Trivia Time - Theatre Makeup


As long as theatre has existed, actors have used stage makeup.

From ancient Greece to the theatre of the Orient to present-day Broadway, theatrical makeup has been an integral part of any play.

The use and application of makeup for the theatre has evolved over thousands of years.

In ancient Greece, the majority of plays in Greek theatre were performed by masked actors.

The Greek masks acted as a sort of megaphone, as their shape created a natural means of vocal amplification.

More importantly, in Greek theater, an actor might play several parts, so rather than cumbersome makeup changes, an actor could simply change masks to indicate that he was playing a new character.

Thespis, considered to be the first actor,
used white lead and wine to paint his face.

Early Greek plays may have featured actors who wore lead-based white makeup with red accents. This toxic makeup would be
popular for centuries, both onstage and off.

In Peking Opera Theatre, popular during the Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1911, actors originally wore masks, but later opted for makeup in order to show facial expression.

Featuring brightly coloured swirling designs of black, red, blue and white, Peking Opera performers studied facial characteristics to develop a standard for creating facial makeup that could instantly tell you everything you needed to know about the character.

The theatrical makeup of Shakespeare's day was made from whatever could be found.

Lead paint was popular, both as makeup of choice for Queen Elizabeth as well as on the stage.

Facial features were accented by chalk powder or soot, corks were burned, and used to apply full dark lines upon the face to highlight facial features or to give the look of a soldier in battle and false beards became popular during this period as well.

Makeup of Restoration/Enlightenment-era was characterized by a polished, feminine look on both men and women. White lead face paint provided the base for both men and women.

Plays were often performed in theatres lit only by candles and gas light, so the makeup had to be larger than life to be seen clearly.

The so-called Modern Theatre pancake makeup we recognize today was developed in 1914 by Max Factor.

Today's makeup is safe and does not include toxic lead.

With the advent of liquid latex, great prosthetics can be created for any role.