Supporting the Mask

We talk about supporting the mask by embodying the character from head to toe. The performer must also support the mask with a heightened energy – still grounded in truth, but slightly more elevated than a performer without a mask.

The phrase in French is “porter le masque” – the same word as “carry.” (In the early days of travel we had porters to lift our bags for us.) You have the obligation to lift the mask – keep it supported – so the energy of the character is emitted from the mask, like the beam of light from a lighthouse. An unmasked actor is free to stare at the floor, brooding or musing, if that is what’s right for the character in that moment. But a mask looking down at the floor, or worn by a performer with no physical presence, has lost its expressive power.

Arne neutral mask

The energy of the mask is larger than the physical mask itself. It is a kind of aura, reaching at least a foot out from the face of the performer. Two masked characters must stay at least two feet from each other, or their energies collide and cancel each other out.

Even in a photograph, one can see whether a performer is supporting the mask. The character is alive, the mask sees – the energy is actually visible.

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