Let’s talk about steps in producing a play or musical: stage makeup
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.
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 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!
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
eye shadow–several shades
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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