How to Make a Greek Theatre Mask

Written by john mack freeman
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How to Make a Greek Theatre Mask
Greek theatre masks are a long lasting tradition stemming from classical Greek theatre. (Theatre Masks image by Timothy Edgerton from Fotolia.com)

Traditional Greek theatre masks were used to delineate characters, amplify the voice, and provide clues to the audience about the emotional state of the characters. Masks are still used in some traditional versions of classic Greek plays, and traditional construction methods are still available to make these masks the most authentic possible. Although traditional masks used leaves for the layering on the masks, substituting this with paper mache makes the masks less fragile and more long-lasting.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Clay
  • Straws
  • Cloth (such as buckram or linen)
  • Newspaper
  • Glue
  • Paint

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Instructions

    Making a Greek Theatre Mask

  1. 1

    Mold the clay into the shape of the face of the person that is going to use this mask. This can either be done by hand or by softening the clay and pressing it on to the person's face. If pressing it on to the person's face, give him two straws to breathe through during this process. The mould should be about an inch thick.

  2. 2

    Add any important structural features needed for the mask to the clay such as cheekbones, eyebrows, hair, crowns, or any other accessory that the final mask will need. Some edits can be made after this point but it is easier to work with masks that already have some definition.

  3. 3

    Set the mould aside and allow it to set until completely dry. This may take up to three days.

  4. 4

    Attach the buckram to the inside of the mask by wetting the cloth and applying it to the inside of the mask. The cloth will serve as the first layer on the mask for the next step, so it is important that the fabric is as smooth as possible.

  5. 5

    Apply paper mache to the front of the mask to increase its structural integrity. Shape the paper mache in layers. Add layers of paper mache to adjust the mask's final shape and provide the texture desired in the facial expression.

  6. 6

    Poke holes out for the eyes and mouth. Do this carefully as the mask, while solid, is still fragile.

  7. 7

    Paint the mask with paint (acrylic paint works fine). Allow the mask to set while the paint dries. Apply multiple layers of paint if the paper mache shows through the first layer of paint.

Tips and warnings

  • Plaster can be substituted for clay if you prefer to make plaster masks instead. The rest of the steps remain the same regardless of this substitution.
  • The mask is fragile throughout the entire construction process. Make sure to store it properly.

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