Critical Steps in Producing a Play or Musical: Stage Makeup

Let’s talk about steps in producing a play or musical:  stage makeup

Staging, Theatre, Emotion, Drugs, Misery, Black, Stage


When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to wear makeup. Of course, that was about 100 years ago, so let’s keep it in perspective….. My mother wasn’t ready for that step in my life quite yet, but I was.  Boy, was I ready. I read in a Seventeen magazine that I could make my own “home made” mascara using charcoal and petroleum jelly.  I went to work!

Now I’m not known to be very patient (although I am better now that I have grown older), so I looked around our house for the two ingredients I needed.  Hmmm.  I found a jar of petroleum jelly  in my bathroom cabinet, but charcoal?

The only charcoal I knew of was charcoal briquettes.  Being my impatient self and not taking into account that perhaps a charcoal briquette was the wrong kind of charcoal for my DIY mascara, I mixed it into the jelly anyway.  Yes. I. Used. A. Charcoal. Briquette.

No kidding.

Needless to say, it was a flop. Upon entering our dining room for dinner that evening while modeling my  “homemade mascara”, my mother let out an “Oh my!” Soon after  she drove to a Merle Norman store and enrolled me in a class about makeup.

I have refrained from making any other makeup products since that day.  I will admit that whenever we grill burgers over charcoal briquettes,  I grow a bit misty eyed remembering my DIY makeup days..

The Infamous Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz film

The Thrill of Wearing a Costume

Like a costume, stage makeup ranks up there as one of the most popular aspects of theatre.  For some people, donning a costume and applying makeup IS theatre.

A costume and makeup psychologically comforts the actor and helps him to feel “safe.” A good director, especially in amateur theatre, must be careful not to lean on a character’s costume and makeup as the only characterization of an actor.  In that case, let’s just put the costume designer on stage and let her perform the show (I doubt she would appreciate that…) because the character solely originates with her and not the actor.  Tsk,tsk…

Stage makeup is different than street makeup (makeup worn for everyday use).  It is durable, saturated color and easily blended. It’s sturdy–you can cry, eat and have water thrown in your face and the stuff stays on!

Makeup Designer

Makeup Designer

Since this series of posts concerns producing a play or musical and the critical steps one must take for a successful production, I  knew I should discuss stage makeup.  Do you have a makeup designer?  If not, a good place to find one is through hairstyling salons.  Most hairstylists are trained to do makeup as well as hair.  Many hairstylists LOVE this kind of work, because it is so creative.

If I need special makeup (say, for Ursula in Lil Mermaid), I give them photos of my ideas first.  Like set and costumes, a designer needs somewhere to begin in their designing.  In your budget, you need an amount for stage makeup.

I include wigs and hair needs in that budget, too–hairspray, bobby pins, hair nets, etc. If a designer must build a mustache or beard, that is an additional cost.  If you have someone who is familiar with stage makeup, so keep them around.  They are invaluable.

If you don’t have budget money for a designer, perhaps you could acknowledge them through your program and give them complimentary tickets to the production?

Specific Makeup Products

Every cast member should own their own makeup, however some things can be shared if you are on a tight budget.  If the makeup is selected ala carte, then I suggest you purchase:

  • foundation–several shades (I like crème foundation, but some people prefer pan.)

  • hi-light and shadow for contouring

  • translucent powder to match the foundation

  • eye brow pencil

  • blush–several shades

  • eye shadow–several shades

  • makeup sponges

  • spray sealer

  • makeup remover

  • eyeliner (should not be shared with others)

  • mascara (should not be shared with others)

  • lipstick (should not be shared with others)

You are going to pay more ala carte, than if you buy a kit or collection. Your actors may find that they like owning their own makeup.  I have my own makeup when I perform.

There are several companies and different size kits as well.  Like a “one size fits all” tee shirt (I have never understood that phrase), you can buy kits such as fair/lightest, to brown/Dark.  Ultimately, I suggest you find one close your skin color and work from there with the color provided in the kit.

Ben Nye Makeup is very good as is Mehron.  I’m partial to Ben Nye myself. The kits can run as little as $20.00 and upward to $150 for a comprehensive collection.  You’ll find what you need quite easily on line.

I played Nellie Forbush in South Pacific when I was in my twenties. This was NOT a character I ever thought I’d play.  In my mind, she was “101 pounds of fun” as the song says.  I wasn’t that poundage by a long shot.  The part called for a  bright, cute, sincere and naive young woman.   I worried that no one would believe my performance.

My favorite part of the whole experience (other than my husband, then fiancé who was the conductor) was the shower scene.

  I actually washed my hair and yes, danced with shampoo in my hair. Then I’d rinse it under ice cold water (!) while speaking with another character, wrapped it up in a towel and exited.  In the next five minutes, I dried my hair, reapplied my makeup and donned an elegant full length evening gown, drop earrings and elbow length gloves.  It was a blast to do!

Something about those two scenes helped me past the worry.  Every night as I stepped on the stage,  I knew I was surrounded by a wonderful armor which carried me past my fears and supported my character in a way I could never have done all by myself.

That’s what makeup and a costume can do for you.


No, this is not me in my South Pacific costume…it is Talulah Bankhead which, for some odd reason, my mother nicknamed me.

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Ten Reasons Everyone Produces The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever







The ten reasons everyone produces The Best Christmas Pageant Ever are pretty simple.  Let me explain.. Recently, our youngest daughter directed her church’s first Christmas pageant.

  The church, Greenhouse Culture, is still in its infancy in my opinion but growing quickly.  Most churches that I have frequented are comprised of middle age citizens and seniors.  But not Greenhouse Culture!  The median age seems to be about thirty years old! My husband and I are twice that age, obviously.

It doesn’t matter though.  These younger adults have their hearts in the right place.  They are a real joy to call friends.

Everything is new to this lovely group–youth group, outreach, Sunday school classes and holiday programs.  They approach every challenge with enthusiasm.

In true Baldwin fashion and a way to have family time, my husband and I volunteered to help our daughter.  My husband erected the barn and manger while I stage managed the show with a cast of thirty, two to sixteen year olds.  It was a rousing success. How could it not be?

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Everyone loves to see kids in animal costumes, young boys dressed as kings and sweet little girls as angels complete with halos and battery operated lights twinkling on their wings. The evening was well attended by this supportive group of younger adults. Our daughter, though exhausted,  appeared triumphant in her quest to create the annual event.

But that’s not what I’m posting about today.  I wanted to write about another guaranteed successful play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Folks, if you don’t know TBCPE, you need to look it up at and get a copy!  Click here:

I have directed this play four times with youth theatre companies.  The pros to this show are evident right from the beginning. I can’t think of one reason not to produce the show.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Elements

Plot–This is NOT only the story of Jesus’ birth, though it is the vehicle for the rest of the plot. It is never maudlin or preachy (sorry, the pun.)

This heartwarming story is told through the eyes of the main characters Beth and her mother.  The Herdmans, ” the meanest kids in the neighborhood”, crash the pageant auditions because they think they’ll get free candy. Then terrorizing the church kids, the Herdmans grab up all the meaty roles,  and kidnap the Christmas story to tell it the way they think it should be told.  It is quite comical, but respectful at the same time. Nice!

  1. A varied cast in gender, age and number–4m, 6f, 8boy(s), 9girl(s)–adults can play the adult roles or have kids portray all of the parts. Your cast can be the suggested size ( or you can add additional angels and shepherds, etc. to give more kids an opportunity to perform.

  2. A simple set–You can use the stage as the main acting space, then place the other locales down left and right.  The most complicated of those is the main character’s kitchen in their home. When the pageant is performed, your audience can be involved serving as the church members observing the actual pageant as it enfolds.

  3. Simple, modern costumes–Always a plus!  Additionally, you will need Christmas pageant type costumes, so check with a church in your area to borrow them.

  4. Props are easy to collect–You’ll need a wheel chair, manger, a baby doll, maybe battery operated candles, and several other present day pieces.

  5. Lights can be area lighting or general.  Whatever your theatre is capable of doing will be fine.

  6. Ninety minutes in length and one act. You might consider breaking it into two acts, however.

  7. Intermission–I suggest you sell the applesauce cake mentioned in the show.  People LOVE that.  One company sold hand made dough art angels as a fund raiser and made a heap of money.

  8. Royalties are $100 per show or 10% of the gross box office.  That’s inordinately fair.

  9. If you need someone to direct it, I’m willing to visit your community and direct it for you.  (Paid with a stipend, of course.) It’s that good!

As you plan next year’s season for your company, I highly recommend you consider The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for your holiday slot.  When people leave the show and compliment you, you tell them “Deb Baldwin told us about this show. She promised it would be a good one.”


I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me at or

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