Egon Randlepp / mail


Self and other - The secret space of the character

In the process of observing and participating - taking notes and lessons, performing and seeking out other performers, directing, giving workshops, teaching, writing, and mulling over all of these experiences - I have come to regard the relationship of the mask to its wearer as a paradigm for the relationships between self and other (and self and self) that lie at the heart of theatrical process. (John Emigh, 1996)

Mask has always seemed to go hand in hand with theatre and other dramatic performances. In everyday life people are accused of "masking" their intentions or feelings, or of "hiding behind a mask". It has been like John Emigh says: a "transitional object" in performance event.(1) The gateway from the other side into our reality and other way around. We should observe this as a designing method for character constraction and how a performer is using her/his body according to the mask, which reshapes her/his imaginative sense of self. The actor should be considered as a meeting point for self and other, the space as melting-point for drama between real and virtual.

Mika Tuomola points out in his studies of Drama in Digital Domain that theatre, film, Multi-user Virtual World (MVW) and other media are never separate from the Real World or Real Life and in order to remain attractive to its audience, media must always maintain a living relationship with existing cultural reality and a person must be offered the possibility to place her/himself on all changing scales of it.(2)

Tuomola shows that Commedia dell´Arte (CdA) could provide tools not only for creating content to MVW but it also could be useful to construct attractive and beliveable characters without predefined script.

CdA was much like a chess game. It created interesting, dramatic situations not because the "game" was written beforehand but because the rules of representation were predefined and clear. Each character, like each chess piece, could only do certain things. They could only use certain masks, mimics, passages and properties. (M.Tuomola, Drama in Digital Domain)

We should not try to over regulate, pre-script neither the enviroment in which the action takes place or the character. There should be left at least some room for improvisation. The audience should also have a possibility to shape and interprete the story/character in a desired way.

CdA scenario only included the list of roles and properties , as well as summary of entrances, actions and exits. A CdA actor then improvised according to the general rules, his mask and the summary. In improvisation, an actor also used parts of performance often inherited from older actors of his character. (M.Tuomola, Drama in Digital Domain)

Social beings are constructed through the effects of language and representation. As a mere spectator a women (or a man) is not a stable unity of "consciousness", an undivided identity, but a term composed of a shifting series of ideological positions. The social beings are constructed day by day, as the point of articulation of ideological formations , an everprovisional encounter by the subject of codes within particular historical (and therefore changing) intersections of social formations and his or her personal accumulated history. While codes and social formations define positions of meaning, the individual continually re-works those positions into personal, subjective constructions.(3)

Manuel Castells claims that identety is people´s source of meaning and experience, and by identity we as human beings are able to understand the process of construction of meaning on the basis of a cultural attribute, or related set of cultural attributes, that is/are given priority over other sources of meaning. He argues that in a network society most social actors are organized around a primary identety as a frame for other identeties, self-sustaining across time and space.(4)

Masked performer could become interface of reality of our activities and thoughts, relationships between our everyday life and theories, our personal and professional life. Through the mask the body of the performer will not be limited only as a reflection in a public space. It will have a unlimited space inside itself, a character´s space. A character´s space as a privileged space of inimacy which is opened for interactors (others). The interactor could be able to reshape the character or even turn himself into a character.

Good question is, do "I" hit the goal or does the goal hit Me? As John Emigh has pointed out according to Herrigel:

Is it spiritual when seen by the eyes of the body, and corporeal when seen by the eyes of the spirit - or both or neither? Bow, arrow, goal and ego, all melt into one another, so that I can no longer separate them.


1. John Emigh: Masked Performance, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996
2. Mika Tuomola: Drama in the Digital Domain, Digital Creativity, Vol. 10, No.3
3. Teresa de Lauretis Alice Dosen´t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema London: Macmillan, 1984
4. Manuel Castells: The Power of Identity, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1997


[ back ]