Author: Katerina Gikopoulou
Translator: Elissavet Botsaki
“Our whole life is nothing but questions which hide inside them the answers we seek. These answers bear new questions. He who believes that something else is happening, is crazy” Metric, (1993)
Every time someone asks me whether I believe that theater, as a therapeutic mean, can make him feel better, I reply: “For whom, why and in what sense you wish to feel better?” In theater, the subject is ready to physically and emotionally accept another subject via others. Thus, any form of expression becomes dramatic where others are present. This presence is similar to the one within us; we are the actors of our own life.
Through theater the subject lives two realities: his personal and the one he performs. Thus, he has the opportunity to express himself without exposing his actual face and this is one therapeutic aspect of theater. Theater gives the opportunity for expression of any kind, without any form of censorship, fear or stress. Theater opens a new door for expression which is fueled by the nature of the role, since the subject-actor is covered and protected by the role itself which is laid upon him like a veil. These two realities create the “true reality” of the individual.
At this point, the issue of the masks is emphasized. Why do we use masks in the theater? The mask is used to separate the actor from the simple man, the role from the reality and sets the wearer of the mask as the representative of the character. The mask has always been a core element in the theater, as it helps shift characters and situations. The mask is used by the actor as a bond between him and the divine, heroic, real or fictitious character which he embodies. On the other hand, the mask is used by the audience as an allusion between the series of events which occur. The mask creates a sense of mystery and wonder to the audience, a wonder as to what is hidden behind the mask and how does it look like. Sometimes, the character does not wish to remain hidden but instead needs to express himself passionately, but at the same time under the protection that the mask offers him,” I avoid myself in order to discover myself, I cover myself to reveal myself, this is the purpose of the mask” as Tsarouxis firmly said in one of his letters (1997). If I act as being someone else, a role, I am in a safe distance from my Ego, giving me the opportunity to experiment.
So, how can we pass from the level of mental illness to being cured? One could say that this is a long journey, a long distance from the person as a unit to the personality as a whole. In my opinion, it is not necessary to isolate these two concepts. According to Bion (1979) all of us have two sides, a gloomy and a sane one. Each person lives and experiences his personal agony. The goal is to manage to co-exist in peace with this agony and not without it. Thus, the theater and by extension the masks we wear pretty often, helps us to discover ourselves even via someone else. Each mask is associated with a myth, so in this case we can refer to the “personal myth” of the individual, his personal story which he gradually discovers in depth. Distancing ourselves from the Ego is what helps the most in order to understand ourselves, our weaknesses and our true potential. If we remove the mask, our unconscious joins our conscious and we come closer to our real self.
Bion, W.R. (1979). Aux sources de l’expérience. Paris: PUF.
Klein, J-P. (1993). L’art en thérapie. Marseille : Hommes et Perspectives.