Masks

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There are masks that reveal rather than conceal.

The actors we learn to love are masters of revelation through donning masks that teach, masks that unveil, that display something otherwise dormant , not yet present. We learn to revel in double vision.

We see an actor — often a person we already know something about — about their off-stage life as well as other roles they may have played. And as the lights dim and the person becomes their on-stage role, the mask they now don takes over. We see the actor we already know. More importantly we see the mask this actor uses to reveal a character in the present drama we’ve entered the theater to enjoy.

Of course bandits use masks to hide an identity. But when Meryl Streep appears in The French Lieutenant’s Woman she reveals an identity not her own.

Theater is a stage for masks that reveal. An actor will rehearse her role — work to make her mask properly and convincingly true to the character she portrays.

Sometimes masks are there for comic relief.

Are we looking at a mask here? If so, it’s there for comedy. It hides, but unlike the mask of a fine actor, it doesn’t reveal anything more than our puzzled discomfort.

Great actors are masters at masking — and masters at assuming masks that reveal untold wonders, that reveal persons we would otherwise never know.

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