Did you know that in Greek theatre, ‘persona’ (πρόσωπον) was the name of the mask worn by the actors? Depending on the character which they were representing, they would wear one mask or another. Each one with a different hairstyle, make-up, etc. This month, our students in Year 3 have taken part in an interesting and fun workshop about Ancient Greece, as part of our support for Humanities classes. On this occasion, the students were able to use clay to make a replica of an ancient Greek theatre mask.
Some experts say that Greek theatre is one of the highest examples of cultural indebtedness, which our modern society owes Greek classical culture. We can even see its influence in Theatre today. Theatre (from the Greek: θέατρον, theátron «a place for contemplation») flourished in Ancient Greece between 550 a.C. y 220 a.C., and the performances were staged in an outdoor, semicircular space, called orchestra. There was a great variety of artistic performances (dances, recitals and musical pieces), and also other civil and religious events. These are the first examples of the genres of drama, comedy and tragedy.
At first, when the performances were mainly religious ceremonies, the Greek actors wore masks or hid their faces using mud or saffron, because the very act of hiding ones face was in itself a ritual. Later, when the theatre was theatre, the mask allowed the so called actor to transform and play different characters. There was normally only 3 actors in each performance and women were not included. There were masks for older, younger and female roles, etc. As time went on, the artists managed to create very realistic looking masks.
Furthermore, the masks were big and over-sized, so they were much more noticeable to the audience, as were the boots (stilts) worn in proportion, to stomp about the seating aisles. The masks also served as “megaphones” raising the actors voices.