Masking the Human and the Misogyny of Masks

W. Anthony Sheppard

in Revealing Masks

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780520223028
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924741 | DOI:
Masking the Human and the Misogyny of Masks

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This chapter reconsiders masked performance in music theater, addressing the possible implications of the mask for the performer. It also looks behind the modernist devotion to exotic models of ritualized, “total” performance in order to investigate what deeper motives—conscious or unconscious—may be at play in these works. Statements of authorial intent tend to offer appreciations of exotic models and reports of how these models served in the creation of the work and how they were transcended. In most of the examples considered, the aspiration to create music theater serving a higher spiritual or political purpose was clear, however nebulous the specific function of the given work. One is repeatedly left wondering what these “rituals” were meant to bring about, and who or what was worshipped or transformed. The exotic masks valued by the modernists were often adopted not only to encode the work as a ritual and to transform the performer, but to exclude certain performers and more forcefully to assert authorial control.

Keywords: masked performance; masks; music theater; exotic models; performers

Chapter.  4140 words. 

Subjects: Applied Music

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