Helen Barnett is the creative director of Trestle Theatre Company, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary with an exhibition entitled Behind The Mask.
Behind the Mask exhibition is in partnership with St Albans Museum + Gallery and will document four decades of extraordinary theatre and education work.
The first in-person exhibition to reopen St Albans museum, situated in the city’s Town Hall, Behind The Mask opens from 17th May 2021. More details can be found here.
Trestle Theatre Company is celebrating its 40th anniversary, tell us a little about the company?
Trestle is a mask and physical theatre company. We make and export our masks to companies and education institutions around the world and deliver high quality training and workshops to theatre makers, teachers and schoolchildren. We also run Trestle Arts Base in St Albans as a hub for our work and other community arts programmes. Through our internationally renowned mask and physical theatre practice we aim to open up opportunities for everyone to engage with the arts, unleash their creativity, and increase confidence and general wellbeing through participation.
And what can visitors expect from Behind The Mask, the exhibition celebrating the anniversary?
Behind The Mask will be a whistle stop tour of the history of the Company, charting the extraordinary theatre and education work we’ve achieved over the last four decades. It will cover everything from past shows and the development of our mask sets to the stories of those working with Trestle now. Visitors can expect a behind the scenes glimpse into our work, the making of our masks and a look back at some of the wonderful shows and projects we’ve developed over the years. We hope the exhibition will give an insight into the range of our work and the different elements it takes to develop such a rich history.
What inspired you to celebrate the anniversary with an exhibition?
We are an education company at heart and wanted to create an exhibition to share our learning across the forty years and to inspire the next generation of theatre makers. We feel that it is incredibly important to highlight the positive effect that engaging in the arts can have and to celebrate the different ways that companies create work together. It is not just about the shows we have created but also the participatory and education work and partnerships we have built. We wanted to celebrate the full spectrum of what we do and partnering with the museum felt like a great way to do that. We hope that by bringing the exhibition online later in the year it will be accessible to more than just our local audiences.
You’ll also be asking the public to help you create a time capsule, tell us more about that?
There are so many people with fond memories of Trestle and we want to collect as many of them as possible, whether it be from our shows as actors and creatives, our audiences, our workshop participants, people who purchase our masks, employees and volunteers or visitors to Trestle Arts Base. We want them to tell us how Trestle has impacted on them, why they have these memories and if we have affected their careers and practice now.
At a time when arts organisations are having to work hard to shape the future of our industry, it feels important to document and share these positive stories. To help us do that we are asking anyone who has a memory about working with Trestle or Trestle masks to share it with us. These will then be captured in an online time capsule and will help us to shape the next forty years of the company. You can do so through our webpage Trestle 40th Anniversary — Trestle Theatre Co.
With 40 years to look back on has it been difficult to curate Behind The Mask?
One of the hardest things about curating the exhibition has been trying to capture as much as possible from across the forty years; from our archives alone we could have filled the whole museum twice over! We are very fortunate however to have the Arts Base which meant that former Company members have been able to keep hold of so much of the Companies history enabling us to share it with you now. It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to connect with so many people that have been instrumental in creating that history.
What would you say to anyone thinking of visiting Behind The Mask?
Trestle have achieved so much in its forty years. Being fairly new to the Company myself, I have been astounded at the breadth and scope of the work and I feel that this exhibition really celebrates that. As Creative Director I find it inspiring to see this history presented together and I hope that the visitors to the exhibition do too.