Behind the Face


The human face is a kind of mask which we often use to hide our true feelings. This might be out of self-preservation, fear, hatred, misguided love or eccentricity. The face as a mask offers some interesting opportunities to create drama in this 90 minute workshop.

TARTILA/ADOBESTOCK

Learning objectives

  • To explore facial expressions and inner motivations
  • To develop physicality in devising drama
  • To work collaboratively to create a drama

Materials, resources and research

If there are any masks in school, then they may be useful, otherwise if there is time, cardboard masks could be made by students. Information about comedy/tragedy theatre masks can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/DTSu2OOW

Resource

BBC Bitesize Drama Medium, Masks. Students can use their own faces as the masks. www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zyr7fg8/revision/3

Warm-ups (10 mins)

  • In pairs, have a conversation where neither says what their faces show: real anger is said through a smiling face; love expressed through an angry face
  • In small groups, stage a short mime where faces move from telling the truth to covering up the truth and back again.

Teacher-led discussion (10 mins)

Discuss how we often don't say what we really think but our faces show more honesty. Or we often put on a special, appropriate face for an occasion, like congratulating a winner, or pretending sympathy but being secretly delighted. Can students give examples of any of these? The tears of the clown sums it up – outwardly grinning, inwardly crying – or the broken woman ‘putting on a brave face’ for the sake of her family.

Outline of activities (10 mins)

If masks are available, experiment with body language that a) does and b) doesn't match the face of the mask. Remember that face masks may be full face or only partial.

If not, go straight to a reminder of drama techniques available for this drama piece – mime, gesture, still images, levels, highlighting a moment, cross-cutting, narration in-role or out, and slow motion.

Students work in small groups, say up to 5, if possible. Ensure slower students are not excluded. Ask all to spend a moment thinking through the who, the how, the what, the when and the why of their chosen character. Let that determine the setting where all group members would be together and know each other.

Task choice 1 (30 mins)

  • In groups, ask them to create a scene in which one character shares a dark secret with another (willingly or not). Others enter and are unaware that all is not sweetness and light because of the outward mask-faces being shown.
  • Create a second scene which follows a few minutes later when the cover up is revealed and the true faces are shown in an outburst of hatred, loathing, bitterness and jealousy.
  • Create the conclusion a moment later when normality has resumed and everyone is hiding behind their happy masks again, but something has changed – trust has been killed.
  • If there is time, cross-cut scenes to make for stronger drama.

Task choice 2 (30 mins)

  • In groups, ask them to create a scene in which a social media influencer is broadcasting an outwardly super happy and hyper-successful lifestyle in hair, clothes, accessories, holidays and relationships surrounded by caring friends.
  • Create a second scene which follows a few minutes later when everyone's true faces are shown in an outburst of hatred, loathing, bitterness and jealousy.
  • Create the conclusion a moment later when normality has resumed and everyone is hiding behind their happy masks again, but something has changed – trust has been killed.
  • If there is time, cross-cut scenes to make for stronger drama.

Other stimuli

Sharing and showing so far (20 mins)

Allow time for some sharing of parts of the work so far, perhaps one scene from each group. Invite one self-, one peer- and offer one teacher review after each group's sharing.

Summary of learning

  • Make notes for further drama learning. Use of masks and/or faces as masks. The truth is not always shown by an outward facial expression
  • Discuss others' opinions. How do most students perceive the use of facial expression and gesture in drama? What have they mastered in this session to add to their repertoire of drama techniques?

Following up

  • When watching drama, soap, documentaries or the news on TV, see how often the face is not showing what the speaker really believes
  • Watch the film, The Mask (1994, PG) for a light-hearted treatment of facial expressions, masks and meanings.