Mask Making - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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Melvin LaPrade
Melvin LaPrade
Melvin W. LaPrade, Consultant Fab Foundation’s SCOPES-DF project, Melvin founded the National Urban Research Group (NURG) when he was a Ph.D. Candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning. In the beginning, NURG conducted research… Read More


Digital Fabrication Across the Curriculum (Phantom Mask Aligned to National Standards for Theatre Education): Using the Phantom of the Opera as a case study, students gain appreciation for the terminology and vocabulary of the theatre. This is a mini-capstone project, using Fab Lab concepts and tools. Student will create their own digital fabricated Phantom theme masks.

What You'll Need

Prerequisite: Students will listen to the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical release, and watch scenes from the 2004 film adaptation. They will also watch the 1925 Lon Chaney version of Phantom. Instructor (or co-teacher) must know how to operate and teach with a laser cutter and vinyl cutter.

Key Vocabulary 

Character motivations
Character objectives
Physical characterization
Vocal characterization
Given circumstances
Turning point
Rising action

Materials List

  • Felt, fabric or thin flexible plastic (e.g. thin acrylic or delrin. NOT vinyl)
  • Adhesive Vinyl
  • Construction Paper
  • Thread/yarn
  • Paint/markers/etc
  • Ribbon
  • Other decorative items as available


  • Laser Cutter (designed for an Epilog Mini 24”x12”)
  • Vinyl Cutter (designed for a Roland CAMM-1 GX-24)

Design Files:

Find more vector files for masks at

The Instructions

Step One: Intro to the Story

Introduce students to the tragic saga’s main cast:

  • Erik the recluse composer who lives in the cellars beneath the Paris Opera House, frequently referred to as, “the Opera Ghost”
  • Christine the budding young opera star, Erik’s student and Raoul’s love interest
  • Raoul the younger brother and Christine’s childhood friend
  • Phillipe a handsome and wealthy aristocrat
  • Richard the new manager of the Paris Opera House, initially skeptical of the existence of the Opera Ghost


Discussions from the introduction primer, Study Guide for the Phantom of the Opera builds students’ background knowledge and prepares students to understand the themes and appreciate the artistry of the Phantom. Discussions based on exercises in the Study Guide include:

  • The central themes of class or social differences in society, physical appearance, and the influence these factors have on relationships.
  • The setting is primarily in the Paris Opera House, in an age where the elite attended the Opera as a social duty and sign of social status.
  • Students will research the history of the French Opera House, history of Opera, and the social hierarchy of French society.
  • Student will explore the blatant gender stereotypes within the cultural and historical context.
  • Students will explore the central questions: Who is the villain? Is it really the Opera Ghost? Who is the hero? What makes a hero?

Step Two: Elements of Plot

  1.  Introduce the concepts of plot and graphic organizer.
  2. Watch Flocabulary Video (Elements of Plot):
  3. Discuss elements of a plot.
    • Question for Students: What are the parts of a story that you know every story must have?
    • Answer: Exposition (setting, characters, background information), rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Point them out on the graphic organizer/diagram.
  4. In small groups, have students fill in the plot diagram from Phantom and prepare to share their responses with the rest of the class.
  5. Have student groups share their plot diagrams. They will lead a discussion concerning each plot diagram.
    • Qestions for Students
      1. Do the choices for rising action move the story toward its climax?
      2. Do the choices for falling action lead to the resolution?
      3. Do you agree with the choice for the climax?

Formative Assessment. What are the five Elements of Plot?

Step Three: Significance of the Mask


  1. Bell Ringer. The scene where Christine unmasks the Phantom was made famous in the 1925 silent movie of the story starring Lon Chaney.In whole-class:- Compare the movie and play scenes of the Phantom’s unmasking.
    – Ask students: Did the Broadway play succeed in making the theatrical unmasking effective?
    – Why or why not?
  2. In small groups, have students compare and contrast the depiction of Erik’s unmasking in the film to that in the text. How faithful is the screen version to the novel?

Step Four: Pre-Design

Have student teams explore how masks are used to hide identity; hide deformity; and change personality, addressing the following questions:

  • How would your mask be used? For entertainment? For protection?
  • What would your mask show the world?
  • What would your mask hide?

Mask Making Build Pre-Design Process

Introduce students to the tools and materials to which they will have access during the mask making process:

  • Laser Cutter
  • Vinyl Cutter
  • Felt, fabric or thin flexible plastic (e.g. thin acrylic or delrin. NOT vinyl)
  • Adhesive Vinyl
  • Construction Paper
  • Thread/yarn
  • Paint/markers/etc
  • Ribbon
  • Other decorative items as available

Guide students to brainstorm and sketch out the plan for their masks.

  • Rough pen and pencil sketches, including basic measurements to personalize the mask to students’ faces, are extremely helpful for a starting point.
  • Prototyping mask designs by hand-cutting paper and testing them will improve the final models
(Fab Lab Oita Mask Making)

Have the students translate their brainstormed ideas into 2D vector graphic files, including both decorative etching and vector cut-outs to create their mask out of felt, fabric or thin plastic on a laser cutter.

  • The included design file is a sample capable of being cut out on an Epilog Mini 24”x12” laser cutter. Students can use it as a starting point, or teachers can use it as a sample for demonstration purposes.






Have students cut the masks out of the appropriate materials on the laser cutter. Do NOT use vinyl in the laser cutter for safety considerations.

Step Five: Making the Mask Post-Production (optional)

Extension activity:

  • Students can further decorate their masks with a combination of vinyl decals, paint and any other craft materials available.
  • Students can also create iterations of their masks with other Fab Lab tools, such as the 3D printer or CNC router.
(Champaign Urbana Fab Lab)

Step Six: Reflect and Assess

Formative Assessment:

  • Did students demonstrate an understanding of mask characteristicsin designing their own mask?
  • Did students try a variety of digital design and fabrication techniques to create mask elements?
  • Did students make wise choices?
  • Did students exhibit craftsmanship with digital fabrication tools?
(Fab Lab El Paso/Fab Lab Berlin)


National Standards for Theatre Education:

The Fab Foundation lesson is grounded and aligned to grade-level appropriate National Coalition for Core Arts Standards for Theatre blueprint:

  • Students will reflect on, interpret, and evaluate plays and theatrical performances using the language of dramatic criticism and will analyze the meaning and role of theatre in society: (a) discuss their understanding, interpretation, and evaluation of a theatrical performance, using basic theatre terminology; (b) identify the use of other art forms in theatre productions; and (c) explain the relationship of theatre to film and video.
  • Students will identify ways in which drama/theatre connects to film and video, other arts, and other disciplines: (a) articulate an understanding, interpretation, and evaluation of a theatre piece as drama and as a realized production, using appropriate critical vocabulary; (b) evaluate the use of other art forms in a theatre production; (c) explain how a theatrical production exemplifies major themes and ideas from other disciplines.
  • Students will interpret how theatre reflects the beliefs, issues, and events of societies past and present: (a) dramatize stories and folktales from various cultures; (b) engage in drama/theatre activities including music, dance, and games which reflect other cultures and ethnic groups; (c) discuss how classroom theatre activities relate to their lives.
  • Students will gain knowledge about past and present cultures as expressed through theatre: (a) improvise scenes based on information about various cultures; (b) create intercultural celebrations using props, settings, and costumes; (c) explain how drama/theatre experiences relate to themselves and others.
  • Students will gain information about past and present cultures as expressed through theatre: (a) read and view a variety of plays from different cultures; (b) using the basic elements of theatre (e.g., speech, gesture, costume, etc.), explain how different theatrical productions represent the cultures from which they come; (c) articulate the societal beliefs, issues and events of specific theatrical productions.

National Standards for Visual Arts ( I can statements)

The lesson includes five I can statements that apply the skills and language of specific visual arts and demonstrate the ability to create in the visual arts.

  • I can demonstrate the ability to present in the visual arts.
  • I can understand and evaluate how the specific visual arts convey meaning.
  • I can connect artistic ideas and works with personal and external meaning.
  • I can demonstrate personal growth in the visual arts.

Common Core Standards:

Reading Standards for Literature (RL):

  • RL.1 Students will cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RL.2 Students will determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
  • RL.3 Students will describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how characters respond or change as the plot moves towards resolution.
  • RL.5 Students will analyse how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
  • RL.7 Students will compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live performance of the text, including contrasting what they “see” and “hear” when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.
  • RL.11 Students will recognize, interpret, and make connections in narratives, poetry, and drama, ethically and artistically to other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, eras, personal events, and situations.

Writing Standards (W):

  • W.1 Students will write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
  • W.3 Students will write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences, including use of dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, event, and/or character.
  • W.4 Students will produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. Produce text (print or spoken word) that explores a variety of cultures and perspectives.
  • W.5 Students will, with some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying new approach.
  • W.7 Students will conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.
  • W.7 Students will conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate

Speaking and Listening Standards (SL):

  • 1 Students will engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade topics, text, and issues, building on other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Digital Fabrication Competencies: I Can Statements

  • (S.2) Safety: I can operate equipment in a Fab Lab following safety protocols.
  • (DP.2) Design Process: I can design something in a Fab Lab using a specific process under close instructor guidance.
  • (DP.3) Design Process: I can create analog models (e.g. sketches, small physical models, ) to facilitate a design process.
  • (DP.4) Design Process: I can record and share my ideas during a design process to document the learning process (e.g. journal writing, group reviews,etc. ).
  • (DP.5) Design Process: I can work with a group to follow multiple common design process steps (e.g. defining the user, brainstorming, prototyping, iterating, etc.).
  • (CAD.1) Computer Aided Design: I can draw a basic design using 2D Vector graphics
  • (MO.2) Machine Operation: I can safely operate a digital fabrication machine under close observation of an instructor.
  • (F.4) Fabrication: I can fabricate components of my own design using a single digital fabrication process.
  • (CT.2) Critical Thinking: I can identify the design problem, investigation, or challenge.
  • (Q.2) Questioning: I can formulate questions that reveal important aspects of design process including problems and challenges.
  • (IG.2) Information Gathering: I can read informational text to answer general questions about Fab Lab equipment and design process.

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  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
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