Lie and Glorious Adjective, an Excerpt from an Interview with Peter Brook

RALPH EUGENE MEATYARD, Romance (N.) from Ambrose Bierce # 3, 1962, Fraenkel Gallery

RALPH EUGENE MEATYARD, Romance (N.) from Ambrose Bierce # 3, 1962, Fraenkel Gallery

PARABOLA: What effect does [wearing a mask] have on the person wearing it?

PETER BROOK: I will speak of my experience with the Balinese masks, but I have to go back one step before that. One of the first, knockout exercises that you can do with actors, which is used in lots of theater schools where they use masks, is putting a plain, blank, white mask on someone.

The moment you take someone’s face away in that way, it’s the most electrifying impression: suddenly to find oneself knowing that that thing one lives with, and which knows is transmitting something all the time, is no longer there. It’s the most extraordinary sense of liberation. It is one of those great exercises that whoever does for the first time counts as a great moment: to suddenly find oneself immediately for a certain time liberated from one’s own subjectivity. And the awakening of a body awareness is immediately there with it, irresistibly; so that if you want to make an actor aware of his body, instead of explaining it to him and saying, “You have a body and you need to be aware of it,” just put a bit of white paper on his face and say, “Now look around.” He can’t fail to be instantly aware of everything he normally forgets, because all the attention has been released from this great magnet on top.

—An excerpt from “Lie and Glorious Adjective,” an interview with English theatre and film director and innovator, Peter Brook on the subject of the transformative power of mask PARABOLA, Vol. 6., Issue 3, “Mask & Metaphor,” Fall 1981. This issue is available here.