to ultimately have his students reach the smallest mask in the world – the red nose of a clown.
Coming from this widely renowned school has certainly influenced Pierre. When we meet with him in his Berlin studio, and later at the theater, his gestures are broad and expressive, dramatically changing from one moment to the next.
“I think a lot about the person I am making the mask for, while working for hours on their expression. It’s very intimate.”
When working, Pierre carefully considers the features – and potential exaggerations of those features – of the intended wearer. Many of his hand-crafted leather masks will ultimately find their place on stage in a type of theater dating back to the 16th century – commedia dell’arte.
Drawing strongly on improvisational techniques and props as opposed to a set stage and script, the mask’s powerfully expressive countenances enhance the sentiments and gestures of actors in the play. Pierre believes that “Every person has a mask on their face. All the time.” Yet, also that wearing a mask makes one free. In this sense, wearing a mask becomes both a gesture of freedom and concealment.
“I am giving life to someone in a way, aren’t I? I create a new character!”