Archive | July, 2012

Makeup Designer for Stoneface: A New (Porkpie) Hat

31 Jul

 

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Earlier this year, I was very honored to put on a new hat: Makeup Designer!!  I got a call from my friend, Brian, that really ignited my love for the stage. He said, “I’m producing a play called ‘Stoneface: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton‘ and I need a makeup artist for the filmed portion.” I nervously agreed; I hadn’t done any real character makeup since college and they were for student films that never saw the light of day. Then another thing he said suddenly popped into my head, “French Stewart will be playing Buster Keaton.” Whaaaaat!? French Stewart? 3rd Rock From the Sun, French Stewart? Love Stinks, French Stewart? And what’s that? He’s a lifelong fan of Buster Keaton? Oh and his wife wrote the play for him to star in? Whoa! The stakes in my head were immediately raised and truth be told, I was absolutely terrified. This was not only character makeup, it was also based on a period in early film history…on real people!!  They used heavy pancake greasepaint, high contrast lighting and a very stylized look for each character. As a film major from CSULB, (woot woot!) I was familiar with the greats: Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle…and here I was given the task to make these people come to life with the use of makeup. I had a big decision to make, to use the what they used back in the day or to use modern products to make the look translate onto the stage in a much more fluid manner. I chose the latter. I felt that the use of modern lightweight products would be more forgiving onstage. I had to think about stage lighting and how it compared to early film lighting, how these characters would move, what medium would the filmed portion would be shot in. My mind was reeling and I spent every night practicing different bow lips, foundations, powders, photographing myself in black and white. I needed to feel confident in what I was doing, so that I could make this vision come to life. I read the script, I had done my research and readied my kit. It was now or never.

When I arrived at the first day’s shoot, I found out I had the principle characters, plus their understudies and a handful of other actors. I think all in all it ended up being about 15 people that day. I set up in front of a mirror at Sacred Fools and waited for each person to arrive. I knew that once we got in the swing of things, it was going to be nonstop back to back to back..thank God for my live TV training to prepare me for this one.

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It was wonderful to meet all these amazing actors, all with different stories about how much they love what they do and how committed they were to their craft. I asked them all for suggestions and they all left it on my hands. It was such an amazing experience and though we had one more shoot day, I was bummed to have it end. Having someone give you their face in such an open and trusting manner is one of my favorite things about being a makeup artist and this experience was even more so, because we had to make these characters come to life. This wasn’t my everyday client, sitting in front of a green screen, three point lighting, talking about the latest celebrity scandal…this was an homage to an era and to Buster Keaton’s legacy.

When French sat in my chair, I will admit that I was a little starstruck, but after about a minute of chatting and laughing, I saw his warm spirit, passion for his craft and admiration for Buster Keaton. When he walked back in a short time later for a touch up in full costume, he adjusted his porkpie hat in the mirror and I saw Buster Keaton come to life.

ImageBefore I left that day, I was offered to do Makeup Design for the whole show. I was ecstatic! I had to design the look for each character and teach every actor and their understudy how to recreate the look themselves every night. I was really glad I had decided to use modern products, since everything would be readily available to the actors. I decided that as the main look, I wanted each character’s foundation to be one shade lighter than their natural skin tone. I wanted everyone pale, but not pasty looking. I made face diagrams for each character and went through how recreate each look.

ImageI explained that, for the stage, I wanted Young Buster’s makeup to look clean and deliberate, while present day Buster’s should look softer, a little bit worn and slightly smudged. I had to differentiate the Talmadge sisters: I gave one a bow lip, while the other had gypsy eyes and a drawn on mole. I gave Roscoe his signature rosy cheeks and focused on rough angry eyebrows and high cheekbones on Louis B. Mayer…just to point out a few.

ImageI got really excited when I started to see all the reviews come in. It was a hit!  When I finally got a chance to see the show myself, I was blown away. With my best friend and husband by my side, we watched these characters come to life. We truly got to witness ‘The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton.’ I got to see these actors in their element and witness their talent right in front of me. I found myself so invested in the story, while being completely mesmerized by the juxtaposition of high intensity physical comedy and heartbreaking moments of pure emotion. I saw it a second time with my family a couple weeks later and still enjoyed every minute.

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 If you’re in Los Angeles and haven’t seen Stoneface: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton, you should catch it during its final extension through August 26th. Buy your tickets at http://www.sacredfools.org/

I’m so thankful for this experience and so proud to be a part of something so wonderful. Thanks so much for the cast and crew and everyone at Sacred Fools.

❤ Amanda

Stoneface Photo Credits: Shaela Cook and Jaime Robledo