I have been makeup-free since January 2005.
I had a lot of fun acting in plays in high school and college, but I always dreaded the makeup.
The final time I had to endure the wretched stuff (well, only wretched when it’s on me) was the final time I acted in a play, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore at the College of William & Mary.
I knew when I auditioned that would be my last time acting. It was my senior year of college—I had my fun for several years, and it was time to focus on some other areas.
There’d be much to miss about acting. Not the makeup, though. But I figured I could tolerate a little bit one last time.
They cast me as a bust. A marble, white bust — a head statute that, through the magic of Gilbert & Sullivan, came to life. And was very, very white. Ghostly white. My shower and I spent good quality time together after each show.
Incidentally, I was the town drunk in earlier scenes, obligated to drink far too much awful-tasting iced tea shortly before being smothered in the white makeup and hairspray and stuffed in a box to hide everything below my neck. Oh, and for one number, I and several guys had to do the grapevine on a platform six feet above the stage, without a railing. Good thing I stopped while I was ahead.
Anyway, that white makeup wasn’t as bad as the blue makeup from my sophomore year of high school.
That one-act play was called “The Girl Who Was Asked to Turn Blue,” and my character was part of a utopian society of blue people (not the Smurfs, another one) trying to convince this girl to join us in our collective.
So, on top of all the usual adolescent anxieties 15-year-olds deal with, this play gave me a new one as I returned to school each morning: “My face isn’t still blue anywhere, is it?”
Luckily, most plays only required a minimal level of makeup, and in high school, some of the girls seemed to take bizarre pleasure in making up us guys. So at least I didn’t have to know how the stuff worked. I just had to sit there and take it.
College was different. Not only were we expected to apply our makeup ourselves, but we had to go out and buy our own.
Yes, my higher education made me the slightly embarrassed owner of makeup.
So picture this: myself and a car full of college boys being taken to Target and heading straight into the cosmetics aisle.
An upperclassman picked everything out for us (with uncanny speed and accuracy), and then the cashiers faced a sudden surge of young guys individually purchasing makeup, and only makeup.
Shortly later, we learned how to put it all on without turning into clowns. I remember little at this point, except that the eye-liner was particularly nefarious.
Then I had to smuggle it all into my dorm room.
Makeup certainly had an unfortunate but unavoidable presence during my performance days. In fact, it occasionally got too much credit.
For a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest my senior year of high school, I was one of the bad guys, so I decided to be stereotypically evil and grow a goatee.
This prompted one of the freshman girls to say, “I like your beard. Is that real, or is it painted on?”