Sunday, April 03, 2005

Behind the Scenes: It's the little details

A backstage report from our Groucho, Michael Austin:

"We've been struggling to find just the right substance with which to paint on my Groucho mustache and eyebrows for the show. I used some fairly wet cream-based make-up for the original photo shoot, which worked pretty well there. But what to use for the show is trickier, as I only wear the mustache and brows at the very beginning and the very end, and it must come off very quickly and onstage after the beginning, and go on very quickly onstage at the end.

My first thought was burnt wine cork, which I used on my face when I was a coal miner in my very first youth theatre production ("The Thread That Runs So True"), because it would be dry and not very messy or hard to clean off, so I tried that for our first dress rehearsal Sunday. It looked pretty good, but the problem with putting burnt cork under your nose is that you breathe in a lot of it, and carcinogenic ash in one's throat and nose is hardly the thing to assist one's singing--I felt so dry and dusty I could barely croak my songs!

So yesterday I picked up a black make up pencil, which looked ok, but took far too long to apply in a thick mustache. My next idea was a thick greasepaint stick (probably similar to what Groucho really used), which we tried last night. It looked great, but was very difficult to remove the time fellow actress Kris (playing Miss McNish/Miss Murdock in the show) did her best to wipe it away onstage, I ended up looking like the coal miner of youth once again!

Then when my friend Anil (playing Chico in the show) tried to draw the mustache back on at the end of the show, he had so little time to put it on me that he got nervous and smeared it awkwardly across the whole left side of my face. It was so hilarious to myself and ridiculous-looking to all of the others onstage that we barely made it through the number we were doing.

My next thought is a washable marker, which I picked up today, and will try tonight before the show. But if that doesn't come off easily, perhaps I will just go with the suggestion of our stage manager and a few others, and try plain old electrical tape! It's a little over-symmetrical, and may sting a little upon removal, but it sure seems easier than all this mess!

Ed. I'm sure I'll find out today exactly which way Michael ended up going with. I'm kind of selfishly hoping for the smeared across one side of the face look...that sounds hilarious.

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