Thursday evening was the date of the Pinter/Proust staged reading at the 92nd St Y in New York City. There are a variety of accounts of the performance itself ,which seem to be pretty favorable across the board. Not surprisingly, most accounts focus heavily on the stage presence of the One actor in particular. Many who could not attend were waiting with varying degrees of excitement for accounts of the event.
We weren’t disappointed. Shortly after the end of the show, tumblr exploded with photos and personal accounts of an unscheduled meet and greet between Richard Armitage and numerous fans who had waited after the show. A simple #Richard Armitage will take you to a variety of them and the consensus is pretty much unanimous : “lovely” “sweet” “funny” “gorgeous” were frequently used to describe encounters, and pictures show a relaxed, smiling Armitage freely interacting with fans, posing for pictures, signing autographs and even taking cellphones in hand to take selfies. Various people have reported that he mingled for quite a while, even telling security staff that “he wasn’t leaving until he’d talked to everyone” who was there to see him
This was a very different atmosphere from the media circus that surrounded the promotional tour for TDOS. This wasn’t a press event, it was a small, not widely publicized performance where it’s very likely that he was aware that a large percentage of the audience was there specifically to see him perform and he returned the favor by coming out to meet them after the show. The contrast between these two versions of Richard Armitage is really interesting to me.
I don’t doubt that there are a lot of pieces of Richard Armitage that he doesn’t reveal to the public, that to a certain extent, he wears a Richard Armitage mask. As I saw picture after picture of a relaxed, smiling star, probably pumped by the adrenalin of the performance, I wondered if perhaps we might be getting a tiny peek behind the Richard Armitage Star mask to Richard Armitage, still a star, but also just a nice guy who genuinely appreciates his fans.
Masks of one sort or another have been a part of theater since its beginnings. Elaborate theatrical masks played a vital role in classical theater productions for a couple of reasons. First, whether the character was male or female, all of the actors were men, so female masks, like the one pictured above were worn by the male actors.
The masks were oversized with large openings for the mouth, obviously to enable the actors voices to project further. Classical theatrical masks also have an exaggerated, almost grotesque look to them too, comic masks more so than those used for tragedy. Part of this is simply costuming, but primarily, it gave the performers more visual impact in the giant venues in which these plays were produced.
The shot above represents the best preserved Greek theater of the type in which the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides would have originally been produced. The photo is shot from the top of the seating area, which could accommodate 12-14,000 people. It is easy to see why oversized theatrical masks would have been useful on characters performing in the circular space of the “orchestra” below. (I saw a Greek production do Antigone here…without amplification…it was incredible!)
Even in the much smaller Roman theaters…the one above seats about 6000, the benefit of vivid theatrical masks is clear.
The masks of modern performers are generally much more figurative than they are literal, but most performers seem to use them often in the context of their public personas. As masks go, compared to a lot of modern celebrities, Richard Armitage seems to go fairly light most of the time, regularly revealing himself as a decent human being, witty, thoughtful, charming -a thoroughly engaging Star mask, crafted for wide reaching media consumption.
On Thursday evening though, it seemed as if that polished mask was lifted just a bit to give us all a glimpse of a more relaxed and playful version of Richard Armitage that isn’t really possible in the rush rush context of massive press events, but is very much consistent with how he has interacted with fans in more controlled settings throughout his career.
All that’s left to say is : ὅ παῖς καλός