Professor Al Duncan of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States presented a paper on ancient Greek theatre during the Classics Research Colloquium at UKZN.
The paper, titled: “The Materialism, Symbolism and Aesthetics of the Ancient Greek Theatrical Masks”, showcased the use and meaning of a variety of theatrical masks and costumes.
Duncan compared them to modern day “tools” and found that, although their function had evolved, ancient masks did share similarities with their modern counterparts, symbolising the arts in general.
‘How much is the mask separate from the costume?’ he asked during the presentation. He said his experiences directing and producing theatre made him curious about the role of costumes in the dramatic experience and he wanted especially to know what ancient theatregoers found ugly or beautiful.
In 2010, Duncan presented a paper at UKZN titled: “Ugliness and Painful Sight in Attic Tragedy”, during which he spoke about connections between ugliness and “painful sight” - that is, having a painful/unpleasant response to things seen in ancient Greek literature. It took as its focus the human fascination with seeing dead bodies in theatre (or, more frequently today, on television or in the cinema) though the reactions are quite different in real life.
‘I have been working on the Ugly project since 2009 but this current paper has been a separate project for the past six months’. He has an interest in researching Greek drama, aesthetics, and theatre history.