Monday, November 13, 2006

Using Masks in Theatre

In my theatre background, I have learned a lot about working with masks. I believe that this is an integral part of actor training. I believe that using masks allows an actor or actress to be able portray a character with their entire bodies. By having a mask whoĆ¢€™s expression does not change, an actor or actress does not have facial expressions to work with. Because of this, they must rely on their movements and voice. By not being able to USE the face as a tool for expression, an actor must learn how to portray emotions through body moments, such as running, walking or sitting.. and also through the expression of the body, a sloping of the shoulders or a quick, solid walk as opposed to a slow, lanky walk.

After learning these techniques, an actor is able to play a part without relying on their use of facial expressions. This allows an actor to act with their whole bodies. Therefore when the masks are no longer used, and an actor HAS the use of facial expressions, he still uses his body in a more stylized way because he has been trained that acting SHOULD use the whole body. When the facial expressions are added to the bodily expressions, actors are more fully able to act with their entire bodies, and NOT just their face. I feel that when an actor is able to use their ENTIRE bodies, INCLUDING their faces, they will be much better at their trade.
Neutral dialogues are included in actor training because they, too, are very important. From the use of them in our class, I learned that it isn't always the WORDS that are most important, it is the delivery of the words, and the premise behind them. The dialogues have words that in essence do not matter. It could even be repeating the same word over and over again. When an actor must create a situation and a reason for saying these words, the premise that he is basing his dialogue on becomes much clearer. The audience is able to discern his or her motivations from the way the lines are delivered and the actor is able to make a conclusion about the motivations of the other actors by listening to the way the other dialogues and lines are delivered. If an actor does them correctly, neutral dialogues can be extremely meaningful.

When an actor can create meaning from words that HAVE no meaning, he or she is truly presenting an idea to the audience, instead of simply words. By training with neutral dialogues, actors learn that yes, perhaps sometimes the lines they deliver ARE important, but they must not rely on the lines to create meaning. An actor must go into a scene with reasons and a purpose in mind. They must follow through on their reasons and purposes for the duration of the scene.

I feel that improvisations are done for a number of reasons. We do improvisations to loosen the body and the mind, and to create an atmosphere where actors are comfortable ACTING. In this atmosphere, an actor knows that anything goes and they can be free to make choices on the spot, choices that feel comfortable and that make sense in the scene, but are not necessarily DIRECTED by the script. Improvising also teaches an actor to make moves that are realistic and believable. When an actor improvises, they are creating a scene out of the top of their head, and this scene makes a lot of sense in relation to the other actors and the other ideas that are being presented.

Improvising teaches the performer to think on their feet and create situations which are realistic. This allows them to transfer these skills to acting with scripts. When they are using scripts, actors might have definite lines that MUST be said, and definite ideas that MUST be presented. However, they are still able to think on their feet and make movement choices that seem natural and realistic to the audience. Even when a director gives blocking to actors during a scene, the actors can still use the techniques they have learned with improvisation to appear real and natural when they do the movements they have been assigned.

The audience gains a lot from the improvisation techniques. When an audience is watching a group of actors that have learned to improvise, the movements they are doing on stage feel real and feel purposeful. The audience also benefits from witnessing the fluid movements of the characters.

Actors gain a lot from improvisation that they could transfer to standard plays. They learn the art of creating reasons for their movement. They also learn how to use their bodies to create a character and perform roles based on what the character is thinking and feeling, including their motivations for the actions that are not apparent with the lines and dialogue.

My favorite improvisations include the improvisations that entailed working with emotions and figuring out the emotions that the other people were feeling. I feel that these were my favorites because they allowed me to grow as an actor and gave me a chance to real feel out the roles I could create using my improvisation skills.
I think that theatre and theatre exercises relate very much to many aspects of my life, and the things that I have done. Like sports, acting requires a training of the body and a preparation for each day, such as the correct clothing and tools and mindset, as well as a general enjoyment of the tasks at hand. I think that action also relates very much to music, in the idea that it is a way of expressing your emotions in a creative sense. By allowing your body and spirit to become involved in the creation of the different characters in acting, you are creating reasons behind these lives and ideas. The exercises that you carry out in the theatre relate very much to the ideas behind sports and dance and martial arts. You have to be fluid with your body and allow the ideas behind your movements to drive the movements and create a physicality of the ideas themselves.

From doing theatre, I have grown in my self expression and imagination. By re-writing a script, creating ideas that go along with it, and doing many other things with the theatre as a whole, I have learned a lot about group dynamics and the reasons behind using collaborations to create something that is wonderful. By working together on an artistic project, I feel that I have grown as a member of a theatre troupe, which also makes me feel like I grew as a person as well. I am never afraid to try very difficult or very new things.

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