Posted on May 07 2018
Styling wigs can seem like an insurmountable task. Once you finally get it sat on your head the way you want, it can sometimes be difficult to want to do anything else other than just let it be with the style it came with. However, styling can be incredibly simple if you have the right tools and a few extra minutes - even the night before if you have a wig stand you can style on. As I was working on theater productions, we were lucky enough one year to be given a donation so that we could buy nice new lace fronts for the cast and for specific characters we were having trouble styling with the current synthetic or mixed blend wigs we had.
For a few roles, it was as simple as purchasing the wig and placing it on the actor’s head; but other characters were much harder to style. For all you theater buffs who are looking for how to’s on how to get your favorite leading lady’s hair, here are a few that I have worked on in the past, either personally wearing or styling, and how we achieved these looks.
The hardest thing about this role is that she had different hairstyles for different incarnations of her character during the show. At first she’s quiet and reserved with a tight long braid, then it’s beautifully wavy and flowing under her witches hat and finally it’s disheveled as she leaves Oz and the world she tried so hard to save behind. Though we had been given a bigger budget, we couldn’t exactly afford to have three wigs ready to go for every show. So we improvised a little.
Her first look is a tight braid as I mentioned, and that is achieved by putting the cap on the actor’s head - it can be wavy or straight makes no difference - and then french braid starting not from the forehead but from the crown of the head. Set with a little hairspray for shine and you are ready for the majority of act one. To achieve the second look, while the actor is changing, undo the braid and run a brush through the waves and you will reveal some of the most beautiful waves. (At this point in the show it’s been almost an hour.) The last look is incredibly easy to pull off as the fight between the actors on stage does most of the work, just be sure to have a comb to take to the roots to add a bit of frizz and dimension to the look where she begins to lose her sanity.
This was a challenge. Firstly because I was playing one of Idina Menzel’s titular roles and secondly because the hair our director and producer wanted was about as close to a lion’s mane as I’ve ever worn. This took a wig and two bags of wigs for black women to craft. We started with a jet black curly base wig and then added in a different curl texture extensions. Once we got the extensions in, we took bobby pins and began pinning up different sections to make it look a bit worn and “lived in.” The process took about an hour and had to be done on my head because if we did it on the wig stand it wouldn’t look the same on my head. Why? In the show, Maureen is living on the street or in low rent housing or squatting. Her hair needs to look as if it’s an amalgamation of a few different looks that she never took out or hasn’t washed in a while. Though there is one scene in the second act where she has “normal” looking hair, this wig was the more difficult and most dominant presence in the character’s overall look.