JOB: Wig and makeup director, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. She’s worked for the theater department for six years, and holds a masters of fine arts degree from the UI in costume technology. A native of Kansas City, Mo., she has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Emporia State University at Emporia, Kan. She lives in Champaign.
Tell me what kinds of things you do in this job.
One thing is that I build wigs. We buy a wig and tear it apart, primarily just using the back half. Then we replace the top half with silk, and we put what’s called a ventilated front on the front of it. Using a needle about the size of a head of a pin we individually crochet or latch hook individual strands of hair with a ventilating hook into that fabric. We individually hand-tie pieces of hair.
Why do you do that?
Because store-bought wigs have a harsh line that sits right along the hairline and you don’t want that. So we make these specifically to the hairlines of each actor and actress. So every time we do a show we have to measure people’s heads and adjust the wigs or make new ones.
We make about 11 wigs a year from scratch. We will deal with anywhere from 30 to 35 wigs and facial pieces each season. We also do blood work for the shows.
What do you mean blood work?
When actors bleed, spit up blood, choke blood, wipe blood, spurt blood – we have to deal with all of that. We decide what the blood is going to be and the prop department decides how the delivery of the blood will work.
And there’s makeup. I love makeup, and I’d say I’m more into makeup than hair and more into hair than costuming. But I love makeup because you can do anything with it. You can build three-dimensional noses or chins or take out their eyebrows. You can make somebody look completely different than who they are.
I bet you have a heck of a lot of fun at Halloween.
No, I don’t. You know why? We do it all the time. We totally hide at Halloween. People will come knocking on our door – ‘Do you have any white face paint?’ ‘What should I be?’ But we have Halloween in our studio every day. We deal with makeup and costumes all the time, and it’s a good time for us all the time.
Do you design the way that the actors will look in their makeup?
No, our students getting degrees in costume design actually design the costumes and they also decide what the hair and make up will look like and what they want the audience to perceive. We’ll then have a meeting and decide if the actors will be wigged and how to go about doing that. My job is to make that happen and to teach the students how to use their makeup to give the appearances they want.
This seems like it would be an exciting job.
We have a lot of fun, but we work like crazy. We do approximately 14 shows in a nine month season – and then we do three summerfest shows. So our department facilitates all those hair and makeup needs for 17 productions in a year. We work a lot.
Do you have to be at all the performances?
No I don’t run the performances. The students do. We train the crew to put the wigs on and set the girls’ hair if it needs to be curled. And the students do a great job of it.
What part of your job do you like the best?
I think the best part of my job is being able to make somebody look completely different from who they are. It’s that kind of metamorphosis that I can help them with that can help them develop their characters and helps them really give a wonderful performance. That’s the most exciting part I think.
What’s the worst part?
For me, it’s the knotting work on the wigs. It’s tedious. But I love to style hair. I love to be on crews. I like that kind of interaction with the performers. I like to be back there and help them look beautiful and primp them and all that.
What do you do to keep busy when you’re not at home?
I work throughout the community – at Station Theater and at Parkland’s theater. I did a wig for Morgan Freeman’s daughter. She’s a Tina Turner impersonator. I do some other stuff. I do a lot of party planning. I also am a wedding consultant. And on top of my job here as a wig and makeup person, I also teach three classes a semester. Two are in theatrical makeup for freshmen and the other is the history portion of costume history.
Have you had your 15 minutes of fame in your lifetime?
Not yet. I’ve done a lot but I haven’t had my fame yet. I’ve worked on small movies. I worked on an NBC miniseries called ‘Cross of Fire’ starring JoBeth Williams and I met her. I did ‘Truman’ starring Gary Sinise. He was very nice. All I did was knock on his door and give him his sweats for the next day. Sometimes that’s your only brush with fame.
I’ve also done some work for police officers to help them come up with looks to help them with undercover work. I like that. I like using my work to help somebody else.