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The Lampert Collection

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All these Masks, constructed by Paul Lampert of York University, are designed for actor training, although they have also been the source for the development of one new play script, specifically derived from the character improvised around one of the Columbine masks, and for several different theatrical performances.

Variations on traditional Commedia dell'Arte masks
The Italian traditional farce, going back to the comic or satiric Lazzi of the 16th Century, remains an inspiration for mask-makers in Europe and North America

Different tonal frames for expression are suggested sometimes purely by colour (as with the basic Brighella model), or by small shifts in shape together with changes in colour (as in the two Arlecchino / Harlequin alternates).

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Differences in nature are indicated by altering size and relationships of eyes and facial masses (as with the quintessentially feminine Columbine masks), or by defining symbolic qualities (as with the bird or eagle traits of the Dottore masks).

For the 16th Century source of these contemporary variations, see European Traditions.

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Neutral Masks
Neutral Masks — as the designation suggests — are white or non-specific in colour and designed to be non-specific in personality and expression, even in gender, so as to leave the actor complete freedom to establish character through gesture and posture alone. Today specifically used for training in physical expressiveness, these masks have the most ancient European antecedents. However, as these examples show, the human eye automatically attributes characteristics to shape and variations in mass on any "face" — so that the masks in this category still appear to have distinct and different personalities or genders.

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Character Masks
More specific in some ways than the Commedia inspired personas, while less bound to stock types, Character Masks correspond to clichés of personality in shape and/or defined expression. As here, they can be neutral in colour, or use tones designed to accentuate their qualities. Unlike the Neutral Mask, they impose a particular character or mode on the actor, and serve as a method for developing appropriate gestural expression for the type of figure.

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Experiments with Materials and Symbols
A Mask can be made of identifiable materials that have specific relevance for a performance piece, or for a theme — as here with the use of visible newsprint, incorporating legible headlines. Clearly defined icons are also sometimes used: generally — as with the Devil of Christianity, here derived from Carnival or originally perhaps from Medieval Passion Plays — for pantomime roles, or in liturgical plays. Alternatively the use of a colour can be symbolic if sufficiently strident and unnatural. These masks tend to be the least useful for actor-training purposes.

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Emotional Expression
Like the ancient Greek masks of Tragedy and Comedy, contemporary masks too can be shaped to transmit or codify specific emotions, although these no longer have iconic significance as representatives of a whole theatrical genre. To some extent these overlap with the more general character masks that portray a type of personality.

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