Through the history of the theatre, masks have been the essence of drama and theatre. They help actors to cover their own faces and identity, by becoming someone or something for a short period of time, entering new worlds. Masks help the actors’ search for new opportunities in their creativity and imagination, they help the actors by giving them different ways of communicating with each other and with the public by giving them new powerful possibilities.
Masks can have an effect on the actors making them believe in the illusion and getting them to forget that it is an illusion altogether and make the play became real, and to accept their new face and new role as a reality.
Face decorations are an old creative activity and a way to present yourself, the history of masks predates the history of drama, music and dance, and it plays a part in the story of humanity before language developed. The masks throughout history have primarily been made for use in ceremonies and have become symbols that represent different ages, places, and cultures.
The western civilization’s masks first emerged from the religious practices and in theatrical performances in ancient Greece. In the days when they celebrated Dionysus, the god of fecundity and the harvest, we discover the birth to the art of drama. Masks are pieces of art made from leather or painted canvas and have been used almost universally to represent characters, that represent various ages, ranks, and occupations.
They help artists to idealize their subjects or objects of interests and make them known, famous and immortal.
There is a theatrical phenomenon in the period of renaissance which was popular till the 18th century, known as commedia dell’arte, improvisations from scenarios usually based upon the dramas comic playwrights Plautus and Terence. The players of the commedia dell’arte were usually masked, they had a leather mask, black or colored, that covered all or half face, grotesque and fanciful masks. In this period masks were a really important part of the story. That period was the golden era of masks…
In 21 century masks are usually are used as gifts, or for decorations of the home. They became a rarity in theatre because today we are using modern and technological tools for achieving the same goal as the masks in the past.