Makeup routines differ by professions; while not every job requires individuals to wear makeup, it is a requirement among performers. Actors seem to wear tons of makeup, much more than what the average person wears on a daily basis. Why do actors wear stage makeup, and what effect does this have on performance?
Actors are required to wear makeup anytime they are onstage or being filmed. The main reason is that it is difficult to distinguish the actor’s facial features from afar, and because of the effect created by lighting. Foundation and contour are heavily used.
Both actors and actresses are required to wear stage makeup, however the density of the makeup and the amount depends on the setting of the stage, the length of the acting period, and the genre of theater that is being portrayed.
Importance of Stage Makeup
Physical appearance plays a big part in theater; the costumes, makeup, and expressions displayed by the cast is of utmost importance to truly present the storyline and for the audience to understand and follow along. Makeup is considered an extra tool used by actors to convey their roles, and for the audience to understand visually cliches.
Actors have been wearing makeup on stage since the first plays were put on in Ancient Greece. One of the first actors to have worn makeup was said to be Thespis, who formed part of the Greek chorus and applied white lead and red cinnabar to his face to enhance his performances. Nowadays, actors have kept the tradition but do so accordingly to the play being performed.
Much of the makeup is used by playing with light and shadows. One of the most distinguished parts of a theatrical production is the lighting; the lights used in theater tend to be of extremely high potencies, so that everyone in the audience can see the stage clearly. The effect of light on makeup has to be considered so that the correct stage makeup is properly applied.
There are a series of recommended steps to take on how to apply proper stage makeup. While these may vary depending on the type of performance and theme, the following are the steps towards a basic stage makeup:
- Make sure to clean your face properly, apply toner, and moisturizer. Avoid any products with sunscreen since this can lead to a poor effect due to the lighting. Attempt to purchase and apply a primer that is specifically made for exposure to lighting, such as the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer.
- Apply a thick, full coverage foundation that matches your skin tone perfectly and covers all imperfections. Do not worry about your makeup looking cakey — this will not matter on stage, and a thicker layer is preferred. Once your skin toned is evened out, all other products on top will stand out better and will create more of an impression. Seek formulas that do not have high oil contents, and these could create a greasy effect. It is preferable to wear matte formulas, and to manually highlight any areas with a highlighting product. The Make Up For Ever Matte Velvet Skin Full Coverage Foundation is a good option. Set the foundation with translucent powder to reduce shine. The Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder is a great suggestion.
- Since stage lighting creates a flattening effect on the face, contour is highly important to create depth and definition. Use a cream based bronzer to accentuate the cheek bones, jaw, forehead, and down the nose. Then, use a highlighter to highlight the bridge of the nose, the tops of the cheekbones, the center of the chin, and the cupid’s bow. The Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate duo is an ideal option.
See the video below for a more in depth description and tutorial on what basic stage makeup should look like for both men and women.