Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nancy Sultan's comedy/tragedy masks

This is a guest post by Nancy Sultan of Illinois Wesleyan University.  (Note: Nancy will be giving a presentation on the IWU Megalensia at CAAS in October, so our NEH Institute will be publicized again.)

Nancy Sultan, director of Greek and Roman Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, regularly stages readings and scenes from Greek and Roman plays in her classes. Curtis Trout, professor of scenic design in the IWU School of Theatre Arts, regularly teaches courses in Properties for the Stage and Scene Painting.  These two collaborate frequently, with amazing results. Together they have staged two full productions of Greek plays (Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Euripides' Trojan Women) and have established a permanent collection of props, masks, and backdrops for the performance of Greek and Roman plays.

The latest collaboration has resulted in a full set of masks for Greek tragedy and Roman comedy. Curtis worked with Nancy to design the masks based on historical sources—vase paintings, frescoes, and manuscript illuminations. Using stiff, yet light, cardboard, Curtis created a template for the structure of the masks that students in his "properties for the theatre" class executed. Students painted each mask with individualized details for each stock character. Inside the Greek tragedy masks Curtis inserted an adjustable baseball cap for wearing comfort. The Roman comedy masks are smaller, and are held in place comfortably with ribbon. The masks belong to Greek and Roman Studies, but can be rented on request.

Here are some photos:

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