ROMAN THEATRE AND MASKS
The Romans copied theater from Greece, and the best actors of Roman plays
were usually Greek. Stage shows were first put on as part of religious
festivals, and were later paid for by the wealthy to gain popularity.
Tickets were free-if you could get them.
| Although Romans of all classes enjoyed the plays,
they thought the actors were strange people. Women were not allowed
to sit near the front, in case they were tempted to run off with one of
the performers! In writing comedies Roman playwrights imitated Greek plays.
Roman audiences preferred comedies to tragedies.
||The stories were about wealthy people being kidnapped, or foolish old
men and clever slaves, but they usually had a happy ending.
The Romans also invented new types of performances, such
as mime and pantomime, in which an actor danced and told a story without
speaking while others sang and played music.
Here are several examples of real Roman masks both Comic and Tragic
|The classic symbol of theater: tragic and comic masks .
Roman actors were men who wore colorful masks (women could appear only
in mimes). The masks indicated the types of characters - young and
old, male and female, gods and heroes. They were lightweight, but
hot to wear.
||TRAGIC FACE -below is a marble carving of a female tragic mask.
Actual masks were probably made of shaped and stiffened linen. There
was an open mouth for the actor to speak through, and holes for him to
More real Roman masks
A COMIC ACTOR
The disrespectful, scheming slave was one of the usual characters of Roman
comedy. When his plans were found out, he often ended up hiding in
a temple, sitting on the altar, like the bronze figure here. He was safe
from his pursuers until he moved !
A TROUPE OF PLAYERS -
This mosaic shows a group of actors in costumes and masks. The piper
is dressed as a woman and will be wearing the white mask of a female character.
Another actor is being helped into his costume.
A ROMAN THEATER
Roman theaters were usually open to the sky. This
one in France could hold 9,000 people on the curving rows of seats.
The massive wall at the back of the stage once had 76 decorative stone
columns and three doors through which the actors made their entrances.
The mime was a favorite of the ordinary townsfolk. It was a sort
of crude comedy, and was very different from modern mime, because the actors
spoke. Regular plays were performed in the large theatres, but mimes
were performed on rough wooden stages set up in the streets. The actors
did not wear masks, and women played female roles. Mime had regular characters,
like stupidus, the fool. Can you guess the story of this mime from
the objects these clay figures hold- a bag of money, a lamp, a dagger?
What do you think the story was ?
These clay figures show a group of mimes performing a play.