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  • Writer's pictureFound In Translation

Dramatic Mask Design

In our workshops we love playing with ideas about how important masks were to a performance of ancient drama. We know lighting, set and costumes are often key to staging a play today, while masks can be thought quite alien and restrictive. But in the classical world, where theatre was usually performed in large outdoor theatres during daylight, masks played an important role in engaging an audience and telling the playwright’s story.

For example in Old Comedies, where writers like Aristophanes loved to make fun of politicians and celebrities,they would sometimes use exaggerated, or grotesque, masks based on the faces of famous figures such as Socrates.

But even in Greek Tragedies, masks helped the audience identify the characters on stage, especially as a handful actors would usually play many different characters throughout the play. Masks might also have been used to show what emotions and events each character was going through, for example in Sophocle’s Oedipus The King, the actor playing Oedipus could have had a mask designed without eyes for after he blinds himself.

When we deliver our workshops we get everyone to have a go at designing masks for different characters in their set texts and we are always amazed by their cleverness and creativity. So we created a Dramatic Mask Design edition of FIT Theatre Resources, including a print-at-home 2D mask template and an instructional video with tips on drawing your design from FIT Theatre’s Resident Artist. You can find all of these and more here.

Or if this inspired you, and you are interested in receiving one of our workshops, find our outreach menu here.

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