Whenever a new production hits the stage, people gush about many things: the actors, the storyline, the set, the costumes, etc.
But an often overlooked aspect of productions is sometimes the most obvious part of an actor’s appearance—the wig the character wears.
A vital part of the costume department at BJU is the wig shop.
Most of the wigs BJU owns are made from real human hair, which lasts much longer than synthetic hair when properly taken care of.
In fact, Alicia Carr, BJU’s wig master, said most wigs made from human hair outlive the average person.
“We’ve had some synthetic wigs start falling apart after 15 to 20 years,” Carr said. “[Human] hair is dead; you can keep washing it, and it is very durable.”
As the overseer of the wig shop, Carr is able to perform all necessary functions—everything from cutting and styling a wig, to creating one from scratch.
The wig shop records the color, style and texture of each hair sample they purchase. Then, when making a new wig or repairing an old one, it’s easy to look through the inventory and purchase that same hair rather than trying to graft in and dye other hair.
Traditionally, wigs are stitched on a lace piece, allowing the skin to show through and making the hair look natural. These wigs are called “lace front.”
Often times, if a larger or thicker wig is needed, a store-bought wig will be purchased to save Carr and her crew some time.
Carr called these wigs “hard front” because of the thick seam around the edge of the wig.
Many times the wig shop will “re-front” it; that is, Carr and her crew will remove the thick seam around the front of the wig and insert a lace piece, making the finished wig look more natural.
Lace hair pieces—wigs, mustaches and beards—are made with a cross-stitch pattern. You take the hook and grab a hair through the barb and knot it.
Carr began working on the wigs for the opera La Cenerentola last summer. Then, once the spring semester started, she began working on the Hamlet wigs and revisited La Cenerentola once rehearsals began in earnest.
“If we’re making ourselves a new wig, a full foundation and ventilating the whole wig, we’ll leave ourselves three to four weeks,” Carr said.
Now that La Cenerentola has finished, Carr has a lot of wigs to shampoo before they will be ready for storage.
Most wigs are left styled throughout the entire production process—rehearsals and performances—so they will be washed and dried multiple times to remove all hair products after the production is over.
The stepsisters, Tisbe and Clorinda, had extremely elaborate wigs, so their’s especially were left styled rather than recreating the exact look for each performance
“Underneath Tisbe’s wig, we had a cage to support the weight of her hat,” Carr said. “We put that underneath, and teased the hair up around it and then put the hat on top. [The cage] is just floral wire with duct tape around it.”
Though sometimes they may not be noticed, wigs are certainly a detailed process and an important element of many productions here on campus.