The mask and the actor

The mask demands energy and size. It is all about filling the mask with life. Since the mask is stylized and extends parts of the face or is larger than life, it demands another form of dynamism than the realistic. The mask does not only allow bigger movements – it demands them. Everyday movements kill the masks, since they don’t match the mask.
If we for example wear a Capitano mask with a half meter nose and huge eyebrows or a giant larva mask three times our heads, it is impossible to move as if we were in a realistic play.
It is the body that gives life and expression to the mask. It is not enough that the mask use big gestures. If the mask just stand and wave with arms and legs it does not give life to the mask, it becomes more of a jumping jack. The gestures have to come from the torso and wander out to the limbs. It is really in the torso where life in the mask is born. It is also there that postures and movements are living.
It is just as with the voice in a half mask, it has to come from the torso, or rather the guts in this case. When doing so the posture and movements of the masks help us. We do not need to invent or seek for a voice to the mask. If we find the postures and gestures of the mask from the torso, use high energy and big movements, the voice of the mask will come to us. It is there in the mask.

Because of the necessity to use the body as a vehicle for the mask is also crucial to keep a distance from the audience. If we get to close to the audience they will not only be too scared to see us when they have us in their lap, but they will also not be able to see the body of the mask and therefore the mask will die. All the audience will see is a dead, static piece of leather, paper, wood or whatever the mask is made of.

But we also have to use the mask technique in order to be seen and understood. The mask does not work from all angles. Even though the mask can be used in profile as “a profile image” it cannot show its feelings, desires or objectives. It has to look straight out to the audience. We still look at the face of the mask to see what is inside of him, even though we don’t see the face of the actor. (See HERE). Therefore we use “takes” as a window of the mask. This technique is not really required since most Vulgar Comedy does not the idea of a forth wall.
I have written about this much more rigorous HERE, it is about Commedia dell’Arte but it goes for most masks as well.

See also:
Mask technique in Commedia dell’Arte
Stanislavsky v/s Vulgar Comedy
Micke’s videos

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  1. Pingback: To play mask | Commedia dell'Arte & Vulgar Comedy

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