It is surprising how few actors understand the importance of make-up on stage; often it is understood as either a theatrical tradition or used simply to beautify and as a result ordinary makeup is often used ineffectively.
The primary object of make-up on stage is to accentuate the actors' features as well as define the eyes and mouth, which would otherwise appear flat and featureless under the glare of modern stage lighting. No face is immune from the necessity of make-up on the stage; without greasepaint it is shapeless, colourless, and has no identity.
The next most important function of make-up is to give a face the appearance an audience expects it to have according to the character portrayed. This is achieved by tint, light and shade. There is no magic to stage makeup. It is an acquired skill, which consists of painting, sculpting, understanding facial structure, and using experience and imagination. There are sound artistic principles underlying each step of the learning process.
In order to achieve a successful make-up it is necessary to study the anatomy of the face and find out the relative positions of the particular muscles and bones. Then it is necessary to analyse the various facial expressions: laughing, frowning, as well as all the other emotions a face can portray, noting carefully the shadows, lines and wrinkles that may possibly appear on the face – where they start and how they radiate outward.
When you come to put on makeup use the following basic technique:
- Cleanse the face – spread cleansing cream evenly all over the face. Remove excess with a tissue, do not rub dry but leave a very thin film to act as a protective covering.
- Base colour - this will be the skin colour most suitable to the role the actor will play. Use a firm or cream greasepaint. Colours can be mixed to achieve the desired look.
- Apply lining colours and rouges - these are the grease paints which are used for all shadowing and highlighting effects and are applied on top of the base colour
- Eyebrow pencil – used to outline the eye and sketch in eyebrows.
- Mascara – the hard block form is recommended for theatre though a good waterproof mascara is an acceptable alternative.
- Powdering – this is a method of setting the makeup. It must be done carefully or the makeup will be destroyed. Ensure only a transparent or very lightly coloured powder is used – basic baby powder is good for this. Using a powder puff roll it across the powder then shake off the excess. Starting at the neck use a slight slapping motion to pat a layer of powder over the base. Once the face is covered shake the excess powder off the puff and wrap it around your index finger, then with a rolling motion, press and roll the excess powder off the face, shaking the excess from the puff. DO NOT RUB. Final excess can be blotted off with a damp cloth.
- Check to see if touch ups are needed to eyes.