Wig/makeup changes make life backstage hectic

Barbara Hootman

Creating a believable character is challenging for an actor. Good stage makeup helps actors put flesh on the bones of the characters, as it will during the production of “The Dixie Swim Club” at Black Mountain Center for the Arts on Friday-Sunday, May 27-29.

Dr. Stuart Williams is a professional makeup artist, actor and, by day, a dentist. He has years of experience on stage and behind the scenes. He is helping with the direction of “The Dixie Swim Club” (Sam Hobson is director).

“Sam deserves all the credit for this play,” Williams said. “I wasn’t able to help much as assistant director due to my work schedule getting heavier and heavier as the dental practice grows, raising a 10-year-old and remodeling a house. So Sam took on the huge responsibility of wearing all the hats this time around.”

Williams won Best Costume Design Award from the Metrolina Theatre Association in Charlotte for costumes, makeup and wigs for the play “Die, Mommie, Die.”

“After winning the Memphis Magazine Award for best actor for portraying Miss Deep South in the musical parody, “Pageant,” I had to learn how to do all of my own makeup to look like women.

Linda Medford, a local resident, is assisting Mary Soyenova with makeup for her role in “The Dixie Swim Club.” Medford has trained herself since she was 16.

“I’ve gotten a lot of pointers from the Internet,” she said. “I’ve experimented with a lot of different makeup on my own face. I’ve created comic masks for Asheville groups. This is the first time that I helped anyone with makeup for a play.

“Theater fascinates me. Being able to be another person has a lure about it. When Mary said she had to shed some years and look like she was 40 years old again, I agreed to help her. Basically I had to lighten her stage makeup. As the play progresses she takes the makeup off and ages naturally. I want to make the makeup work to enhance her character.”

The five actresses in “The Dixie Swim Club” age four times during the play’s progression.

“I think aging an actor is one of the biggest challenges in stage makeup,” Williams said. “Whether it is to make someone older look younger, or someone young look older, it can be quite difficult. It also sometimes requires a lot of makeup with highlighted and low-lighted areas. In our current setting at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, it’s very intimate so you don’t want the person to look fake.”

The aging of the characters in “The Dixie Swim Club” called for a minimum of 10 wig changes.

“You have to consider the choosing and styling of the wigs to suit the aging of ladies,” Williams said. “Sometimes the wigs we buy look and feel very differently once we get them in the mail. Sometimes it’s not even the same wig that was ordered. You add lots of Aqua Net (hair spray), cut the bangs, and you are good to go.

“For the cast of the ‘The Dixie Swim Club,’ I stand backstage and take care of the wig changes. I like to take the pressure off the actors so they can focus on their costume changes and not worry about the wigs. Nightly the wigs require ‘fluffing up’ and occasionally more Aqua Net.”

Into the drink

What: The Dixie Swim Club

Where: Black Mountain Center for the Arts

When: 7:30 p.m. May 27-29, 2 p.m. May 29.

Tickets: 669-0930,