Since the belly of the theatre world is so different I thought this week I would walk you through what the wig and makeup crew at Utah Opera typically do in a performance night. To keep the element of surprise for those who plan on seeing the performance I will not go into graphic detail of the blood, scars, tattoos, and special effects that creates the world of our current opera, Moby Dick. Moby Dick first debuted in 2010 at Dallas Opera. This modern piece is based off the novel by Herman Melville, it’s a unique take on a classic story.
Currently Utah Opera has four crew members in wigs and makeup. Yancey Quick, the current wig and makeup designer, Michelle, Bailey, and myself. Yancey, Michelle, and I are helping the principle artists (the leads) into their wigs and makeup, while Bailey oversees our men’s chorus and assisting them into their makeup.
At Utah Opera we use a variety of different hair and makeup products in our productions, while each artist brings their own makeup kits we do have a stock supply which consist of brands like MAC, Ben Nye, and Kryolan. The hair products we use are from Joico and UNITE, Yancey Quick is an educator with Joico and I am an educator with UNITE, we use these products because they create beautiful results and support the craft. The wigs come from a variety of different place, for this show all the men’s wigs are hand tied, human hair, lace front wigs. There was so much time and detail into the construction and styling of these wigs a person would never know who is wearing a wig and who is not. Wigs like this do not come cheap, the least expensive wig we have in this production would be priced around $900.
For Moby Dick the first makeup call is at two hours before the top of the show (5:30pm). The reason being is because this show has called for some special effect makeup like scars, blood, and tattoos which take some time in the application. We are also not creating ‘pretty’ makeup. Yancey designed the show to create the world 'out at sea'. You’ll see the makeup revolves around sun burnt, bloody, and dirty skin, we try to keep the performers as realistic as possible by creating textured skin that you would see on a sailor. The makeup artists have anywhere between 30-45mins to get each principle artist into their wig and makeup.
The most fascinating aspect of this English opera is the fact that there are no women characters. When I think of opera I always think of a beautiful soprano who can hit those lovely high notes. Even though all the characters in Moby Dick are male, we do have one female performer. She plays Pip, a ‘pants role’. A pants role is when a female performer plays a male character, the reason why a company would cast a female in a male role is typically because the character is a younger boy (like Pip is in Moby Dick) or they need a vocal range that typically only a female can sing. This is a fun challenge, taking a beautiful woman and transforming them into a man.
Once the curtain goes up our job is not over, we stay through the entire performance to assist the performers with wig and makeup changes, to do touch ups in between acts, and assist the artist out of their wigs at the end of the performance.
Once everyone is out of their wigs and costumes we must clean and tidy up the wigs for the next performance. This consists of cleaning the lace of the wig which can get dirty from makeup and sweat, block the wig on a canvas head, and restyle the wig. We also have to clean our makeup brushes and makeup before the next performance. Typically, the wig crew are the first people to arrive at the theatre and the last to leave, along with the wardrobe department. For myself I arrive at 5:30pm and leave around 11:30pm, it makes for a long day especially when I'm working in the salon before I head to the theatre.
This is such a beautiful production with some of the most talented people in the industry, I would highly recommend seeing this show before it closes. If you've never seen an opera but are 'opera curious' this is a great show to start with because it is sung in English. Moby Dick will be running until January 28th at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah.
If you would like to learn more about this production or purchase tickets please click on this link. I hope you have found this interesting and I hope to see you at the theatre!
Until next week.
Photos credit: Utah Opera Facebook page
THE GEOGRAPHY OF HAIR
The Geography of Hair is devoted to share experiences and stories in cosmetology and how it has affected people, myself, or us as a society.