The Mask: A Quarterly Illustrated Journal of the Art of Theatre
Date of Publication:
Mar. 1908 (1:1) – Oct./Nov./Dec. 1929 (15:4).
Suspended May 1915 – May 1918; 1919 – 1922
Place of Publication:
Frequency of Publication:
1,000 – 2,000 copies
A. Goldini, Florence.
A large magazine of high quality. Regularly featured essays, book reviews, and visuals relating to the art of the theater.
Deluxe edition printed on hand-made paper with hand-made wood-cuts by Craig.
15 shillings per year
Edward Gordon Craig, under the pseudonym John Semar
Libraries/Databases with Complete Original Issues:
Library of Congress; Getty Research Library; Princeton University; Cornell University; Ohio State University
Searchable PDF of July 1911 issue available online at Brown University’s Modernist Journals Project
PDF available online at Princeton University’s Blue Mountain Project
New York: Benjamin Blom, 1966 – 1967
Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI [microform]
When Edward Gordon Craig published the first issue of The Mask in 1908, he did so with the intent of changing common and critical perceptions of theater. From its inception to its end in 1929, The Mask remained “steadfast in its championship of an art theatre and in its opposition to a crass realism and a commercially governed or controlled stage” (Hoffman 238-239). Craig used the magazine to wage a war of words against the popular Realists of the era, and in one issue even posed the following rhetorical exchange: “Is Realism illegal? Should it, when carried so far as violence, be prevented by law? Certainly, by all the laws of taste” ( I.9: 182). Craig’s disdain for the mundane in theater often manifested itself in extended treatises on his idealized art of theater.
The history of the The Mask is inextricably tied to that of its founder, editor, and contributor; Lorelei Guidry even suggests that The Mask “reveals Craig in a way that a biography might fail to do” (17-18). Craig’s son wrote that his father chose to name the magazine The Mask because it “would hide the identity of the man behind it” and “would be used like a Greek mask to throw the voice so that people could hear it afar” (qtd. in Guidry 6). During the twenty-one year history of the magazine, Craig wrote articles and published illustrations under more than 60 pseudonyms, wishing that the public would never discover the one man behind the various literary personas. Craig took special precautions to guard his editorial voice, which he named John Semar. The Mask published several notes meant to dispel public speculation about the true identity of the editor, including one assertion that, though “Mr. Craig has contributed largely to [the magazine articles…], they were not all written by him. Such a feat were surely an impossible one” (qtd. in Guidry 9). Craig perpetuated the myth of his imaginary writers even after The Mask ceased publication, and in a 1962 interview he finally explained that he used pseudonyms “so that I wasn’t always there […]. You see, The Mask could do anything” (qtd. in Guidry 8). More interested in using The Mask to promote new and interesting theater than in providing a vehicle for his own fame, Craig’s decision to write pseudonymously may ultimately speak to his desire to remove art from the hands of the mortal individual and to elevate it to a state of spiritual transcendence.
The following manifesto, printed alongside the order forms in early issues of The Mask, is a succinct rationale for the magazine’s existence:
“The object of the publication is to bring before an intelligent public many ancient and modern aspects of the theatre’s Art which have too long been disregarded or forgotten.
“Not to attempt to assist in the so-called reform of the modern Theatre – for reform is now too late; not to advance theories which have not been already tested, but to announce the existence of a vitality which already begins to reveal itself in a beautiful and definite form based upon an ancient and noble tradition.”
The Mask, 1:1 (Mar. 1908): 25.
Edward Gordon Craig, under pseudonym John Semar (1872 – 1966)
Editor: 1908 – 1929
The son of actress Ellen Terry and architect Edward William Godwin, Gordon Craig entered the world of arts when he was just six years old, touring as an actor under the direction of the legendary Henry Irving (Mitter 15). Though Craig directed only a handful of productions during his lifetime and he “repeatedly alienated professional actors with his overbearing attitude,” his revolutionary ideas about theater, as described in his essays and illustrated in his stage designs, helped to solidify his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest directors (Mitter 17). Throughout his career Craig sought to abandon Realist ideals; Shoit Mitter explains that “the core of Craig’s work is the notion that the theatre is a place where the ineffable world of the spirit can find evanescent expression,” and that Craig abhorred Victorian theater for its emphasis on the individual actor rather than on the artistic whole of a production (16). Craig was one of the first to insist that the theater director must be an autonomous agent and, in a famous essay titled “The Actor and the Über-Marionette,” he suggested that the actor be dispensed with altogether; puppets, suggested Craig, were able to convey “a sublime quality that human beings lacked” (Mitter 18). Craig began pseudonymously publishing The Mask in 1908. During the magazine’s twenty-one year history, Craig published, edited, and “wrote most of the articles under a host of pseudonyms” (Walton 7). Craig’s energy, determination, and uncompromising artistic vision make The Mask “an indispensable source for the students of modern drama and stagecraft” (Hoffman 238).
“In Defense of the Artist”
“Fiddle-De-Dee: Or, Professor Brander Matthew’s Infallible Receipt for Making an Omelette without Eggs”
“Portrait of Walt Whitman”
“The Artists of the Theatre of the Future”
“The Actor and the Über-Marionette”
“Does the Real Englishmen Go to the Theatre? Does He Act in It?”
“Some Evil Tendencies of the Modern Theatre”
“The Open Air: Some Unanswered Questions”
“The Courage of the Impresario”
“More Circus Classics”
“Brieux and Bernard Shaw: A Note on Two Social Reformers”
“Design for a Mask: From the Javanese”
“To Save the Theatre of England”
“Wonderful Abominable Americans”
Some Early Italian Woodcuts
Jan Van Holt
“Richard Wagner, Revolution and the Artist”
“William Blake, Socialism and the Artist”
“When I Heard the Learned Astronomer,”
“To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire”
W. B. Yeats
“The Tragic Theatre”
Guidry, Lorelei. The Mask: Introduction and Index. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1968.
Hoffman, Frederick J., Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1947.
Images. The Mask. Modernist Journals Project. Web. 14 Jun 2016.
Images. Mask. Blue Mountain Project. Princeton University. Web. 10 Jul 2016.
The Mask. 1908-1929. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1966.
Mitter, Shoit. “Edward Gordon Craig.” Fifty Key Theatre Directors. Eds. Shomit Mitter and Maria Shevtsova. London: Routledge, 2005.
Walton, J. Michael. “Edward Gordon Craig.” Craig on Theatre. Ed. Walton. London: The Chaucer Press, 1983.
“The Mask” compiled by Emily Howe (Class of ’09, Davidson College)