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Mask in Theatre. masakhaمَسَخَ be transfomed. Put on a mask and anything is possible. Suddenly you can move, act, and think differently. The mask embodies the potential for transformation of all kinds - emotional, spiritual, physical, and symbolic. Greek Italian Japan Korean

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mask in theatre

Mask in Theatre


be transfomed


Put on a mask and anything is possible.

Suddenly you can move, act, and think differently.

The mask embodies the potential for transformation of all kinds - emotional, spiritual, physical, and symbolic.






Chinese Opera

greek theatre
Greek Theatre

Thalia, the muse of comedy &

Melpomene, the muse of tragedy

greek theatre 5 th century bc comedy tragedy
Greek Theatre 5th Century BCComedy & Tragedy

Big eyes and mouth

Exaggerated expression

Project broad emotions (happiness, sadness, anger) to audience from great distance

Change of characters (Performance limited to 3 actors)

commedia dell arte 16 th 18 th century
Commedia-dell-arte16th – 18th Century

Inspired Venetian Masks for the Carnival – the Mardi Gras

characterization zanni

Zanni originates from Giovanni,

a typical name of servants in Italy.

The role of Zanni is very changeable;

silly, simple-minded and vulgar.

Zanni can also be sly, cunning and cheeky.

Zanni is always poor and hungry.

characterization pierrot


He is a kind and good character but to the point that he blames himself for the wrongs he never did.

Too trusting and naïve, he is often cheated, joked on by others.

noh classical japanese theatre
Noh Classical Japanese Theatre
  • Performed since the 14th century
  • Tradition more than innovation
  • Influenced more dramatic form of theatre such as the Kabuki
  • Only SHITE, the main character, wears the mask
  • Masks are used to represent female or non-human characters (deities, demons, animals)
characterization deigan
Characterization Deigan
  • Expression of a middle-aged woman
  • Deeply devoted to a loved one
characterization hannya
  • Horns and sharp fangs are characteristic of a demon.
  • Demon who is transformed from a woman because of jealousy and anger.
  • Hannya seeks vengence

Extravagant masks for deities or monsters

  • Uses body language to express emotions
  • Medium expression
  • Subtle
  • Versatile; can express a number of emotions by tilting the masks / adjusting the lighting
korean t al
Korean T’al

Masks are grotesque, exaggerated and use dark and bright colors to suit performance at night by wood fires.

Red, black, white colors are favored.

Most of the masks depict human faces but some represent deities and animals.

An interesting feature is that the masks of yangban, the upper class gentlemen, are almost always deformed: a lopsided mouth, a distorted nose or squint eyes. (a reflection of the commoners' hostility toward the privileged class)

chinese opera
Chinese Opera

One of the oldest known dramatic art forms worldwide

Chinese opera masks are significant in a way that they represent the characters’ personalities and intense moods.

Opera masks are also used to represent various human emotions which leads to the “changing face” technique. (frequent on-stage change of facial expression)

characterization guan yu

CharacterizationGuan Yu

Red indicates devotion, courage bravery, uprightness and loyalty.

A typical "red face" is Guan Yu, general of the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280)

He is famous for his faithfulness to his Emperor, Liu Bei.

characterization cao cao
CharacterizationCao Cao
  • The white face is common on the stage for the powerful villain.
  • It highlights all that is bad in human nature: cunning, craftiness, and treachery.
  • Cao Cao, powerful and cruel prime minister in the time of the Three Kingdoms / Qin Hui, treacherous Song Dynasty prime minister who put the national hero YueFei to death
masks in theatre
Masks in Theatre

Traditionally, masks were used for practical reasons:

- for audience to see the expressions of actor/actress to be seen from a great distance

- for a change of characters throughout the performance

Later, masks allow for the creative interpretation of characters

- the colors, lines and shapes become symbolic and meaningful

- stock character (stereotypical fictional characters) can also be represented












masks and culture1
Masks and Culture

Performance and dance (Harvest dance)

Religious rituals (Initiation rites)

Death mask