Embracing Carnival at Wake Forest was not something I had on my four-year to-do list until I enrolled in this class and learned that we would be immersed into the Carnival spirit in a theater classroom. Although I understood the broader concept of Carnival, I never imagined how masking myself would completely change my idea of masks and the individuals behind them.
According to the readings, in Venice, rigid social roles and rules dominate the public scene, with nobles being treated as such and with peasants living in the shadows. I thought about these social roles as we played the game with the cards on our foreheads during the workshop. Each person chose a card, placed it on their forehead, and had to walk around treating everyone like how they would treat someone of that particular status (two was the worst and Ace was the best). During the activity, I realized that people of high cards were looking down upon me and smirking, whereas people with lower cards would greet me pleasantly. I quickly caught onto that I had a low card, not the lowest, but for sure a four at least. This activity allowed me to live as if I were a Venetian from before the 1600s, when social castes ruled as much as the government.
The most surprising thing in the readings to me was how the Carnival participants would not only dress like a role, but act it out as well. Individuals dressed as, “kings, beggars, peasants, madmen, Turks, and Jews…” (Burke 185). Mockery proved to be a common theme among the characters in Venetian Carnival. When I placed the first mask on my face, I quickly decided that the mask represented a mysterious female figure, always alluring men and leaving them hanging. I decided to mock this character, since its prevalent all around the Wake Forest community, among men and women. At first, being behind the mask was awkward, but eventually the whole class got into it and embraced their characters. I began to change my identity, what I was feeling and how I was acting, to become this completely different yet intriguing person. Mocking a common practice satisfied my angst toward the annoying social pattern. I grew more aware of my body parts and how they were moving, and tried to walk, sway, and hold myself like my new alter ego. I embraced the new me, the masked me, and was able to gain a better grasp of masking during Venetian Carnival.