Some people may think that a theatrical make-up artist's day consists of the simple dab of blush or powder to an actor’s or actress’ face. The demands of the job require so much more, however, including not only proper make-up application but careful analysis, design, evaluation, research, budgetary planning and cleaning both on and off the stage.
Careful analysis of the script, discussion with stage officials, environmental considerations (venue size, lighting plans) and diligent study over production information (time period, character profiles) all contribute to the elaborate preparation a theatrical make-up artist needs to accomplish before and during the production of a play. A make-up artist can even spend hours writing make-up sheets as well as examining various photographs, sketches and plaster models in order to attain the right image portrayal for a character.
Make-up Reactions and Dirty Work
Helping someone look good “on set” is only half the battle. A theatrical make-up artist also has to be conscious of how make-up used on certain skin types might produce a chemical skin irritation, an allergic reaction or even cause a breakout of acne. The make-up artist also must be diligent about maintaining and cleaning certain set equipment, hairpieces, wigs and various prosthetic items used by people acting.
While having a beauty or cosmetology background and/or education is definitely beneficial, knowledge and experience have no substitute. What stage professionals, producers and directors look for is a theatrical make-up artist who can manage time very well and work within budgets and under extreme pressure; they also want someone who possesses a vast knowledge of the trade to adapt easily and quickly to the new demands of an ever-changing set and its characters. Someone may even start off as part of a larger design team then eventually work her way up by shadowing a more senior make-up design artist before eventually launching into a senior theatrical make-up artist role.
As in any competitive trade, the theatrical make-up artist must stay current about industry trends. He must keep up to date on the latest and greatest beauty products, make-up accessories, colour and photographic special effects as well as anything else that might contribute or impact the visually aesthetic nature of an actor or actress. Knowledge alone is not enough, however; the make-up artist also must work to secure these materials and technologies should an unforeseen need arise on the stage or film set that demands a fresh approach.
Down the Road
As theatrical and motion picture technology continues to progress, the ever-growing knowledge base of the theatrical make-up artist also must grow and expand to accommodate these needs. The role is quickly evolving to include more technical aspects and the need to stay in constant communication with the many key individuals who comprise a successful theatre or movie production.
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