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Unmasking the Actor: Covering the face to liberate the body


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Unmasking the Actor is a theatre performance course that provides students with a series of tools to allow them not to “play themselves” but to “play using themselves”. The course is based on the performance philosophy and practice of Jacques Lecoq, where an investigation of the mechanics of the body is applied to dramatic creation using different acting traditions. Students analyze their body and movement with four different kinds of mask: Neutral mask, Larval mask, Commedia dell’Arte mask and the smallest mask in the world, the red nose of the clown. In this process, the disguise drives the students to discover emotions, movements and thoughts far from their habitual and comfortable modes of performance; by gradually removing the disguise, they reach self-awareness and learn how to enjoy their presence on stage. Combining the methodologies of Jacques Lecoq, Carlo Boso and Philippe Gaulier the course is a careful study of stage performance and its effects.

Learning Outcomes

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Topic Outlines

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Grading Rubric

No grading rubric.


  • Participation (15%) Participation means being present and proactive in the class. Students will be asked to lead acting exercises without prior warning. In working with the mask, students will be encouraged to practice and improvise without fear, and to question themselves. Participation also means letting yourself go in the play space, being mindful but carefree.
  • Attentive listenting and involvement (25%) Most of the exercises require the attention of the spectator. The silent participation of students who are temporarily out of the work space can enrich a performance exercise. In group work, students will be asked to concentrate and remain present, and ready to collaborate. Distraction and carelessness can weaken a performance. Attentive listening and learning to give and receive constructive criticism are crucial traits of this class.
  • Preparation (30%) Students are expected to conduct research outside of class in order to generate original individual improvisation and creations. Their work must provide evidence that ample time was devoted to research and study, and applied to the practical exercises that will build their final projects. At the end of each mask analysis - four in total - students are required to send an email to the instructor, reflecting upon class experiences and participation in the work. At the end of Larval, Commedia and Clown sessions, students are expected to create a short scene/improvisation. This may take the form of a 3 to 5 minute original scene inspired by in-class improvisations.
  • Progress (30%) One third of the final grade is based on the student’s ability to understand and process new stimuli, ideas and working methods, and to progressively incorporate them in his/her practice as an actor. The ability to question their beliefs, not to remain anchored in previous habits and conventions, either physical and emotional, is taken into consideration here.


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Course Resources

University website

Uploaded by Common Syllabi on 2023-04-20