Mask Work in Drama

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Last lesson was something very different and unusual to what we normally do. There was no warm-up, like we usually have. We went straight into the topic we were doing for the lesson. Masks. Here, we focused on the dramatic use of masks. Although the masks were not beautifully decorated with a large amount of detail in facial expressions, they provided us training with the clear, obvious looks on each separate mask. I will go into more detail about this aspect later in this composition. We were then asked to put ourselves into pairs. Each pair was given a specific mask.

Michelle and I got a mask looking something like the picture to the side. We then were told to go off and create two skits: one matching the face of the mask, and another one completely opposite to the face of the mask. At the end of the lesson, we performed our short productions. Acting usually consists of two main things, body language and facial expression. When working with masks, the option on facial expression is removed, as your face is covered. This means your only working tool is body language, which has to be twice as strong! The key word here is ‘exaggeration’.

I think exaggeration is one of the skills Ms. Delaney wanted us to improve, which is why she set us this mask activity. The skit where we had to work opposite to the mask was also a practice to develop the concept of sarcasm. For example, if you are wearing a sad, depressed mask, and you go on stage with a cartwheel and you’re jumping around with an excited body language, you are being sarcastic. Since our face was a rather bizarre face, we started by coming up with words to describe it. Confused, ‘mentally-challenged’, clueless, Annoying, and carefree were some of the words we came up with.

Our first skit was a comedy about a mask less person walking down the street, then choking and dieing, which is quite humorous already. Then, the other person (with the mask on) walks up to the dead person, not knowing what was going on. He then does absurd things like pick his nose and wipes it on the body. This is an example of a dense being. To exaggerate the role of being retarded, we used the tilting of the head, shuffling of feet with a variety of long and short steps, and the swaying of hands from side to side. The second skit was a little disorganized, because we didn’t know that we were supposed to also have an ‘opposite’ play.

However, our end product turned out well for that as well, not the best we could do, but nonetheless what was expected. We used the concept of being a very stressed, with caring about everything, like getting a wrong answer to the problem, or coming late to class. As we hoped, this worked, and it looked odd when the confused mask was used to act out a very stressed and over-emotional character. The exaggeration methods that were used were the movement of hands with spread out fingers, shaking of body and head, and a lot of ‘hands-on-head’ movement.

The only thing I think that our skits could improve on is practicing and organizing skit number two. When it was being performed, it was just improvised. We didn’t have planning or anything, all we knew was what the story was going to be about. Otherwise I believe the skit could have been much better. We could have made it more comical and added and organized some more parts. As it was a rather short piece altogether, we don’t have many improvements. However, looking at other performances, I noticed that we could have increased the amount of exaggeration. Other than that, the drama itself was too short to have much to improve on.

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