Performers Become Mask Entrepreneurs

Performers Become Mask Entrepreneurs

Australian Musical Theatre performers Todd McKenney and Claire Lyon have both gone into the mask business as a result of the Covid pandemic, at the same time supporting their showbiz colleagues.

Within a couple of weeks, Todd McKenney’s new project to assist others in the entertainment industry has become a roaring success. Almost 800 Australian-made face masks have been sold, raising $20,000 for their talented designers and professional theatrical wardrobe teams. 

Todd is a passionate and long term member of the Stage and Screen industry and an advocate for Public Health. As a keen supporter of The Grace Centre at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, Todd has witnessed first-hand the profound impact of following advice when it comes to protecting the vulnerable with best practice. In response to the current national health crisis, teamed with the impact of the crisis on the economic prospects of his fellow industry family, Todd created a 'pivot for profit' platform, TODDMASKS.COM, where Australian costume designers can make and sell masks directly to the public in order to assist these talented individuals to use their exceptional skills to both make Australia more safe and create an income stream for themselves.

"Understanding both the evolving complexities of the health crisis from my view as a keen supporter of The Grace Centre, and the catastrophic impact on the income generation of my peers within the Stage and Screen industry, has driven me to create this online marketplace for Australia's Costume Designers to sell masks that are made to the current Australian health standards. TODDMASKS.COM is a space where we can buy local and help exceptionally motivated and skilled artists to pivot their talents to suit the current market,” he said.

Australian Costume Designers such as the prolific industry veteran Jennifer Irwin (Bangarra Dance Theatre, The Australian Ballet, Sydney Theatre Company, Opera Australia) and the immensely talented Erin Roche (High Ground, The Pacific, House Husbands) are part of the movement and are creating ranges for sale on the platform, which are then made by professional theatrical wardrobe stitchers. 

Todd is profoundly humbled by the response to the platform from his industry colleagues and looks forward to watching them thrive.  "We simply cannot sit by as these talented people are forced to leave the industry due to a lack of work. Stage and Screen will thrive again one day, and I am committed to helping my fellow artists anyway that I can. This is all for them, and is made with love and thanks for helping make me look great all these years!"

Entertainment industry leader Michael Gudinski of Mushroom Group is working with a designer to develop a large order of Mushroom-branded masks that will be sent to all of his artists. “It’s a great initiative to be helping the industry and protecting our people through these unprecedented times and I’m happy to give my support to Todd,” he said.

There are also online auctions of one-of-a-kind masks at TODDMASKS.COM to support the Children's Hospital at Westmead. 

Australian soprano Claire Lyon has launched new business ‘The Masque Co.’ manufacturing fun, eco-friendly face masks while starring in The Phantom of the Opera in South Korea. 

Claire has had the unique experience of starring in what has remained as the only major theatre production, of any kind, still running in the world.

She is playing Christine Daae in the World Tour of The Phantom of the Opera, which has continued to run in Seoul, South Korea amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to Korean Government’s quick response, tracing and tracking methods and the commonplace practice that is mask wearing in both theatres and in everyday life. 

After making mask-wearing part of her everyday routine, Claire found herself wanting to find a product that is still safe to wear, but more eco and face-friendly.

“I found wearing one-time-use surgical masks a little depressing and so many I had tried were either too uncomfortable, too suffocating, not eco-friendly or just plain boring. I thought to myself ‘How can I make this more fun and less scary, while also protecting people and in turn, helping get our economy and the Performing Arts Industry back up on its feet? I was the lucky one who still had a job. I had to do something to help,” said Claire.  

With some guidance from family and friends, The Masque Co. was in full swing, manufacturing, en masse, just outside of Seoul, while still performing in the evening!

“It was like the idea was in my face the whole time! Our audience members were all in masks, even the Phantom was in a mask! When I saw the coronavirus numbers still surging, especially in my hometown of Melbourne, I had to get cracking! The fact that mask wearing became mandatory a week ago was a complete coincidence.”

Claire’s masks are designed in Melbourne and made with precision and care in Seoul. The masks described as being made from the highest quality 4 way stretch fabric, with an antibacterial activity of 99.9% and a particle penetration efficiency around 20% higher than many cotton masks on the market. They are non-toxic are, PH balanced and have all been tried and tested by the ‘Korean Apparel Testing & Research Institute’ who have some of the strictest guidelines in the world.

“I didn’t want my masks to be just a gimmick, but actually something that could help protect you and your loved ones, with the scientific reports behind them.”

Claire & The Masque Co. have also teamed up with the Arts Wellbeing Collective, an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative, with $1 per mask going towards offering workers of all kinds in the Performing Arts Industry with mental health support - a much needed cause, particularly during this time.

Claire hopes that her masks will brighten people’s days a little, while helping society, and the performing arts industry to function once again.

The Masque Co. Ships globally and can be purchased online at www.themasqueco.co To follow The Masque Co. Journey, head to Instagram or Facebook @themasqueco

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