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Mardi Gras: The Celebration and the Mask

Gras Man Mask

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent, the traditional period of penance that precedes Easter, begins. The origin of “Fat Tuesday” is believed to have come from a pagan custom of parading a fat ox through the streets before a period of fasting. The celebration surrounding the parade was filled with excessive eating drinking and general bawdy behavior before the fast.

Mardi Gras Beast Mask

Masks have been part of human celebrations since primitive man picked up an animal head and put it on to act out the hunt prior to sharing in the bounty of the kill. Their use grew from these simple celebratory stories to the telling of stories of creation, ritual practice, use in theater, opera and dance. Masks tend to carry within them the stories of the cultures from which they originate as well as reflect the tone and theme of the ritual celebrations of life for which they are used. The masks of Mardi Gras carry this history as well.

Carnival masks and Mardi Gras masks have their origins in ritual celebration and the tradition of disguise for the mingling of classes, the ability to engage in deviant behavior without retribution and the representation of the celebratory themes. For example, many of the masks in the Swiss Carnival celebration are drawn form the rituals of putting on frightening masks, grabbing a drum and a bunch of cow bells and running down the mountain side to scare away the spirit of winter and bring in the spring.

Gras Man Mask

Mardi Gras has a 300 year history in the City of New Orleans and is rooted in the French affinity for masked balls, royal ceremony and public entertainments. French culture finds itself married to the African culture’s attraction to ritual art, rhythm, mask traditions, dance, spirit and soul. Mardi Gras, the Carnival of America, is the largest masked part on the continent.

The tradition of wearing masks at Mardi Gras has evolved since the late nineteenth century. Originally the use of masks was considered a diversion for poor people and the reputation of especially women who wore masks during Mardi Gras was in question. Today the wearing of Masks in Mardi Gras is widely practiced by all. The Mardi Gras mask and costume allow the wearer to transcend his or her daily life in a mass of others who are doing the same thing. The transcendence is the magic and power of the Mardi Gras celebration.

Mardi Gras Flag
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2020 Mask Workshop Welcome!!  Jonathan Becker offers on-site workshops in partnership with The North American Laboratory of the Performing Arts, a small institute dedicated to a broad cultural exploration of the performing arts, the creation of new works, the exploration of fundamental principles and inspiring artists to be agents of change.

The Mansion, in Muncie, IndianaThe Mansion

The Charles Over Mansion in Muncie, Indiana’s historic district provides an ideal setting for artistic retreat and study. The workshops are held at the Mansion or in the historic theatres and studio spaces of downtown Muncie. Workshop participants are housed at The Mansion and other locations within the historic district all within walking distance of the workshop location, restaurants for dinner and Muncie’s quiet nightlife. The Mansion at 825 East Washing Street is one of Muncie’s greatest architectural offerings.  The beauty and handwork of the structure itself are an inspiration to its visitors.

Masks in Performance Teacher/Actor Training Workshop – June 22-26, 2020

A workshop for performers, students and teachers. Explore one of the most effective methods of actor training through Neutral, Larval and Character Half Mask. the mask tangibly reveals to the actor the intricacies of the art of performance, directing and an application of understandings to all styles of acting.


Mask Making: An Exploration of Expressive Form Workshop – June 16-19, 2020

This workshop explores the entire process and understandings necessary to create an expressive form, a mask that appears to change expression as it moves through space. 

Acting Mask Training

Each Workshop is $750 and includes lodging, breakfast and lunch for five days.

Early Bird Special - Save $150

Register before April 1, 2020 and receive the full of week of training, lodging and meals for only $600.

Flexible Payment Available

We recognize that even $600 can be a significant investment for theater practitioners and instructors, so we offer flexible payment plans. Reserve your spot today with only $200, and pay the remainder before the workshop begins. We also offer financial aid for qualified participants and grant submission support. Contact Jonathan if you are interested.