Halloween Masque

A blend of pantomime, oration, music and dance, the “masque” is a theatrical form that flourished in the 16th century but was abandoned in the following one as new entertainment technologies took center stage – namely puppet shows and costumed animal acts (the YouTube of their time). The masque, however, is undergoing a revival of sorts as a Halloween-themed entertainment in some local quarters. In its present incarnation, the masque is something of a mid-life crisis in costume. The revels seem devised to squeeze the greatest amount of embarrassment from the greatest amount of alcohol, purchased for the least amount of money.

Consider the 21-and-over spin on “bobbing for apples,” wherein participants dunk their heads in a wine barrel attempting to sink a tooth into an ever-elusive bung plug. Interestingly, no one ever seems to find the plug despite repeatedly submerging their faces into the barrel – instead, they just get drunk on wine and spit. In fact, most hosts do away with the bung plug entirely thus rendering the act totally futile, unless one considers open-mouth kissing 50 gallons of wine worth their time. I know I do.

Another local custom at the masque is playing “tryst or trite,” a game derived from an ancient mating ritual in which a would-be suitor attempted to woo the object of his or her affection with salacious poetry. The modern version eschews the verse for more direct statements of attraction, which are rewarded with either a kiss or a slap across the face, depending on the cleverness of the line. For example, approaching a woman costumed with a sheet over her head and querying “Are you a ghost or are you just ready for bed?” would likely result in a slap as would, “Those holes aren’t for your eyes. They’re for your ears.”

As with any Halloween party, costumes are a major factor, however, the masque manages a slight spin on the tradition. For reasons that can only be explained by quantum physics, if one elects to attend the party un-costumed, be assured that everyone else will be in costume. If you go costumed, you will be alone – unless you go as something that seems wholly original, which means someone else will inevitably have the exact same costume as you. Yes, it’s spooky – it’s Halloween.

Beyond games, the masque also entails dramatic presentation, though locally, this has become less popular since a particular drama club inadvertently raised the devil by performing the wrong unholy text. I, of course, chided them for it in my review (having worked in Hollywood, I was the only person in the audience to recognize him), but alas remain powerless to vanquish the Prince of Darkness from Nomaville. Like the masques of yore, the “dumbshow” remains a standard feature, but it’s no longer realized in pantomime; rather, it’s interpreted literally from our contemporary vernacular – meaning it’s really dumb. I mean, completely idiotic – so stupid, in fact, that I am loathe to quote it for fear of contaminating this column with its sheer lack of intelligence. I’m not one for politics anyway.

As always, it’s important to play it safe this Halloween whether you’re at the masque or not. Don’t take candy from strangers – just their babies. Wear reflective tape on your costume, but not over your eyes. Don’t believe a werewolf who says that lycanthropy can be spread only during a full moon; it’s contagious throughout the lunar cycle with or without obvious symptoms like excessive hair, baying at the moon and a hunger for steaks, extremely rare.

In my opinion, the best thing to do on Halloween, is what I do. Stay home and work on reanimating the dead.