Hair and makeup: Crafting a character
The hair and makeup room is labeled only by a small sign and can be found opposite the choir and orchestra rooms at the back of the arts wing. The space contains what feels like endless drawers, labeled with specifics like “palettes,” “bobby pins,” and “Capri Suns,” as well as long mirrors and chairs facing them. Light bulbs line the mirrors, ensuring that there is adequate light to mimic the stage.
Two doors, one to the left and the other to the right, are labeled as dressing rooms. Each is identical and has a single, long mirror above a waist-high shelf with stools tucked under, and a single metal bar runs the length of the room. By the time I arrived to shadow the hair and makeup crew, nearly every inch of the bar was filled by hangers, themselves holding a variety of choir robes, show costumes, and graduation outfits.
During a crew meeting, the space is transformed from feeling echoey and vaguely barren to having an atmosphere of laughter and warmth. When I asked lead Adrianne Blum about her favorite part of being on the hair and makeup crew, she immediately responded, “the friends!” Grace Williams concurred, explaining, “It’s totally the friends. I think I would have dropped out a while ago if it wasn’t for all the people.”
The day I arrived, the crew was practicing makeup designed to make one look elderly, such as adding wrinkles and moles. The leads began by asking who felt they needed the most practice, and then found subjects by finding out who was going directly home after the meeting. The crew also scheduled times with actors to practice their specific makeup and hairstyles.
Personally, I was awed by the abilities of the crew members. I turned to have a five-minute conversation with Williams, and when I spun back around, LillieMae Barnes had aged sixty years. The crew seemed to know exactly where to shade and add lines to enhance the effect they were trying to create, and as someone who very rarely wears makeup, I was blown away.
Blum explained that, up until this point, much of the hair and makeup crew’s time has been spent practicing their specific characters’ looks. Williams also added that their crew has made an especial effort for this show to collaborate with costumes and make sure that “everything fits with everyone else’s plans.” Because hair and makeup needs to practice on actors while costumes needs to hold fittings, the time each crew needs is carefully planned.
In deciding which crew member gets to design the hair and makeup for each character, the crew first reads through the script together and anyone who really wants to tackle a certain character is given the opportunity. Williams added that the crew looks “to spread experience out with different people, so that if they want to become more prominent on the crew for next year, then we give them more of a challenge for now.”
When I asked the girls about what they thought draws people to their crew, Blum responded that she thinks people perceive their crew to be “one of the closest,” adding, “We know how to have a good time, but we also know when we need to get work done, so there’s that good balance between work and play, and I think that’s really fun.” Williams also pointed to the fact that, “We’re also in a really lively place, so we get to be working with actors all the time and our area is where they’re always hanging out… it’s kind of a safe space, the makeup room. You can come in there to take a breather or to change clothes or whatever you have to do.”
Throughout the rest of tech week, the crew will find themselves practicing—a lot. Blum described the need for everything to be “perfected.” Their number of other tasks will include making sure wigs fit, that everyone knows exactly how to complete their routine, and that there is continuity between the costumes, hair, and lights crews.