In the spirit of collaboration, the Upper School had a starring role — in a way — in the Middle School musical Lion King Jr. Students from Lisa Waldstein’s Upper School Intermediate Studio Art Class designed and built the elaborate masks for which the stage production is well-known. The central cast members donned the masks at the opening and closing of the show each night.
The six-week project proved to be a good learning experience, as the art students found success from initial failure. After trying out various combinations of card stock and painter’s tape, the group ultimately realized the masks were still too flimsy. They finally settled on a chip-board-and-hot-glue combo, which worked great, but set them back three weeks.
There was an added layer of difficulty — particularly for artists who have never created works for the stage. Everything on the stage needs to be bigger, bolder, and broader.
“The hardest part was giving the face dimension,” sophomore Annabel Roth said.
“And making its appearance significant enough to be seen from far away,” added sophomore Vicki Stuart, adding that spray painting was her favorite part.
For inspiration, the students turned to a variety of sources, including Philadelphia artist (and former Waldstein student) Carla Weeks, nature programs, geometric shapes, and Disney itself.
“I wanted to look at Disney images because Zazu has such cartoon-like features,” sophomore Adriana Foster said.
The group also got inspiration from alumna Callie Fellows ’17, who stopped by the class during her winter break from Mount Holyoke to give them some pointers.
In addition to having a visual impact, the pieces had to be functional for the actors who would be wearing them. This is where the class had a chance to experience the joys and frustrations of collaboration, as they worked closely with the Middle School theater crew to find solutions to their performance needs.
Overall the class found the project challenging, but rewarding: they got a glimpse at another way that their artwork could be showcased, utilized, and appreciated.