Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Brief History of Theatre Masks

Theatre masks are an important part of our dramatic history. Nearly every ancient culture used some form of theatrical mask in rituals. Rituals, it has been determined, were the thing which allowed theatre to develop. Rituals were, in other words, primitive theatre.

Because this theatre was 'primitive', acting, as a skill and an art, had not yet been developed. Therefore, the person on stage did not know how to not be himself and the audience was not yet trained to imagine that he were the character he was playing. They used theatre masks as a way to let the audience know what character it was that they were watching.

Masks have generally been used as a significance of character. They let the audience know who the actor is portraying. Though this is not always true. They sometimes have additional uses. For example, the ancient Greek theatre masks had a unique oval shaped mouth which functioned as a megaphone, allowing all of the hundreds of thousands of spectators to hear what was going on.

Theatre masks did not stop being used once the art of acting was developed, nor once microphones became standard on stages. They are still in use today and are used by many theater companies. One of the best known uses of masks in today's theatre is in 'The Lion King' on Broadway.

The use of masks in theatre has a rich background and an even richer future. This article only touches on the fascinating history which these masks hold.

Learn more about the history of theatre masks and more at


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