The second unit in the drama course at Jarvis is all about masks, how to make them and how to act in them. This unit is probably one of the most enjoyable units of drama because it combines hands on activities with drama. Masks are a very important piece of art in many plays and live shows. Using masks during a show enables the actor to become more than one character, and enhances their ability to act by letting them experience different personalities. Masks in the theatre are also used to express and reinforce the character and the story, create a distance between the actor on stage and the character of the story. Also, at times an actor may not be able to create a facial expression, in which masks come in.
Masks are used all over the world for cultural and/or religious purposes. For example the African mask is used all over Africa for religious ceremonial purposes, such as communicating with sprits and ancestors. For that reason, the African masks are considered a treasure. Along with religious ceremonies, African masks are used in rituals that celebrate birth, funerals, initiation rights and changes of seasons with people dancing while wearing the masks. The African masks were also used in masquerades, which were similar to plays.
Asian masks are another example of cultural masks, which were also used for ancient religious ceremonies, ceremonial rituals and theatre. Masks that were used in theatre were used specifically for opera during the Tang dynasty. Masks had different colors on them to represent the characteristics of each mask. For example, a red mask represented loyalty, white for treachery and death, and gold and silver for supernatural beings. Asian masks were also used for ceremonial purposes, especially the Noh masks, which were used in Noh dramas that represented the daily life in Japan.
Another type of cultural masks is the Greek mask, which were used mostly for theatre performances. The Greek masks were also used to isolate a particular human characteristic, such as lust, greed, despair and virtue in performances. During their presentations, the actors used megaphones in their masks to reach their enormous audiences. Masks were also used to play female parts in performances, since women were not allowed to perform at the time.
Naomi Tyrell was a guest artist that came to out drama class to teach us about masks and let us experience acting with masks. Throughout the nine classes she was here for, we learned many aspects of masks from her. We learned the basic guidelines for acting with a mask, we learned how to get into character and interact with the mask and even how to make a mask ourselves!
Naomi taught us the fundamentals for using a mask, such as never to put on the mask in front of the audience, or speak out of role with the mask on, as it ruins the illusion that the mask is another character. Also she taught us ways to enhance our performance with the mask, such as exploring the potential of the...