“Happy birthday to me.”
Date: February 27, 2014
Days Spent on Project: 375
Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC
Person I would have sent it to: Denise O’B.
Denise is a hair, wig, and make-up designer that the Yale Rep and the Yale School of Drama has on staff for all their custom hair needs.
My second year, when I was designing that production of Hedda Gabler, with all the money needed to build the clothes, I didn’t have the luxury to wig my actresses. We made do with one piece that we added in to our leading lady’s own hair (to build some volume), and then just some simple styling that the actors could manage on their own.
My third year, I was a bit luckier, and managed to get most all my ladies wigged for that production of All’s Well That Ends Well. A good, lace-front wig is so helpful when you need to finish a look, and I’m always surprised when no one budgets for such things on any period (or even some eras of the 20th Century) plays. Hair can balance a silhouette, finish the character, and help an actor transform into someone else. I understand when people think you can do without them (“But our performers HAVE hair!?”), but asking an actor to style their hair in the same exact manner is always a little scary; even if they have the knowledge to do their own hair-styling, what if the theater’s a little humid one day? What if they don’t have the time to dress and do hair in the 30 minutes before curtain? It’s just easier… get a wig.
Denise wasn’t the first wig designer I’ve worked with in my life (Bobb the Hair Guy at Actors Theatre of Louisville held that honor), but Denise was the first freelance one I worked with. She was the first wig designer who went over hair color samples with me and the actors, to figure out what shade a performer’s natural hair was. She was the person who taught me that a wig isn’t an opportunity to change someone’s coloring, and that it’s best to work with what you’re given. She showed me how to tape someone’s head and take measurements. She taught me about Bon Jovi, being somewhat of a fan.
Since graduating from the Yale School of Drama, I’ve only had the opportunity to work with her one- on a short documentary for PBS. For that experience, we only needed two wigs for our actresses and make-up for all the performers. From that, I saw the difference in applying make-up for the stage and for the camera, how delicacy can be better than being heavy-handed; sometimes just a suggestion is enough to convince a viewer that someone has a wrinkle. I saw how she approached wigs for a camera, too, which was helpful.
Music I listened to while sewing: Based on my frequent listens to Fort Fairfield, Spotify has suggested that I listen to Sysyphe this morning.
Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Well, I’m 35.
Which isn’t a big deal, I know, but…
Well, I’m 35 today.
“How many times do you get to celebrate being 35? (Pause) Eleven?”
I’m as old as Bobby in Company now.