Instead of stepping into someone’s shoes for the day, slide on the face of an ancient Aztec, traditional Japanese samurai or a mischievous-looking demon.
All of those faces and more can be found at the El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession. This festival celebrating the arts with performances by local artists and community groups features one of Mesa’s artistic treasures, mask maker Zarco Guerro.
This local artistic luminary blends fiction with nonfiction in the masks he makes from his home studio. Although his workshop might seem from the outside like any other ordinary backyard shed, it actually holds a vast collection of faces. Masks of myths, legends, symbolic figures and creatures — as well as his real-life studio pet, a cat named Gato — fill the eclectic room.
“I had always been fascinated with (masks) because of the history masks had. But it wasn’t something I chose to do. Growing up, I had a whole different plan,” says Guerrero.
But along the way, incidents and people changed his direction.
“When I was traveling in Mexico, I ran across this youth hospital. They were putting on a play and were in need of masks. I met the director, and the next thing I know, he asked me, ‘Why don’t you make me some masks?’ Once I saw them bring my masks to life, masks became my thing. Being a part of theater really drew me in, especially street theater.”
After being inspired by the lively masks in Mexico, Guerrero, who designed masks for Childsplay’s 2011 season, winning him an ariZoni Award for costume design, found himself knee-deep in a culture of masks all its own.
But it wasn’t until he studied in Japan that he really came into his own.
“After learning about Mexican masks and how masks themselves are a vital part of many cultures and how each feature of a mask is influenced by a different background, my interest was sparked by how the Japanese produced their own masks,” he says.
The next thing Guerrero knew, he had received a fellowship to learn the craft of mask-making in Japan.
“To this day, I still draw any mask I’m making with the light made from its shadow, which is a Japanese trait,” he says.
To meet the man behind the masks, head to the El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession. The free event will feature food, music, mask-masking and face-painting. The first 200 attendees will enjoy a free performance of Childsplay’s “The Cat in the Hat” at 4 p.m. To conclude the festival, The Cat (played by Childsplay’s Katie McFadzen) will lead a masked procession of kids, families and performers on the pedestrian bridge crossing Tempe Town Lake.
If you go
What: El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession
When: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 9
Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway
• Cissy, a junior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for GetOut. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.