A Bald Cap Transformation for The Magic Flute

Have you ever wondered what it takes to turn the Florentine Opera’s performers in to the characters they portray on stage?

Wig and Makeup Designer Erica Cartledge took us into the Wig and Makeup Shop at the Wayne & Kristine Lueders Opera Center in Riverwest to show us how the crew applies a bald cap.
Baumgartner Studio Artist Nate Hill was the brave model for this demonstration.

The crew will have to apply two bald caps in the upcoming production of The Magic Flute. The first will be obvious: one of the male “slave” characters requires a bald cap. The other will likely surprise the audience.

“The Queen of the Night character actually has a bald cap underneath her wig,” said Cartledge.

To start the bald cap process, Cartledge and her assistant gave Hill’s hair a trim around the back of his neck – to make sure the cap would be able to adhere to his skin – and applied a layer of barrier cream to his forehead, to protect the skin from adhesive. Then, the bald cap, which is made out of latex and feels like a thin balloon, was stretched over Hill’s head, somewhat like a swim cap that has loose edges.

“We need to see where everything is laying first before we cut it to fit,” said Cartledge.

Next, Cartledge applied Pros Aide, which is an adhesive, around Hill’s hairline with a cotton swab. Then, she dried the adhesive with a hairdryer on the cool setting. From there, the bald cap was gently stretched around his head, so there were no bumps or gaps, and the edges were pressed down onto the adhesive.

“A bald cap usually takes about an hour,” said Cartledge.

After the adhesive was applied and the cap set in place, Cartledge applied a thin coat of liquid latex all along the edges of the cap, which then needed to be dried with the hair dryer.

“We go around with two different tools: first I go around with a cotton swab, just to glue down whatever is left of the edges that weren’t glued down. Then I go around with a stipple sponge, which will give you texture,” said Cartledge.

Cartledge and her assistant applied powder around the edges of the cap to make sure the adhesive and latex set and looked natural. Then, it was time for makeup.

“When you’re adding the cream-based makeup, you work in dabbing motions so you don’t rip the cap,” said Cartledge.

She applied cream-based makeup over Hill’s entire head, to match the cap to his skin tone, and then applied a tinted powder on top.

“After powdering, we would usually use a sealer spray, to seal the makeup in, and this is just a little spritz,” said Cartledge. “And that’s it!”

More Wig and Makeup Facts

Cartledge said that in every Florentine Opera production, anywhere from 20 to 30 chorus members are fitted individually with wigs. Additionally, each principal cast member also has his or her own wigs for each production. The wig and makeup design crew begins roughly eight weeks out before a production starts to create the wigs, which are made by hand from real human hair!

To see the amazing hair and makeup creations in The Magic Flute on May 11 and 13, 2018, contact the Florentine Opera Box Office at 414-291-5700 ext. 224. Great tickets are still available, including a family buy-one, get-one offer for our Sunday matinee.

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