From Arwen to Zombie

from arwen to zombieGet into character with a little bit of stage magic! This winter, we hosted a fantastic hands-on (or arguably, a face-on) workshop about how actors use makeup to transform themselves into a character. The workshop was expertly and enthusiastically taught by Jenny Scudder from Youth Stages, a local arts-in-education organization.

Jenny began the workshop by sharing visual examples of literary characters – Queen of Hearts, Arwen, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Wicked Witch of the West, Dracula, Frankenstein, Count Olaf, and a few Cats from the musical of the same name (you might recall that Cats is based on poems by T.S. Eliot). There were also zombies, which might have been a stretch unless you consider Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? The Walking Dead graphic novel?

Here’s Jenny, taking the kids through examples of all the characters:

jenny scudder, youth stages 1Next, Jenny discussed how, in addition to makeup, actors can also use their voices, gestures, costumes, props, and sets to bring their characters to life. She described what stage makeup is (big, bold, and expressive) and what it isn’t (it’s not meant for close-up photography like a fashion shoot). As she was lecturing, Jenny was effortlessly applying her own stage makeup, which was Grizabella from Cats.

jenny scudder, youth stages 2Jenny also talked about the names of the different brushes, and techniques for application. Finally, she brought out some latex scars and gashes she had prepared in advance. My forearm became the test subject for a massive latex scar, some red base makeup, a loaded stipple brush, and some fake blood. Here I am, modeling the finished product in my usual subtle way.

scar demoFinally, it was time to turn the artists loose on the makeup! There was plenty of it. Jars, palettes, sponges, pencils, brushes…the works!

makeupJenny divided the kids into pairs so each pair would have someone to assist with the application of his/her makeup. I really liked this because it meant that the kids weren’t sitting passively, having their faces done by adults. They were actively involved in the whole process.

applying makeup

However, Jenny, Katie, and I did jump in to help. For awhile, I was running the “soon to be bloody flaps of skin” corner of the room.

Ready to see some results? Even though there was quite a bit of smiling and laughing, I did encourage the kids to try to stay “in character” while I was photographing them. I’ll begin with Arwen, who you saw at the beginning of the post:

We had no less than 3 Queens of Hearts…

As well as 3 Cheshire Cats.

A pair of Vampires…

Rum Tum Tugga from Cats

The Wicked Witch of the West…

And a quartet of zombies. I told them to give me their best undead look…

Do you recognize the zombie on the far left from the beginning of the blog? The funny thing was, we never planned to photograph her with her hood up. As it turned out, she had to walk home from the program in full makeup. In order to not freak anyone out, she pulled her hood up. It looked so fantastic, I had to take a photograph!

Let’s Get in Formation

let's get in formationIt doesn’t matter if you’re a massive cumulonimbus or a more modest tuft. A fluffy costume, weather pom-poms, and abject enthusiasm are all you need to be part of the most adorable cloud formation ever. Did we pull some awesome moves? You bet. The video is at the end of the post!

We read Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld (Henry Holt, 2011). Cloudette is a very small cloud, but she doesn’t mind. There are benefits to being small (like always being able to see fireworks, even when the sky is crowded)! Sometimes, however, Cloudette can’t help yearning for more. Especially when the big clouds do such important things. One day, a storm blows Cloudette far from her neighborhood. Exploring the new place, she discovers a frog pond that’s almost dry. She decides to do something about it. Concentrating all her efforts, Cloudette rains and rains until she creates the perfect pond for scores of thankful frogs. Delighted, she flies off to find more jobs a useful little cloud can do.

You’ll need:

  • 2 sheets of white poster board
  • White cotton balls
  • White string
  • Hole punch
  • 2 wooden dowels
  • A set of nine, 18″ crepe paper streamers (6 in rainbow colors and 3 light blue)
  • A set of two, 2″ x18″ pieces of blue cellophane
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

First, your weather pom-poms! We made 2, a rainbow and a rainstorm. To make the rainbow pom-pom, twist the bottoms of six, 18″ rainbow color crepe paper streamers together. Use color masking tape to attach the streamers to the end of a wooden dowel, then continue wrapping the tape around the dowel until it’s covered.

To make the rainstorm pom-pom, twist the bottoms of three, 18″ light blue crepe paper streamers and two, 2″ x18″ pieces of blue cellophane together. Attach with color masking tape, wrapping downward until the dowel is covered.

weather pom-pomsNow for your costume! Cut 2 sheets of white poster board into matching cloud shapes. Hot glue the 2 shapes together. Why? Because when it comes to gluing scores of cotton balls on poster board, 1 sheet is just too thin. It warps almost immediately. With 2 sheets hot-glued together, there’s much less warping. Glue cotton balls to the front of your cloud costume, and add a construction paper mouth and eyes if you’d like.

cloud costumeUse a hole punch to make two holes in the top of the cloud. Thread white string through the holes, adjust for height, knot the string, and hang the cloud costume around your neck.

clouds ready to goWhen everyone was ready, the clouds gathered outside on the library’s plaza. We spread out in a grid (well, we attempted a grid) to insure that no one would get smacked by a weather pom-pom. Then, facing the kids, I cued up my playground whistle, and we got in formation.

An Homage to Three Irish Poets


THE LAKE OF INNISFREE
William Butler Yeats

william butler yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


THE FOGGY DEW
Katharine Tynan

katherine tynanA splendid place is London, with golden store,
For them that have the heart and hope and youth galore;
But mournful are its streets to me, I tell you true,
For I’m longing sore for Ireland in the foggy dew.

The sun he shines all day here, so fierce and fine,
With never a wisp of mist at all to dim his shine;
The sun he shines all day here from skies of blue:
He hides his face in Ireland in the foggy dew.

The maids go out to milking in the pastures gray,
The sky is green and golden at dawn of the day;
And in the deep-drenched meadows the hay lies new,
And the corn is turning yellow in the foggy dew.

Mavrone! If I might feel now the dew on my face,
And the wind from the mountains in that remembered place,
I’d give the wealth of London, if mine it were to do,
And I’d travel home to Ireland and the foggy dew.


ON THE VOWELS
Jonathan Swift

jonathan swiftWe are little airy creatures,
All of different voice and features;
One of us in glass is set,
One of us you’ll find in jet.
T’other you may see in tin,
And the fourth a box within.
If the fifth you should pursue,
It can never fly from you.


Poetic portraits lovingly rendered by master crafter, Katie Zondlo.