Applying makeup for the theater must be very precise. After all, the character being portrayed must be believable and sincere. Research will assure the character makeup correctly matches the period, setting, or mood of the theater. This may require becoming familiar with the script or show. Communication between cast, set director, hair stylist, and makeup artist will help in creating a good working relationship between all.
Before Applying Theater Makeup
Know the type of lighting that will be used for the theater. Whatever the color lights, yellow or red, will affect the outcome of the makeup fashion. It will also be necessary to know the distance from stage to audience. Since makeup will need to be seen from all distances, the features must be made up precisely; so as not to appear flattened and drowned out by lights. The makeup artist will also want to come up with a schematic plan or drawing, of what the final appearance will look like. Keep in mind; this may not be necessary if the production is for a kindergarten play.
Tools for Applying Theater Makeup
Because the actor will be on stage, under bright lights, and viewed at from a distance, choosing the correct tools is a crucial in applying theatrical makeup fashion. Since the theatrical makeup tends to be more pigmented and heavier than daytime makeup, I recommend synthetic brushes for easy clean-up, velour powder puffs, and sponges. The use of false eyelashes is also an effective tool for adding emphasis to the eyes. Some of the products may have an oil base. Using the synthetic brushes will protect the longevity of the brush. If applying a powder rouge, a natural hair brush is also acceptable. I recommend several different sizes of brushes; a large brush for rouge, two medium eye shadow brushes, a contouring brush, and a lip brush.
Applying Theater Makeup
1. Cleanse and moisturize the skin. Always begin with a fresh canvas. Makeup will look and last better if the face is free from dirt, dead skin cells, and excess oils.
2. It is equally important to highlight and contour facial features. You will want to add highlight to areas that stand out such as the cheekbones, chin, forehead, and t-zone. This can be accomplished using a shade lighter in foundation and white highlighter. Using a darker foundation, contour parts of the face, under the cheekbone and the temples that recede naturally. This will add dimension and character to the face.
3. Apply foundation that is one to two times darker than normal. The lights will fade and flatten the face if not. The audience needs to see that face from a distance. It is important to blend since the lighting may pick up lines of fluctuating color. Use translucent powder to set the makeup.
4. Follow with rouge. I find that using a powder rouge will help with blending. It is also easy to control the amount of color since the color can be intensified gradually so the actor doesn’t appear to look like a doll.
5. If the role shows other parts of the skin such as the arms, shoulders, or legs, you may need to use body foundation to match the face to the body. I find it best to use a dampened sponge when applying body foundation. This helps spread the makeup evenly, without streaks.
6. You need to know that in theater, the eyes and mouth are centers for emotion. They will need to be exaggerated. They can be highlighted and colored with more pigment than other facial areas. Just remember that you don’t want to look like a raccoon. It is best to stay away from heavily lining the bottom portion of the eye in black. I will use a soft brown and smudge if more emphasis is needed. You can exaggerate the line on the top of the eye if appropriate to the role.
7. Curl the lashes and apply mascara one coat at a time, allowing the mascara to dry in between coats. Curling the lashes helps to open up the eye area.
8. Line the lips using a color that matches the lipstick. I often choose lipstick in a color darker or brighter than normally used so the lips can be seen. Follow the natural line of the lips then apply lipstick using a lip brush.
9. Finish applying the theater makeup fashion by dusting translucent powder to areas you feel need to be set in place.
Special Details in Theater Makeup
A character may need to be made older or younger, with scars and cuts, bruised, or balding. These special effects take time and special materials. If a role calls for special effects details, plan the schematics ahead of time. Special research and time will need to be allotted.