Character Creation for Mad Theater's Company
The thing that catapulted me into being a makeup artist was my love of theater. More specifically, my utter fascination of people who can change themselves into someone completely different. I'd spend weeks working alongside people in rehearsal, only to have my jaw hit the ground when the character finally emerged from within them when they walked on stage in full costume, hair, and makeup.
I found that I loved creating those visuals and makeup became my medium.
One of my favorite examples is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I was hired to do Hedwig's makeup for a month run of the show with a professional theater in town. The man playing hedwig was not your typical emaciated, lanky, overly feminine, person. Spencer had a 2 o'clock shadow, and looked liked you could find him at an Irish bar throwing back Guinness with the owner on any given night. Instead, every night, I would watch as Hedwig emerged from within Spencer. We'd start with the 'Uncle Fester' look, blocking out the bushy eyebrows with wax and filling in the hair follicles with foundation. Then, as we added the iconic eyebrows, glitter blue eye shadows, sharp cheek line, and of course the perfectly drawn red glitter lip, 'She' would arrive. Small mannerisms, a change in the voice, even a change in the choice of words would begin and by the time I'd hand her the wig, I was standing in front of a wonderfully sassy, slightly vulnerable, undeniable Hedwig. It may have been one of the most ongoingly satisfying repetitive jobs I've ever done.
But while something like Hedwig is very obvious because the makeup and hair is so necessary to the character, I find that all characters are expressed though the makeup choices. And since I currently have the great pleasure to play April in COMPANY right now, I will use her (and by default, me) and an example.
Makeup Design: 'April', COMPANY
April is self-professed 'very dumb.' She's a flight attendant, and she's dating (casually or with the intent of more depending on what character in the show you ask) the leading man, Bobby. I've translated April as maybe not the sharpest tack in the box, but a pretty astute manipulator, especially when it comes to controlling men in the bedroom. You've got to give her credit to the fact that she has a legit job and lives in New York City, so, she's no southern debutante waiting for a man to control her. On the other hand, she's no future rocket scientist either.
I started where I normally do- the eyes. The eyes alway tell people's life story. It's the gateway to the soul and if you can trick someone you can send them to your character's soul. In the case of April, I wanted her to have wide eyes and one of the physical ticks I give her is that I blink a lot- conveying a sense of cluelessness that also buys her time to control the situation. Therefore, I started with the lash- a #35 from MAC lash to be exact. This lash is longest directly in the center and if you put them through a lash curler, you can get a nice wide-eyed look. They're very long, but the hairs are brown (despite the picture), so they aren't dark enough to make it blatantly sexy.
Then I moved to eyeshadow. I wanted her to have warmth. I truly believe that all she wants is to connect with Bobby- or anyone really. She wants a deep rooted relationship that she can be comfortable and confident in. For this, I wanted warm colors deeply blended and soft- only there to enhance how big I could get her (my) eyes. So I used a pastel matte pink lid color, a peach crease color that deepened into a mahogany outer contour color. I then added a creamy yellow shadow with a hint of shimmer to it in the inner corner of the eye to open it up just a tad more. I mixed black and brown liner as to not make her harsh in any way and added white eyeliner to the inner rim of the bottom lid as one last attempt to get all the good out of the wide-eyed look.
We perform in a blackbox theater, so while I don't wear this much makeup on a daily basis, I would also not consider it true stage makeup. I used a matte full coverage long wearing foundation, as I see her as someone who would be very concerned with how she looked. To me, April hasn't realized yet that people don't fall in love with you because you look pretty, so it's very important to her to be put together at all times. An attribute her employer no doubt supports. I contour with a warm terra-cotta bronzer that has a slight sheen to it to continue the theme of warm and soft. A pink shimmer highlighter is brushed on the cheek bones to enhance their height reinforcing her attempt at being 'perfect.' Then I finish off with a bright pink blush that gives her a lot of color to her face and makes her sexy from a healthy and excitable perspective.
Lastly, we have her lip. I contemplated this for a while, thinking I would again soften her with a berry color. But when I saw my navy blue suit with blue, white and red striped satin scarf to tie around my neck, I knew I needed a red lip. But I didn't want it too gaudy or clashing in color scheme to the rest of her face. I chose a deep red stain. It's not flashy- she wouldn't be flashy, there's not quite enough confidence in her for that. The stain is great because from a design perspective, it looks like her lips, not something sitting on top of her lips; and from a practical perspective, it doesn't transfer all over poor Ricky during the bedroom scene. Bobby would be thrilled to have lipstick on his face I believe....Ricky, the actor, not so much. We spend a whole song liplocked and he has about 30 seconds to reset for the next scene, so I needed something that wouldn't make a mess.
While I'm not playing the most deeply studied character in theater, or one with an iconic look, I still believe in finding motivations, desires, and intentions in every character I'm given the opportunity to become. It's not as obvious as Hedwig, and I'm quite comfortable in my costume and face to be just me- but I feel like I've made her someone to relate to, feel sorry for, and laugh along with. And I think that's the point of theater. To watch pieces of ourselves find their way through the story. They teach us, they reinforce us, and they make us feel like we aren't alone. It's a beautiful thing.
Most people don't even recognize that makeup can play an integral roll in how we connect with a person. It's why I love my job- I get to help people put their best foot forward before they even say their lines, sing their songs, or dance their routines. And, as Shakespeare wrote, 'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.'
Thanks for reading.
Act pretty powerful.