MABELLE Strauss remembers COVID-19 lockdown like yesterday.
The Xavier High School student, 12, had only recently changed schools in early 2020 and felt suddenly isolated from her friends.
Now playing the main character, Maggie, in The Happy Mask, a stage show circulating Albury schools, Mabelle said she could draw on her own experiences of the global pandemic.
"I was Maggie's age when we went into lockdown," she said.
"I had moved schools at the start of lockdown and then I couldn't see my friends.
"I really like how the show looks at COVID-19 from the kids' view."
Mabelle, who did a tango with a plant called Spike in one scene out of lockdown boredom, said she also enjoyed the school children's reactions to the show.
"Sometimes it's hard not to laugh!" she said.
Mabelle is performing alongside her mother Niki Strauss in the stage adaptation of Albury children's author Aimee Chan's picture book, The Happy Mask.
"I've really enjoyed the experience and the time we've had together even though sometimes things can get spicy!" she quipped.
"As a mum, it's nice to see her develop her own character; she's so independent and great at what she does."
Niki said it was was valuable to share homegrown stories with Border audiences too.
"Kids were influenced by lockdown at the time and continue to be," Niki said.
"It's a very important story to tell."
Having written The Happy Mask during the first national lockdown in March 2020, Dr Chan said people were already starting to forget about daily life throughout the pandemic.
In her book a young girl Maggie learns how to connect with people after she wears a mask during the pandemic.
"The major lesson is all about empathy and understanding how others feel," Dr Chan said.
"It's about recognising a collective trauma and finding ways to reach out and support each other as a community."
Dr Chan was inspired to write the children's book after her first encounter with people wearing masks in shops on the Border during the pandemic.
She said masks were often associated with negative characters such as bandits and bank robbers.
"I would go into the shops and people wearing masks were friendly but I didn't expect that because I could not see the expression on their faces," she said.
"It made me think, if I couldn't read social cues because of a mask, it must be difficult for kids."
Supported by AlburyCity, the show ran twice at Holy Spirit School at Lavington on Friday and will visit Table Top Public School on Tuesday, September 19.
The Happy Mask featured music by Tim Hartwig.
Dr Chan hoped The Happy Mask stage show might go on the road pending funding.
"It would be great to take it to more schools in regional areas and Melbourne, where they felt the brunt of lockdowns," she said.
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