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BEHIND THE SCENES

Proper Way to Wig Out

February 08, 1996

You're on the road, miles from home, and your makeup just isn't right. A minor problem, unless you're performing in front of hundreds of people.

Last week, Opera Pacific called on makeup artist Kathy Waszkelewicz to share her trade secrets with apprentice artists at the Orange County Performing Art Center in Costa Mesa.

Thanks to Waszkelewicz's help, the next time these young singers don't like what they see in the mirror and there isn't a makeup pro to be found, they should be able to slap on their own onstage faces.

"I explained basic makeup for men and women, then showed how with a few lines added to the face, you can doctor up someone to look completely different," she says. "We talked about decisions that need to be made based on the colors on the stage, the impact of lighting, the size of the house and the intensity of the makeup needed to depict the character--whether it be soft or dramatic."

How does a person enter the wig and pancake biz?

A few years ago, Waszkelewicz was a hairdresser and makeup artist who volunteered her time with the Connecticut Grand Opera in Stamford. "I fell in love with the magic of being backstage with the show," she says. "I kept making myself available, and after two years, I was being paid to work."

In 1993, she was hired as a studio coordinator for Elsen Associates, a wig and makeup supplier that works with 35 opera companies. When she's not traveling the country to work backstage, she's in her office in Pittsburgh, building wigs and facial hair for specific characters and maintaining the company's 2,000 stock wigs.

"Our wigs may be in Milwaukee, Palm Beach . . . we can have six operas going on a single day, so I can't always be there," says Waszkelewicz. "In those cases, I style the wig and ship it off. When they open the box on the other end, the wig is ready to be put right on someone's head."

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