When I first heard that one of my closest friends, Russell Goldman ’17, was adapting and directing Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” I knew I had to be involved in some way. At first, I wanted to audition, but then I realized that I was needed elsewhere: makeup design. I had first shown my skills in “The Worm Queen,” a show by another one of my closest friends, Will McGhee ’17. That show gave me the confidence to take on the huge task I knew “Nightmare” was going to be. So I teamed up with Haley Rauch ’15 to draw up face charts for the 12 characters in the show. We took inspiration from the movie but tried our best to make sure our designs were not exact copies. We tried to bring something new to this production. After all, this adaptation isn’t the strictest.
Even ordering the makeup was a huge task. This show requires a ton of face paint. How can you portray Jack Skellington and Zero without painting them white? Once we had all of the products, it was time to test them out on the actors. We came across a couple of issues, including one actor breaking out in hives. Fortunately, we fixed this by ordering a blush powder in the same color, which she loved.
The makeup application process was also a lot of trial and error. Most of the designs we came in with ended up being changed once we saw how they looked on the actors and their performance style.
“The look of the actors feels like a marriage between their characters and bringing out their own humanistic qualities as actors,” Goldman said. “They’re not so much caked in makeup, as the makeup helps them transform into the characters, physically.”
I have a couple of favorite character designs. Of course, Jack Skellington is a standout. For Jack’s design, we wanted to make the eyes the focal point, circling them with an intense black to imitate a skeleton’s eye sockets. However, we also wanted to make sure that Peetie McCook ‘16, who plays Jack, didn’t lose any expression while he performed. To do this, we drew him a new set of eyebrows and mouth stitching, as Peetie has an almost elastic face and constantly uses his eyebrows and big grin when he’s on stage. We also made the eye shape rounder and tilted downward to express Jack’s longing for something new and almost childlike naïveté.
Sally also sports a standout look. Marina King ’16, a newcomer to Second Stage productions, brings humanity to the role that we wanted to reflect in the makeup. Instead of having her face painted monochrome blue, we added patches of color to her face to imitate fabric sewn onto a rag doll. The pastel colors bring a fresh look to Sally that reflects Marina’s energetic persona onstage.
The cast had a lot to say about the makeup. Dan Bachman ’17 said that the makeup enhances his performance.
“I like what the makeup does for my character because I play him very innocent, sweet, and puppy-like, but he looks terrifying,” Bachman said.
Mitchell Stone ’16 believes that the makeup adds more dimension to the “eclectic” characters of Halloweentown.
“I think that the look of each character is kind of its own thing, and I think that’s the charm of Halloweentown, that all of these really different characters work together to make Christmas happen,” Stone said.
“Nightmare” has been a stressful but extremely rewarding experience. It takes about an hour to get everyone ready, and that’s with the help of my wonderful makeup assistants Sofie Somoroff ’18, Alison Silverstein ’18, and Jennifer Cummings ’16. This is a huge task, but whenever I hear how much the actors love their makeup, I am overwhelmingly happy I took on this job and was able to be involved in this show.
Tickets for performances of “Nightmare” on Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. are available in the box office on the days of each show.