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Question42 Why do supporting actors not wear masks?

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There are several rules specifically applied to supporting actors. Firstly, they play parts opposite to leading actors. Secondly, they normally play male parts. This is also true if they are third supporting actors. Finally, they never wear masks. Though Noh is counted as one of the masques, supporting actors, those considered to be important performers, do not wear masks; or they rather have a rule not to wear one. It is because supporting actors play parts of living men. They are opposite to leading actors, so they would be on an equal footing with the audience.

Noh plays have a wide variety of outlooks on the world. Leading actors sometimes depict beings in dreams or in visions disconnected with reality, and sometimes play roles of human beings similarly to supporting actors, and act with violence. You see leading actors with or without masks. Variety in such roles of leading actors gives Noh plays diversity. The play will have a fine unity when supporting actors serve as a medium between the performance and the audience to help them share the world.

(Sep 24, 2008)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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