In Ancient Greek Theatre masks played a vital role in characterisation and performance.
Illustrations of theatrical masks from 5th century display helmet-like mask, covering the entire face and head, with holes for the eyes and a small aperture for the mouth, as well as an integrated wig. It is interesting to note that these paintings never show actual masks on the actors in performance; they are most often shown being handled by the actors before or after a performance, that liminal space between the audience and the stage, between myth and reality.
This demonstrates the way in which the mask was to ‘melt’ into the face and allow the actor to vanish into the role. Effectively, the mask transformed the actor as much as memorisation of the text. Therefore, performance in ancient Greece did not distinguish the masked actor from the theatrical character.
Today in Year 7 Drama the students created and decorated their own Ancient Greek Masks, looking at simple designs as a starting point and discussing the effective use of masks in this traditional theatre style.