Working in the Theatre: Makeup


[Music] Growing up in New York, I’ve seen
hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of Broadway shows. Now working backstage is the absolute best thing that I can imagine. My journey to Broadway was probably a little different than most people. I went to
school as a fine arts painting major. I left college a year and a half in to
pursue my dream to work in theater. I still paint. To me when I am doing
makeup my inspirations come from art. I just adapted into a different canvas. I was working for a theater company out
in Long Island for about four years and I was pretty much a slave for them.
Whatever they needed, I was really there to do. So that was kind of my college
experience, and after that I started working for MAC cosmetics for the next
four and a half years. One day I got a phone call from a friend of mine. He
was hired to do the hair and makeup for a Vanity Fair photo shoot for the show
“Ends of the Rainbow’ and it was the show that changed my entire life because I
came in. I did the makeup for Tracy Bennett to transform the blue-eyed
blonde-haired British woman into Judy Garland. From there I have worked on
approximately twelve other shows. I was doing 10 shows a week and as
grueling as it was, I was able to meet so many people in the business. My mentor on Broadway John Jordan help me
get my contacts on Broadway. He is currently the hair supervisor on
The Lion King. One of the biggest things that I learned
was not to be crazy, to go in, do my job show up, not cause drama. [music] A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I
worked with Linda Cho who is the Tony Award winner for the costumes for the
show. She had this very high fashion stylized version of what 1909 really looked like. When I’m building a character for a show, I’m going off of the script, the director’s
note, and mainly I go off of the hair and costume designer, because they are the one’s creating a vision. I’m there to figure out what they’re
really looking for because they understand the clothing but I’m there to
figure out exactly what their faces should look like. [music] We had one character played by
Jefferson Mays, originally. He played eight characters throughout the show and
his changes happen between five minutes and they came down to about 17 seconds. [Dialogue: Remembering the climax of the play…] My biggest challenge for the D’Ysquith role was trying to keep his lip from not being torn apart or bleeding because every scene would be a change and he would have to reapply makeup and then take it off and reapply makeup or it’s
the removal of glue from a mustache. [Dialogue: Shot herself. In the temple. Shot herself…] Because the role is so demanding anyone who is in that track always seems to be a huge sweater. There are different layers of makeup and
powder that we’ve used that help keeping sweat completely off their face. The D’Ysquith family role changes 8
different times, 8 different characters with seventeen different times that he is
changing into those roles and it can be as easy as a mustache being applied. Or
there’s blush and lip gloss that’s added for certain characters. They’re tiny
elements that are added or taken away. For each of those characters that we’ve
designed for. Though he has a very basic plot that he goes off of. There is a part of the show where Jefferson would stick out his tongue. He had this idea. He now has his dresser go out by him beet
juice and the beet juice dies his tongue. It really helped him find that character as well. [applause] One of the times that I see a character
really come to life is with Miss Barley. We change her lips. They are glittered. It’s the only thing
that is shiny in the entire show. Now that the show is running on tour when she comes off stage we take a piece
of duct tape and she pretty much kisses the duct tape. It removes a lot of glitter. It was really the easiest and quickest way to do it [music] For a show like Gentleman’s Guide,
there’s no makeup artist as on staff each night. So I went in to teach every single person their makeup plot, and even understudies or swings. They all get face charts that will help
them go through the looks when they can’t really have me there to help them. It really plots out exactly where the makeup belongs. These are the original face charts from
the Broadway production. Each cast member gets a copy of and that’s what
they execute these designs with each night. Lot of times they hang them right on their mirror so it gives them a good reference to go off. [music] The makeup and hair supervisor that’s on the show does keep in check with making sure that
everyone is fully stocked with makeup. I do pop in probably every other week or so. I just take a quick look at the show
make sure that everyone looks good. If there’s ever a problem or something
is going on I may contact the actor and get them a tip or trick to help them get
back to where we want them to be. [Music] Adapting to an actor no matter what they
have a requirement about is definitely my goal. I want to make sure that they are taken
care of and knowing if they’re allergic to latex so making sure that lashes to
be applied and they’re not gonna have an issue is always a very big question that
I always ask when i’m meeting with an actor to find out what they’re about. Catherine currently plays Phoebe D’Ysquith in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. When doing Catherines makeup I’m all about the
contours and creating these smoky eyes. It gives her definition and helps her performance. I really love blending these colors and making sure that the eyeshadows look really smooth. Because you have actors that are an inch
away from her that we want them to be in the moment, but then we also need to make
sure that in the last row, they can see it exactly the same way when I’m doing this. It’s really just beautiful. It was a learning curve though. I will say that. Mostly I think the eyes are the trickiest thing. I think I get nervous when precision is involved. But I definitely feel more comfortable now then when we started for sure. When I first started the show I was in
the ensemble, and I played the role of Miss Barley. But I was also understudying both Phoebe and Sibella so I had to learn all of those makeup tracks. It was definitely a challenge, but
really fun to get to play with all of those different looks. Miss Barley with the glitter and like apple red cheeks… that was just an extreme, really fun look. The final touches when you’re
preparing to be a a new character when you get into makeup hair and costume. Everything comes together. Just having
all of those elements working so beautifully together is a real treat. That’s the whole look. It’s the eye details that I haven’t nailed. [music] Most shows they don’t really give you a budget, but
they don’t tell you yes or no about it either. Something like Gentleman’s Guide, I was
there to execute the look and whatever that look cost is what we went for. I think that just having so many different people around me in the business and going through costume designers
sketchbooks, seeing all different ideas of what people had are really the inspiration
that derives my looks that I do for shows. The best advice that I can give it an aspiring makeup artists is to get yourself out there. To never say no to any project. I think I”ve done more free events in my entire career and now
that I am getting paid for them there’s a reason behind it. You know, I
pounded the pavement and I made sure that I put my time in to get where I am now. [Music] I’m the production makeup supervisor for
The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and and all the other companies in the U.S. And look. This is the wax that I will be using on the Phantom tonight. I dig my finger in here, take this
out and I blank out his eyebrow. We officially opened to the public in 1988, so that’s twenty eight years already past. We’re now in our twenty ninth year. I was doing a show in another theater with a woman and she said to me, “Oh, I know somebody who wants to work with you.” So she said, “Come and go to the
theater and meet my friend.” I didn’t have a clue who the first one
was so went over to the theater with her, and the guy said, “I like your work
and I’m doing this show; it’s Phantom of the Opera and I want you
to come and work with me. You have two weeks to make your decision.”
And because I was just finishing school and I had student loans, I said, “I’ll take the job!” So Vinny, I’d like to see what ball
caps you have today. and these are my These are my Phantom caps? Yep. I like to check them to make sure that they’re not too thin, for one, and that they’re big enough and pliable enough so I can put it on the head. Sometimes if they don’t have enough elasticity they will break, they will rip when I put them on. I cast it like this and it’s perfect. Most makeup artists on Broadway don’t
stay with the show. They set up the shows and then they go
off and do other things. But Phantom of the Opera happened to be one of the most fabulous shows that employs makeup artists all over the world. You have to have a makeup artist there, because it involves prosthetics, ball caps, and special paintings. And the actor cannot do that by him or herself. I’m taking this and I’m taking these. I use many different products. Back then, we used a lot more pancake,
which is water based, and now we use everything. Airbrush… Some makeups already come with
everything in it, which means that you don’t have to put a primer on first; it
might already have it in it. And we have things like anti-shine; we didn’t have such a product back then when I started, that I know of. [Music] Makeup artists need to be able
to understand the skin, understand the coloration. You have to be able to cancel the colors
that you don’t want and put the new colors over it. You have to have a library at your house as well, because if you get called in the middle of the night to do something, you have to know how to. If you don’t know how to, you pull the books out and you read them because the word is “cosmetology” and
it’s a science of the skin, the hair and the nails. [Music] My first job in makeup was I was working in a salon and it was a salon where a lot of celebrities would come to get
their hair done. And one day, another hair stylist, Stanley James, said, “You want to come to work with me today?” and I said, “I can?” He said, “Yes, grab your bag.” and I grab my bag and I look back, and I’ve been working ever since. [Music] When I mentor young people, which I do
very often, I make sure that I give them the basics. I teach them what they need to know for this business; even as much as how you enter the door. The door man, when you see him there, you don’t just walk by, you have to speak to him. [Music] And when you get down to your room you make sure you say, “Hello, everyone. How are you today?” We’re always very pleasant. [Music] My first advice to them; go to school, study. They have a lot of information on YouTube today, but I still think the classroom is very important because when you get out here, you still have to deal with personalities and people and not everybody is smiley, happy-go-lucky. You have to be prepared spiritually and mentally so that when the time comes, you meet upon a rough patch, you have to be able to handle the situation without being panicked. This helps to speed up the process of the makeup if I prep all of this before he sits in the chair, then by the time I’m ready to use it, it’s tacky enough. The makeup could be designed by either
the costume designer; they could say, “This is what I want with this character.”, or it could be that the director said he sees it a different way, and then it’s for you then to be able to give them the colors that they want. So if you’re working, let’s say for example,
on one of our auctioneers, they said, “We want the auctioneer to look kind of like gaudy, like dark eyes…”, you have to give them the dark eyes and the dark cheek and the sunken bones, things like that. You come back in and you sit down and
you apply it on the actor’s face and then you have the actor then clean it off and then we do it so that the actor can do it by himself eventually. We go through the makeup process for a couple times before they actually have to go on stage and then they can practice their make up
when they’re off stage so when they go on, they feel more
comfortable in their role. And then, that might be all the person sees of you until you come back again to replenish the makeup room. [Music] To transform the actor into the Phantom
of the Opera for the night, I apply a ball cap and three pieces of prosthetics. We make sure the skin is clean and is conditioned because we use glues, so that when we remove it, the person has to come in the next day; we do the same thing over and over and over so you want to make sure that you have good cleansers for the skin and things like that. [Music] Chris Tucker did the sculpting, he did the casting and he sent me the pieces. They’re blank and then I have the interpretation of different colors for how Chris wants him to look on stage. There’ve been fifteen Phantoms but there are many understudies and all the actors, as well, so that’s a lot of people. We’ve had black Phantoms and we’ve had
black Carlottas. Different people, different skin. We have Asians in the company, some Spanish, things like that. You have to be able to to basically understand the color and this person’s skin. [Music]

23 thoughts on “Working in the Theatre: Makeup

  1. Wondering how make-up artists deal when encountering skin /dermatological issues/problems… Are hypo allergenic products used as a matter of course ?

  2. would be interesting to include (his) other art work ( paintings) to show the evolution and scope of ( his) artistry /craft ( in relation to future profiles, – it would be cool if it could – show the link between one artistic practice – painting , in this case – to another – such as makeup.)

  3. One thing that I thought was really fascinating…. after 28 years on Bway & 30 in London, they STILL won't show the Phantom's fully made-up face. The dedication to that secrecy is ridiculous but also amazing.

  4. My high school just finished its production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder so this was so fascinating!

  5. Wow, that was incredible. Lucky, that some people grew up near the theater in Manhattan, got early eposure, and found their way to this career path. So amazing and done with such care

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