And now, a cheat-sheet guide to "straight" theatrical makeup.
I admit, special effects blood and gore makeup is awesome, and I would be a happy little trooper if I could do nothing but it. But this will focus on "straight" makeup--makeup when you are playing a character who looks rather like you, is your age, does not have jaundice, etc. Makeup can be so much cooler than this; but I use this as a "cheat sheet" for inexperienced actors when I work with large groups of them.
WHAT IS THIS STUFF, AND WHY DO I HAVE TO WEAR IT?
Stage lights make you look puffy and pale; think Charlie Brown, or a giant talking volleyball. For most roles, you wear “straight makeup”. Base to so as not to appear ghastly pale; contour to give you a bone structure; rouge to give you that healthy flush; and powder to keep it all from smearing. Stage makeup is applied much stronger than street makeup because 1. Bright lights soften and wash out everything and 2. The audience usually sees you from at least ten feet away.
DO IT ALL IN FIVE EASY STEPS.
- Base Smooth it all over your face with a sponge. Blend down over your jaw. Don’t forget necklines, and other exposed skin.
- Contour is a bit more detailed. Hunt around or check out a makeup book for diagrams. Highlight goes on “hard places” like bones. Down the center of your nose, on your chin, on your cheekbones, on your forehead. Shadow goes in “soft places”: down the sides of your nose, under your cheekbones (blend down), and in your temples. Blend until you see no obvious lines. Look ma, features!
- Rouge/Lips Smile pretty! Put rouge on the puffiest parts, the “apples” of your cheeks. Blend it in. You may also rouge lips.
- Eyes Line eyes and use mascara/shadow depending on gender, character, etc. Do you have nice eyebrows? No? Then lightly stroke them on with an eyeliner pencil.
- Powder Brush it over your face to set it all. Use colorless translucent powder and brush lightly--it should be invisible.
THE GENDER DIVIDE
Women may wish to add “street makeup”—eyeshadow, heavy eyeliner, lipstick. If you are a man, there are only a few circumstances where you can wear blue eye shadow. These mostly occur in Rocky Horror. In fact, why the hell are you using eyeshadow at all? You probably don't need to. Also, men still need to use rouge, though with a lighter hand. (Psst. If you’re not blessed with “manly” eyebrows, drawing them on makes a world of difference.)
All you really need for straight makeup are sponges for base. Q-tips are handy too, but you can blend/apply with fingers. And don’t use baby wipes to clean your face when you take this off; use a gentle face wash like Cetaphil.
HAVING FUN WITH YOUR MAKEUP
Always keep in mind the character you are playing and the production itself. For example, “virtuous” women did not wear makeup in the Victorian period, therefore bright purple eyeshadow on an innocent young maiden might not be so great. Nuns do not wear lipstick. And if you are a man and you wear obvious eyeshadow, I will laugh at you all the way from Row 36.
RULES TO PAINT BY
- Blend, blend, blend.
- Learn to do your own eyeliner, it’s worth it.
- Everything looks less whorish under lights.
- It’s only makeup. It washes off.