If you closed your eyes in the wig-and-makeup room at the Sarasota Opera House, you’d think you were in a trendy hair salon. There’s the unmistakable smell of beauty products, the din of chitchat and inside jokes, the clinking of combs and bobby pins and brief moments of quiet concentration pierced by Georgi Eberhard’s giant and contagious laugh.
“It’s Halloween for us every day,” says Eberhard, 57, Sarasota Opera’s lead wig-and-makeup designer, a redheaded, self-described opera geek from Long Island, N.Y.
It’s in this windowless room, tucked away from the lavishness of opera house décor, that Eberhard’s small staff transforms Sarasota Opera’s tenors and sopranos into lovelorn beauties, anguished princes, lonely peasants and fragile geishas.
“For me, opera is the biggest of the big,” Eberhard says. “It combines every art form — music, acting, costumes. It’s the chance to do big faces, big hair, to create characters from different centuries, to turn young men into old men and old men into young men.”
Standing next to Eberhard is Krissa Lent, a 25-year-old wig maker, from Las Vegas, who honed her hair-and-makeup chops working backstage at Shakespeare festivals. Lent, unlike Eberhard, enjoys the act of ventilating wigs. Ventilating, says Lent, is a lot like crafting a latch-hook rug. You work piece-by-piece, knot-by-knot, a tedious task Eberhard admits she would rather avoid.
Next to Lent is 28-year-old Los Angeles makeup artist Dawn Sorenson, also a regular on the Shakespeare festival circuit. A quiet, pixie-haired makeup artist, Sorenson’s work with the Utah Festival Opera is what helped earn her a spot on Eberhard’s wig-and-makeup team. Sorenson wanted to be a singer, but ended up working backstage after college.
“I loved performing,” she says softly, “but not enough to starve for it.”
“Yup,” pipes up Joel Kachelmeyer, a 24-year-old theater junkie with a biting sense of humor. “I used to act and sing in high school and college, and then it was like ‘nope; I’m over it.’”
Kachelmeyer started working with Eberhard a year ago, shortly after graduating with a theater degree from Fredonia State College, in western New York.
The crew arrived Oct. 11 for Sarasota Opera’s fall production of “La traviata” and will leave Nov. 11, the day the show wraps. Like most of the opera cast and crew, the wig-and-makeup designers live in Ringling Terrance, an opera-owned apartment building behind Florida Studio Theatre. They’ll return again in January and remain on board through March for the opera’s winter season.
“I’m very grateful for this crew,” says Eberhard, who during her six years with Sarasota Opera has handpicked two to three assistants to work beside her backstage. “They take pride in what they do.”
Surveying Lent, Sorenson and Kachelmeyer, all of whom have spent the afternoon bent over cluttered vanities meticulously combing and pinning wigs, Eberhard raises one perfectly lined eyebrow and laughs.
“When you’re back here, your endeavors have to be self-induced,” she says.
TOP FIVE TRICKS OF THE TRADE
1. Maybelline Ultra Liner
“It gives a distinctive line. I use it everywhere I go,” Georgi Eberhard says.
2. Revlon Kiss-Proof lipstick
“I’ve used Revlon’s ‘Fire and Ice’ and ‘Cherries in the Snow’ for years,” Eberhard says. “They’re the two standard diva colors.”
3. Ben Nye’s Makeup Matte Makeup Sealer
“It sets the makeup,” Krissa Lent says. “You spray it on when you’re through so singers don’t sweat their makeup off.”
4. Dawn dish soap
“It degreases makeup brushes,” Dawn Sorenson says.
5. Saran Wrap and packing tape
“We use it to make molds of people’s heads,” Lent says. “A singer or an actor comes in and we put the Saran Wrap over their head and draw their hairline with a marker. The packing tape helps it conform to the shape of the head.”
if you go
“La traviata” is performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, at the Sarasota Opera House. For tickets, call 366-8450 or visit www.sarasotaopera.org.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at email@example.com.
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