Make-up Design in The Tempest

August 26, 2016

Because Pigeon Creek's productions are so heavily doubled, the chance to do complicated stage make-up is rare. The fact our typical performance venues are small and intimate, with the front row of the audience only a few feet from the actors, means that our actor's don't need to highlight their features the way we would in a larger space and also limits what we can do in terms of effects make-up (a lot of aging techniques, for example, are based on traditional stage lighting and distance from the audience and simply do not work effectively when the audience as close as they typically are to us).

 

Most commonly, when we use effects make-up beyond subtle aging, it is for actors playing a different gender from their own and non-human characters.

 

Make-up for actors playing characters of a different gender:

 

 

Make-up/effects for non-human characters:

 

 

 

This production of The Tempest features both actors playing characters who are much older than them (look for aging makeup on Gonzalo and Alonso) and an assortment of magical characters (actors doubled as nymphs and sprites who don't have time for elaborated make-up using costumes, masks and props who create non-human effects).

 

As Ariel and Caliban, the two original inhabitants of the magical island, Scott Lange and I have the rare opportunity to play with character make-up without having to worry about removing or re-applying it at any point during the performance. 

 

During our final week of rehearsal, we experimented with different styles of make-up, getting feedback from director Katherine Mayberry and trying to find something that worked with the costume design to create the characters' look.

 

We took inspiration from images in the text. Ariel is consistently described as using terms like "airy spirit" and "bird." Scott and I collaborated on a feather-based design for Ariel's makeup:

 

Caliban is described as "a freckled whelp," an consistently called "fish" and "monster" by the other characters. The text implies that he is at least half-human (his mother was the witch Sycorax, his father may have been a demon) and Katherine was felt it was important that the audience see Caliban as distinctly human, as opposed to Ariel who is a spirit taking a human form. 

 

The make-up I designed for Caliban is based on a combination of several images; spotted catfish, military camouflage , and "post-apocalyptic" punk make-up found in dystopian sci-fi. I wanted it to be ambiguous what natural pigmentation and what was painting Caliban had done himself (as camouflage or self-expression):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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