Make Your Own Masks and Shakespeare

For a college project, FIU student, Samantha Palomino created masks for our 2017 School & Community Tour of The Taming of the Shrew in the style of Commedia del’Arte. She has shared the process with us so you too can make your own mask at home. Remember to share photos with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Commedia del’ Arte was a Theatre style developed by a traveling improvisational show in Italy. The shows centered around a certain group of caricatures including, lovers, old perverts, and reedy servants, displaying hilarious antics in masks with exaggerated features, like large noses or flared eyebrows and perked cheeks. The style was so popular that future playwrights would use these characters as inspiration for their own, such as Tartuffe by Moliere and Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare.

Materials Needed:

Plaster of Paris
Face Mold
White Glue
Paint Brush
Molding Clay
Acrylic Gloss
Mod Podge
Fake Hair/Fabric for decoration
Elastic, thread or ribbon

Step 1 (If using a Pre-made store bought face mold, exclude this step)
Prepare a face mold to build upon as the inside of your mold. First apply Vaseline or any other kind of nontoxic lubricant to the face, especially over any facial hair. Cover your face in wet plaster strips from rolled plaster and wait until warm and dry. To remove, scrunch and open your face to loosen the plaster face mold and  gently pull off. Apply Vaseline to the inside of the mask as well. Use a quick drying kind of cement like mixture and fill. Let sit till completely dry (24 hours) and remove.

Step 2
Use the face mold to apply modeling clay creating large cheeks, pronounced eyebrows and very broad features for the foundation of the mask. The exaggerated features make it specific to the Commedia del’Arte style.

Step 3
Now for your paper mache mix. Start with 2 oz of the white elmers glue, 1 tbsp of water, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, and mix. Then add ¼ cup of Plaster of Paris and mix. The vinegar keeps the mix from setting so quickly. Add one coat of this mix to the face without paper. Then add small to medium strips of paper and add another coat of plaster. Add paper, then another layer of plaster and one more layer of paper and last coat of plaster paste.

Step 4
Cleanup time, sand down any wrinkles of paper and use one coat of Acrylic gloss. This will smooth out any mistakes, and give a smooth finish.

Step 5
Now cut away any excess paper mache for the desired shape. Clean and even up the edges with sandpaper.

Step 6
Add a layer of Mod Podge to clean up the rough outside. Let dry and wait till dry. Now the surface is smooth enough to paint, and seal with acrylic gloss. Now that the outside is decorated, you can add felt to the inside for comfort and foam to fill in any spaces. Add either ribbon, thread or elastic into small holes to hold onto the face.

Decorate creatively and according to the character!

See the performance Sun Feb 26 at 3pm at the Sandrell Rivers Theater OR Sun Mar 5 at The Seminole Theatre!

Thank you to our collaborators What if Works, Inc and FIU Associate Professor, Phillip Church.