Styling for the Stage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lauren Wheeler   
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 06:26

Styling for the Stage
In order to have great stage presence, one element must be present: beauty. One local artist gives
Cincy Chic a backstage pass to see how he creates unforgettable looks.
On the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park stage, actresses belt out songs and actors dance to a theatrical tune in musical after musical.


Behind that musical curtain stands the man responsible for creating hairdos, bruises, bloody noses and much more to hold up against the high-action musical productions. Daniel Townsend is the wig master and makeup artist for the Playhouse. This University of Cincinnati graduate translates looks given on paper into beautiful works of art for the stage.


Once a designer has a vision of what they would like a character to look like, they hand a photo or sketch over to Townsend to work his magic. He then makes his selection from the copious amount of wigs available at the Playhouse and styles them to match the look the designer creates.


Once the hair is styled to perfection, he tops off the look with his dramatic makeup designs. "If a particular color is not working, I can suggest alternatives like different foundation shades depending on the lighting of the theater," Townsend says. "If the light in the show is a heavy blue then you'll want a contrasting makeup foundation that might have more of a redish, orangey pigment to it — obviously nothing garish, but something that has a different tint to it so it neutralizes and looks more natural."


Cincy-Shoes-In-Story-GIF.GIF The types of makeup Townsend uses to accomplish these looks aren't your typical drugstore products. "We use a heavy, oil-based cream makeup. You would not want to use this on your face every day because it has been known to clog people's pores. But, it is good because it works well under stage lights," Townsend says. "One thing you should know is that stage lights are very hot and the makeup can melt, it can start running when a performer heats up. You have to make something that's going to last and that's going to be readable."


One of the benefits of using this specialty makeup is that it allows Townsend to transform an actor or actress into a character. "For stage makeup we're trying to create something that isn't there. If you're wanting a character that is older, but your actor or actress is not so old, then you're using that makeup to create wrinkles to define things that aren't there naturally," Townsend says.


In additon to makeup, Townsend alters the wigs to work well on stage and with the actor. Whether he's using human hair or synthetic wigs, Townsend knows which is best for each particular show. "In musicals when there is a lot of dancing or a lot of moving around, you really want to use synthetic wigs because once you steam a wig, you're essentially melting the hair in place," Townsend says. "So after you brush it out, it's pretty secure and it's pretty resilient to changes in temperature and activity so you don't have to fix it as much. So that's usually my wig of choice when I'm doing highly active shows."


To expereince the beauty first-hand, check out Kathleen Turner in the world premier of "High" before it opens on Broadway. "High" runs at the Playhouse until Oct. 2. To reserve your seats, contact the box office at (513) 421-3888.


For more information on Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park or upcoming shows, visit or stop by 962 Mt. Adams Circle.



Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Playhouse

Lauren Wheeler -
Lauren Wheeler is Cincy Chic's editorial intern.

Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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