Drop-in series: Makeup class for stage and life

Inspired by Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University where he shared how auditing a calligraphy class while in college inspired him years later to add diverse fonts to Apple computers, we set out to visit classes around campus that make us think differently about what it means to be educated. This is one in a series of drop-ins.

William Boakye has spent the last 20 minutes staring in the mirror. The wrinkles on his forehead just aren’t right. They’re not deep enough. He doesn’t look old enough. Boakye, who’s in his early 20s wants to look middle aged. A few layers of foundation and half a dozen brush strokes later, a haggard, weathered man begins to appear in the mirror. Boakye is ready for the stage.

The FIU junior is a student in Stage Makeup TPA 2248, an introductory course in designing and applying makeup for theatre performances. Although the class is geared to drama and theater students, every now and then Professor Jason Torres of the College of Architecture + The Arts says students from other disciplines find their way into the makeup room.

Most semesters, Boakye, whose major is international relations, would be discussing foreign affairs in class. But this summer he wanted to try something different, something creative.

International relations William Boakye mixes foundations to create wrinkles on his face. Photo courtesy of Emily Cochrane.

“I’ve learned you can rearrange your face in any way. You can make your nose longer, break your nose. Very different from the peace and security conflict class I took earlier this summer.”

He adds, “A class like this allows you to cultivate new passions.”

For students studying to be theatre actors, the course is indispensable. Unlike film and TV actors who have professional makeup artists, they do their own makeup. Designing and applying makeup is part of character development.

Students in Torres’ class do their homework, researching makeup in different eras; completing a character analysis that helps them decide how to apply the makeup; and collecting any necessary costume and accessory pieces.

Arts student Lauren Kistner transforms into the Mad Hatter. Photo courtesy of Emily Cochrane.

“The class is geared toward actors to be able to do their own makeup for shows,” says Torres. “We cover a variety of assignments – everything from basic corrective, if they are going out as themselves on stage – to old age, middle age, fantasy, different animals.”

One assignment required students to look like accident victims. Mariette Gallor, a BFA performance major, developed a detailed storyline of how her accident occurred in order to place bruises and cuts in the appropriate places.

“I got into a fight during a concert, fell on the left side of my face causing these bruises and sometime during the  scuffle someone ripped my eyebrow piercing out,” explains the theatre student as she adds more liquid latex to make her wound appear deeper.

Gallor says as an actor going through this process really helps her get into character. “By the time I’m done, I feel like who I see in the mirror.”

Students have 45 minutes to finish their makeup and add some final touches. They’re then photographed and critiqued under stage lighting in the theatre.

“If only statistics went by this fast,” says Gallor.

Is there a cool class out there we should drop-in? Let us know. Leave us a comment or send us an email to news@fiu.edu.