BWW Blog: The Power of Stage Makeup
Makeup is an art form that has evolved into a billion dollar industry. It affects women and men across the globe and is a storytelling device as well as a cultural norm. Stage makeup is a tool that elevates to the overall production value of a show. Just as someone's beauty makeup reveals pieces of their personality, a character's personality can be revealed through their makeup. Makeup can help communicate what decade the piece is set in, the social status of the character, or the style of the character.
Ballerinas use stage makeup to make their eyes appear wider and help them to portray whatever animal or creature they are playing onstage. Clown stage makeup helps portray the emotion of that particular character. For shows like Cirque de Soleil, different performers wear intricate makeup in order to create an other worldly appearance.
For theatre performers, makeup is often a mandatory part of the pre-show process; however, it is step that assists actors in becoming someone other than themselves. Makeup has this transformative quality that alters our perceptions of ourselves. The makeup industry is criticized for advertising towards the desires of women to fix imperfections; however, actors utilize makeup as an artistic tool to create another human being.
Some styles of makeup are forms of painting. For the Broadway show CATS, the makeup is more like painting on a canvas than applying makeup to an actor's face. Makeup can also give actors necessary confidence. Having to perform in front of thousands of people everyday can make anyone feel self conscience. Makeup is often the pep talk an actor needs because as we all know our skin can vary from day to day. Another benefit of stage makeup includes allowing the audience to actually see features from far distances.
In giant stadiums and amphitheaters, makeup appliances and techniques like contouring and false eyelashes contribute to the audiences' ability to see the actors' facial expressions. These makeup techniques are vital to the production considering that audience members pay money to see the actors' performances.
For television and film obviously makeup can be far more subtle due to the lack of distance between the viewers and the performers. Special effects makeup can be used for both stage and screen to completely change the bone structure or skin texture of an individual in order to transform humans into fictional characters.
For Broadway shows like Shrek or Wicked, extreme body paint and prosthetics are utilized in order to create a fantasy world for the audience to enjoy. Stage makeup has blossomed from a taboo style only implemented by prostitutes and showgirls to a valued art form and beautiful extension of storytelling.