Monday, April 10, 2023

An afternoon in the life of a wig stylist

 So last year I worked on Iolanthe and had to touch up the Lord Chancellor's wig.  The company owns 3 or 4 but they all looked pretty sad and squashed after being crammed into a bin for storage.  Here are 2 of them (I don't have a "before" picture of the third):

I picked the least uncurled of the 3 I pulled from storage and wet-set it to redo the rolls.  That process took 3 hours and 99 rollers.  (If I were to do it again, I'd stitch pairs of rollers together to avoid the gaps I got between rollers in each row.)

Here's what that wig looked like as it dried:

It was worth the work, though; it looked much better on stage than it would have if I'd done nothing to it.

The rolls still got messy on the ends but it looked good from the audience.

Making irreversible changes

OK, nothing so dramatic as the title might make it sound.  I'm designing hair and makeup for a stage adaptation of Pride & Prejudice and several of the actors will be wearing wigs.  We ended up ordering a wig for one of them; right texture but wrong shape.  Merely pinning it won't work because there's too much volume in the back & sides; trying to pin it smaller would merely leave it looking matted.  The challenge is to take this:

and trim it to approximate something like this:
Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Did anyone miss me?

I just realized I haven't touched this blog in 2 years!  I may take it in a new direction.  I've been doing a lot of hair & makeup design lately, so this might be a good place to record what I work on and track my progress.

I finished The New Moon about a month ago.  Set in 1790, so just about everyone wore a wig, and one utility ensemble member had three!  I had a few false starts with some of the wigs, so I ended up styling close to 40 of them.  No, I didn't have anyone to help, so although I was also supposed to be makeup designer, I was so busy doing wigs that makeup got very short shrift indeed.  

I was styling wigs right up to opening night, and ended up restyling one of them because I wasn't too happy with how the first attempt turned out.  Fortunately, the singer, the director & I were all happy with the 2nd attempt.

The men's wigs were largely queues and braids; easy.  It's just that there were about 12 or 15 of them.  The challenge was the women's wigs.  They were all variations of the Georgiana, Adele and Matilda styles from 18th Century Hair and Wig Styling.  They took a LONG time - about an hour just to do a wet set of each one (though by the end I think I got it down to 45 mins), using close to 30 rollers each.  Then the wig had to sit & dry, then I had to take it apart and style it; usually good for another 30 mins to an hour.  (For these styles I definitely recommend the (discontinued, sadly) Lioness style wig, by Mona Lisa, if you can find one.)  Multiply that by 17 or 18 and you get an idea of how very much time it all took.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

I'm published! (sorta)

I stumbled onto Maria Grace's Jane Austen's Dragons series last year and really enjoyed them.  I get notices of her blog posts and all that; it's been fun.  A post back in February or March noted that one of the proofreaders for her newest book, Dragons Beyond the Pale, had had to drop out.  In a comment, I offered to pick up the slack, never expecting her to take me up on it.  But she did!  She sent me the book in 4 files, which I proofed and sent back to her.  The book came out last week "and I helped!" to quote the ancient Shake & Bake commercial.  As a thank you, she sent me an e-copy of the book and is also mailing me a paperback version.

It was little weird in that I didn't want to tell an author what to do, but the language geek in me just has to fix the punctuation, catch the repetitive phrases, etc.  And of course no one is immune to typos.  i went thru each file twice before returning it.  It was interesting to see what I missed on the first pass, usually because I was a little too engrossed in the story but sometimes because I think my brain just read what should have been there instead of what was actually there.  My notes reflected my ambivalence:  "Hmm; perhaps ..." or "consider using __ or __ instead" or "I don't think you need to use this; it doesn't really add anything."  I haven't checked the e-version yet to see how many of my suggestions she kept.  I may wait for the paperback to arrive.

This was fun!  I got to help an author I enjoy get her newest title into the hands of her eager fans - that was something of a rush.  This book leaves the door open for at least 2 or 3 more in the series; I sure hope she taps me for those books, too.

Last year was the plague year; this year it's surgery

 The Chief has been suffering from "frozen shoulder" for a few months.  The remedies of first and second resort haven't helped much at all, so now he's scheduled for surgery in early June.

I learned a coupla months ago that one hip is bone on bone, so now I'm "radiologically ready" for hip replacement!  That was quick - the last time my hip was x-rayed, 2 or 3 yrs ago, it showed only mild arthritis.  So surgery for me, too.  The trick will be timing it so that Ray's recovered enough to take care of me. 😵

Looks like we might be using our long-term care policy a LOT sooner than we'd anticipated!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

I hope this doesn't become a trend :(

I just unfriended someone on FB whom I've known since he was a teenager (he's now the dad of 7).  He not only didn't get, and didn't seem to want to get, the reasons for the Black Lives Matter movement or why the confederate battle flag is offensive, but when he responded to other people on a post, he was dismissive and derogatory.  Sorry, kid, you're outta here.  I miss the teenager you were, and wonder what you're teaching your own kids. 😥

Unfortunately, someone who's a FB friend because she's an expert in historical clothing and, by extension, social history, is a conservative who has a tendency to edge toward snark.  I don't want to unfriend her too, but the way things are going, what with the pandemic, the protests, and the pending election, I'm not too sanguine.

The one other conservative on my F-list was the parish secretary for yoicks.  She once described Trump as "prayerful"!  I don't know where she got that idea, but she may be headed off my list too.

I don't want to work in a bubble but if all my conservative friends are drinking the pro-confederate flag, anti-BLM, "Trump can do no wrong" koolaid, I don't know how long I can turn a blind eye.

"I’m a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does."

I’m a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does. Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines:
1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. PERIOD.
2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
3. I believe education should be affordable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
7. I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is – and should be – illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the *same* rights as you.
9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc.).
10. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
11. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I can’t get over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.
12. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
13. I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is the enforcement of present laws and enacting new, common sense gun regulations. Got another opinion? Put it on your page, not mine.
14. I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?
15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
16. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be? I think that about covers it.
Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.
(c) 2018 Lori Gallagher Witt

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I guess it's that time of year again :(

Last night the Chief had to take me back to Urgent Care because my asthma was getting bad again.  It started with Wednesday's rain, and not being able to get the vials for my nebulizer until Saturday.  They had to give me a triple neb dose and 120 mg of prednisone.  Needless to say, I wasn't good for much today.

I gotta get this under control soonest, so I can start practicing in earnest for my Messiah gig; listening to recordings & following along in the score can only take me so far.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Back in the chorus again

Friday night I auditioned for a(nother) production of The Pirates of Penzance, asking for Ruth.  Knowing one of the other women going for that role, I didn't really expect to get it.  However, when I didn't get called back for the role, I realized I was kind of expecting I would at least get a callback.  Not sure why; given how few roles there are for older women, there was bound to be stiff competition, and the woman who auditioned right after me (also going for Ruth) sounded impressive from out in the hallway outside the audition room.  It didn't help that I was working against an asthma flare (which had me in Urgent Care that night).

Ah well, Pirates is one of the best for women's chorus.  I'll go into it already knowing the music, and not having to worry about memorizing lines will make it easier to design the show as well as be in it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Busy theater spring

I really loaded up my theater schedule this year.

First up was The Gondoliers.  Not only did I get to style 4 hedgehog wigs and a man's wig with buckles (those rolls on the sides), plus wigs for a couple of other folks that were set-and-forget, but I was also in the show.  Oh, and I made 7 headdresses for the married contadine of the ensemble and had a heckuva time figuring out how to anchor the *@&$%! things to everyone's heads.  That made tech week and the run even busier than usual, because I had to age one of the men, do final makeup for a few of the men, eyeliner for one or two folks with less-than-steady hands, AND had to keep tweaking that blasted buckle wig.  I dubbed it my "problem child" because I had to take it home and restyle it at least twice, in addition to all the backstage tweaking I had to do.  Still, it was a fun show, and I was happy with how the "hedgehogs" turned out.  Not as big as I'd hoped, but not at all bad for a first attempt.
one buckle wig (L) and 2 hedgehogs (C, R)

What's wrong with "The Play that Goes Wrong" - MAJOR spoiler alert!

The Chief & I found ourselves in NYC over the weekend and managed to find time to see The Play That Goes Wrong.  I knew people who'd seen and loved it, found it very funny.  We didn't; yes, it had its moments, but a "gut-busting" laugh riot?  No.

Warning:  The rest of this post will be full of spoilers.

The premise is a fairly incompetent college/university dramatic society putting on a murder mystery.  Two of the "stagehands" end up getting pulled into the action, at first reluctantly, but then deciding they like it when the audience applauds for them.  The character playing Cecil is your worst ham, smiling at the audience or repeating a bit if they applaud.  Funny the first time or two, but it can get old.

As you can guess from the title, the whole play is full of one mishap or disaster after another.  In fact, the whole "plot" is merely a vehicle to carry as many actor's and tech's nightmares as possible.  This means you find yourself wondering what's going to go wrong next, and when.  As a result, pretty much every performer on stage has to be good at (sometimes very) physical comedy, which probably left most of them with a whole lotta bruises.  The cast we saw did an excellent job at physical comedy, especially Maggie Weston and Matt Walker (Florence and Cecil).  Maggie got dragged upside-down & sideways through a window in Act I, and Matt took pratfalls, executed somersaults, walked into things face first, and generally made it look as though he'd be black and blue from head to toe by the next morning.

The set includes a platform, appropriately furnished, that represents an upstairs study.  Over the course of the play the downstage end drops a few inches two or three times, while there are people standing on it.  My first thought was "Are they OK?!"  Now of course I know that there is no way such a bit of business was allowed without making completely sure they could pull it off safely.  Still, it would be so easy for something unscripted to go wrong that I couldn't relax, for the performers' sake.

There were a few moments when something would happen or someone would say something and the people on stage would pause, or they would draw out a sight gag, milking it for all it was worth.  I know it was done for comic effect, but I felt that in most cases they let it go on too long.

The performers did do a good job, but they were upstaged by the special effects of the disasters.  Those were so well staged (the shifting platform, a trick floorboard, things falling off walls, and so many more) that it's easy to see why the set won a Tony.  The engineering involved in creating those effects so they could be controlled with exquisite timing was impressive!  (We couldn't help but wonder how long it takes the crew to reset everything for the next performance.)

There were a lot of references to actor's nightmares (e.g., an actor redelivering a line, causing everyone else to repeat a scene) and tech's nightmares (a stagelight sparking as its support falls), but a whole play based almost entirely on stringing them together was a lot funnier to the people coming up with the idea than it was to at least these two members of their audience.