Joan Schirle died on February 1, 2022. She opened the Women and Masks conference as the keynote in September (see recording below) and attended events during October. She generously shared her wisdom and made us laugh and cry. She was joyful, playful, and sage. In so many moments, she invited us to share a state of wonder and awe. Founding artistic director of Dell’Arte International, Joan was a gifted and acclaimed director, artist, performer, and teacher; her influence has extended through the theater community, touching countless women. This made her the ideal person to open a year-long conference devoted to women and masks. Many of us didn’t know her before she became involved in the conference, and we were later astounded (and dismayed) to learn that she had been quite sick during those wonderful fall presentations–and to learn of her death. We regret not getting to know her better while being grateful we shared some time and virtual space with her. Women and Masks wishes to celebrate Joan’s life and create a space for her friends, students, and admirers to share more of her life. You can read more about Joan here: https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/theater/remembering-dellartes-joan-schirle-mentor-to-bay-area-artists and https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2022/feb/3/obituary-joan-emilie-schirle-1944-2022/.
We encourage you to watch her two presentations from the fall, since they will be referenced by long time friend Judy Slattum, who is helping to organize this event, which includes a special video featuring many of Joan’s friends from Bali–a place where she spent significant time.
It is our hope that we can gather and maintain information about Joan here on the Women and Masks website and create an archive of resources for those who wish to learn about Joan Schirle.
RECORDINGS OF JOAN FROM SEPTEMBER, 2021 AT THE WOMEN AND MASKS CONFERENCE:
HANDOUTS JOAN PROVIDED TO ACCOMPANY THE PRESENTATIONS:
MEMORIES OF JOAN FROM STUDENTS AND FRIENDS:
“A couple of months have passed and I don’t know where to start. Joan taught me and everybody so much about so many things. She was a leader, a friend, a pain in the ass, and a profound comfort.”
“Joan changed my life. Multiple times. Like so many of us.”
“Once in Mexico City (just before accidentally running into my brother-in-law’s parents (and just after visiting some Absurdists who had a theater in the former home of William Burroughs)) she and I were looking at a museum display of someone regal. The sign said, “Gran Tumba.” Joan said she wanted to be the “Gran Tumba of Blue Lake.” It means, “large tomb,” but I took to addressing her as GT for years thereafter.”
“DON’T STACK THE PLATES AFTER DINNER!”
“Joan was one of the most inspiring women and artists I’ve ever met. The more I got to know her, at first as a student, then as a collaborator and friend, the more in awe of her I became. Sharing time and space with her in this world has been an absolute privilege. She has been a guiding mother and a leading light, one of the defining pillars in my artistic life. I am still, constantly learning from her. Best foot forward, with love.”
Joan Schirle was the founding artistic director of Dell’Arte International. She is an actor, playwright, director, deviser, and teacher whose acting work was recognized with a 2006 Fox Foundation/TCG Resident Actor Fellowship. In 2004 she was honored at the 16th Cairo International Experimental Theatre Festival as a leader in experimental theatre. She was the director of Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre from 2003 – 2011.
She has performed in masks, created mask performances, and taught masks to actors for many years. Having led 20 study trips to Bali, she learned to carve masks and dance them. Her solo mask show, “Second Skin,” toured widely at international festivals for seven years. Recent work includes the 5-minute mask piece, “JUNE 1, 2020,” and a clown, “Fireside