Making Up A Character

Photo by Divya Annamalai

It took Charlotte Seidensticker, makeup artist and sophomore, one hour to transform Duncan Moran ‘15 into Zoltar from “Big.” She had to carefully hand draw the beard on Moran, making sure the whole beard was perfectly symmetrical. Using inspiration from the character Seneca Crane in “The Hunger Games,” she made the beard unique to Moran’s Zoltar.

Many people, when looking at a character on stage for the first time, do not acknowledge that they notice the character’s appearance first. However, those people also usually don’t take notice that there are makeup artists backstage that have worked for weeks to try to perfect a character’s look.


Behind the Scenes

Watching makeup tutorials on YouTube sparked Seidensticker’s interest in joining the makeup crew. Seidensticker said she wanted to be involved in theater, so being on makeup crew was something she was excited about. Starting as a newcomer, Seidensticker worked her way up in a year. She is now the cohead of makeup for the Studio One Acts with junior Erika Bowling. While still doing makeup for the production, the cohead steers the 11-member makeup crew in the right direction.

Seidensticker said, “For shows that I’m already familiar with, like “Big,” I feel like I had a stock stereotypical idea in my mind. But I definitely like to talk to the actor about what they think, and their perception of their character. I feel like you can only do so much with makeup, and you have to kind of rely on each other.”

Makeup used in theater, known as stage makeup, can enhance an actor’s features to show the personality and characterization of his or her character. For example, if a character has angular features, that can mean he or she is an angry or straightforward character. If the makeup is soft and blended, it can mean the character is nice and sweet. Seidensticker believes makeup itself tells a story as people can perceive a character’s social class or personality just by looking at his or her face. She also said that makeup artists do not get much recognition for theater productions.

Seidensticker said, “It’s definitely difficult because you put so much work, effort and hours slaving over someone’s face, and no one notices it. But I think it’s your job as the artist and as a crew member to put your work into the show because even if you might think that no one will notice it, it still registers in their brain (as) something different. It’s your job as a makeup artist to tell the story, and I feel that makeup, even if it’s not recognized, still tells a story. The makeup artist and the actor have to work together a lot, too, so I think that you kind of go hand-in-hand. You help the actor, and the actor helps you. I feel like you’re kind on the stage with them in a way.”

“The actual manifestation of you through the makeup and the costume really brings to light that they are someone else that you kind of are playing into. And you kind of realize that the look you have on is what your character sees in the mirror every day.”

Junior Jessica ``Jessie`` Ballard

In the Spotlight

Junior Jessica “Jessie” Ballard has been in many CHS theater productions. She has had experience with different looks for each character she played, from Lady Bountiful in “Beaux’ Stratagem” to Mrs. Gloop in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” She is currently portraying an interpreter for an Arabian woman and an American man in one of the Studio One Acts Plays.

“I had old age makeup for ‘Beaux’ Stratagem,’ last year’s fall play. They put a bunch of dark lines where my wrinkles will eventually be. And they highlighted and contoured to make it look natural,” Ballard said.

Jim Peterson, Director of Theatre and Film, said makeup was originally used to combat the bright lights shining down on the actors by concealing the reflection of oil on a person’s face. When Peterson was in college, he said he used makeup to help create his character as a guard in “The Assassination and Persecution of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.”

Peterson said, “There’s this color called sallow, and it makes you look pale and sick. I did this whole thing where my character is being this sickly, angry and secluded guard. I used a lot of sallow on my cheeks, and it made me look a little thinner, a little gaunter, a little more scary and distraught. So, (makeup) can add character, it can add age, it can add a lot of things to the production. But it was really brought about in the first place to combat that really tough harsh light.”

For creating a character’s look, the makeup artist talks to the director and creates a vision for what the character and makeup should look like. The makeup artist will then test the makeup on the actor’s face and perfect the makeup until a desired look is reached, and they will repeat that look for the rest of the time the actor has to perform. Stage makeup is a lot thicker than regular everyday makeup. This is due to the fact that lights will be shining on the actors, so they need thicker and darker makeup to not look washed out and oily.

Ballard said, “I think that in theater, when you are playing another character, that character is a portrayal through yourself. I think that makeup just kind of accentuates things about you that are also seen in the character, so it helps highlight the parts of you that are also seen in the character, while also making a new character. The makeup is more of a highlighter than a cover up. The actual manifestation of you through the makeup and the costume really brings to light that they are someone else that you kind of are playing into. And you kind of realize that the look you have on is what your character sees in the mirror every day.”

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Sitha Vallabhaneni