Why And How Performers Use Theatrical Makeup

By Amanda Bean

For a stage show to be successful, there are a number of factors that have to be just right. Naturally the performers have to do a great job but theater is about more than acting, dancing or singing skills. The set, the costumes, the lighting and the theatrical makeup all contribute to a performance that will entertain and inspire.

Take a stroll through the dressing rooms as the performers prepare and you'll likely see them sitting at heir mirrors, applying thick layers of eyeliner, mascara and other cosmetics. The reason for this is that, like in everyday application, those cosmetics enhance a person's features. It's even more important in the harsh lighting of the stage because the performer's facial expressions are crucial to how convincing their portrayal will be and those expressions can be difficult to see if the audience is seated far away.

Cosmetics also help to transform the performer into the character he or she is portraying, whether it's a person or an animal. The clever use of different colors can make a healthy, sporty young woman look like a tragic heroine dying of tuberculosis or it can make a young teenager look like an old man. It can even help someone transform into someone of a different gender or ethnic background.

The cosmetics that performers use on stage is usually different from what they would wear in everyday life. The provide more coverage, tend to be more intense in color and are longer lasting. They're often water resistant too because they not only need to withstand the sweat produced by the physical exertion of the performance and the heat generated by the lights.

You may have noticed that when performers are wearing their makeup, they usually look like they've been overdoing it. In normal light the cosmetics do show up much more intensely but under the stage lighting, the performers will look just right. If the performers apply their makeup too subtly, you won't be able to see it on stage. Those thick layers of powder are essential too because they reduce shine.

A good performer will never decide on which makeup to use without having an idea of what the stage lighting will look like. The reason for this is that colors look different underneath certain lights. The most flattering lighting is pink or flesh pink in color. Light in cooler colors tend to enhance similar tones but will make warm tones look grey, while lights in warmer colors will have the opposite effect.

Good theater courses include training on how to apply stage cosmetics. Older performers are often a wealth of information too since they usually have more experience in what works and what doesn't. A good investment to make for important performances, such as opening night, is to employ a professional makeup artist with training in how to apply cosmetics for the stage.

Theatrical makeup is available from stores that sell theater supplies or can be ordered online. Even if you don't plan on going on stage soon, it's a good investment to make because you can use the cosmetics for many other purposes. They're great for face painting at children's parties, for instance, or to enhance your Halloween costume.

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