Stage makeup class sparks student enthusiasm

Friday, October 17, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT
Introduction to Stage Makeup students use a textbook, which provides instructions and examples for completing the looks assigned each week.

COLUMBIA — Applying theatrical makeup to her own face is exactly what Erin Roesler didn't expect to do when she signed up for a stage makeup class at MU. She is one of 10 students enrolled in the course that meets every Monday in the men's dressing room by the Rhynsburger Theatre.

"I thought we'd have mannequin heads to work on," said Roesler, a sophomore studying marketing. "It's definitely weird doing it yourself and then seeing yourself look like a clown at the end of class."


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In the Theatre 1360 course, students learn basic techniques in applying stage makeup, the kind that is overly dramatic and meant to look better at a distance of 30 feet or more. Fonzie Geary, the graduate teaching assistant of theater who leads the course this semester, assigns students different themes every week. A recent theme was old-age makeup, where students used highlights, shadows and wrinkles to age themselves.

"It's definitely more than just putting on makeup," Geary said. "It's putting on a mask, putting on a real-life mask and assuming a different identity. Makeup is one other element that helps you to do that."

Students position themselves in front of streak-free mirrors lined with bright lights. During the sixth week of classes, students seemed to effortlessly apply basic highlights and shadows. But creating wrinkles out of their natural face lines proved to be a challenge for some.

"This is definitely the hardest one we've done, because the wrinkles are completely different than what we've had to do," said Lauren Allmeyer, a junior majoring in interdisciplinary studies.

Earlier in the semester, students undertook a "lean/stout" theme by making half of their faces look fat and the other thin. In the future: trauma, complete with facial bruises and scars.

Although some students are studying theater-related majors or minors, other students have no stage experience. Roesler decided to sign up because she "thought it'd seem like a fun class" and because it only meets once a week. However, it took her a while to become comfortable with not only the application process, but the makeup as well.

"It's so different from normal makeup," Roesler said. "It's just a lot heavier — and you know your own makeup. I know I can always take it off. I usually wash my face right before I leave."

But why any non-theater major would take the class is quickly obvious.

"The thing I enjoy most about this class is how much enthusiasm I've seen for it," Geary said. "Just the enthusiasm and the camaraderie in the room — they just seem to have a good time with it, and it's a lot more fun as an instructor to see your students enjoying what they're doing."

Conversation and laughter escalated as the students' faces aged 40 years. As Geary announced the remaining half-hour of the class, students began making final touches, redefining their forehead wrinkles and darkening their age spots.

"It's just kind of fun to make yourself into somebody that you're not," said Kathleen Blakeney, a senior communications major. "If you're going to play a character, you have to become that character, and so (makeup) kind of takes it that extra extension."

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Jess Blumensheid October 18, 2008 | 5:34 p.m.

With Halloween approaching, these tips could come in handy for some costumes.

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