Behind the Scenes of Theater Makeup


Up on stage, actors and actresses can get washed out by heavy lights. The talented casts of the Glenbard West Theatre face the same issue. In order to bring back color in their faces, actors and actresses must put an extensive amount of stage makeup before shows and dress rehearsal.

Stage makeup is often much thicker, and much more pigmented than regular makeup because is it made to last for a long time under hot lights. The technical crew for theatre at West is in charge of restocking tons of bases, applicators, and powder for each show from brands made especially for stage makeup. The makeup crew is also in charge of helping and teaching cast members the processes of putting on stage makeup.

There are several different phases of putting on stage makeup. First is applying base all over cast members face, ears and neck. This give a clean canvas for the makeup steps to follow.

Second actors and actresses apply their highlight and shadows to help redefine structure in their face.

One of the most important steps is applying blush to add color back onto the face. Depending on the show and character, an actor or actress may be told to apply more blush than normal to distinguish them as a young or a bold character. For instance in Glenbard West’s latest production, Radium Girls, to help senior Sarah Kitslaar portray a 9 year old character, her cheeks were made a bright rosy tint.

Next an actor applies their eyeliner, mascara, and lipsticks. All cast members, even boys, are expected to apply eyes and lips.

The final, and arguably the most important step of the makeup process is applying blow powder. Cast members cover themselves with blow powder wherever they put makeup. The blow powder helps the makeup to stay on throughout the whole performance and not rub off on the costumes.

Often times in a performance, special effect makeup is necessary. For instance in Radium Girls Emma Pauers character, Katherine Shruab, is dying of radiation poisoning in her jaw. To make her illness apparent on stage, makeup crew used fake blood and cotton pads to make it look as though her jaw was decaying.

Watching from the audience, stage makeup might not seem like much, but up from close the extensive process really helps characters come to life on stage.

If you or a friend is interested joining the makeup crew for a Glenbard West Theatre show next year, make sure to sign up at audition workshops. Everyone is welcomed!