Hello Phoebebellbottoms and thank you for your question.
The happy/sad face youre referring to is called the comedy/tragedy
mask symbol. The comedy/tragedy mask image is used as the universal
symbol for theatre in memory of its origins in ancient Greece.
The following is a short excerpt of the history of The Comedy Tragedy
Twenty-five hundred years ago, two thousand years before Shakespeare,
Western theatre was born in Athens, Greece. Between 600 and 200 BC,
the ancient Athenians created a theatre. The two masks are the symbols
for THEATRE. They are the comedy and tragedy masks that were worn in
ancient Greece during the golden age, around 500 - 300 BC. (..)Plays
were written in honor of the god Dionysus, the god of fertility and
procreation, and were either Comedies or Tragedies. All the actors
were male, and they all played multiple roles, so a mask was used to
show the change in character or mood. (..) Masks played an important
role in Greek drama. They gave the actors the ability to easily play
more than one character in succession with a simple change of mask.
They conveyed a kind of static emotion that must have created an
atmosphere very different than our modern theater. The masks and dress
were usually highly stylized and exaggerated making the characters
easy to identify even from a great distance. (..)The traditional
"Comedy Tragedy" masks are used now as a universal symbol for drama,
and also represent the two sides of Dionysus, as well as the two
effects of wine: joyous, Bacchic revelry, and a dark, sorrowful
The comedy/ tragedy symbol reminds us of happiness right on the edge
Source : Cafe-Salon Philosophique
Additional information that may interest you:
An array of comedy tragedy images are found here:
Here are more comedy tragedy graphics
This comedy tragedy symbol is very popular today. Doing a search in
Google for comedy tragedy returned comedy tragedy rings, earrings,
facemasks, jewelry, charms, posters, neckties and ornaments.
The definitions of drama and comedy are discussed in Elements of
Drama - A Brief Introduction by Paul P. Reuben,
comedy tragedy +history
comedy tragedy +symbols
comedy tragedy +emblems
I hope you find this helpful and if anything I wrote is not clear,
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