Mythical characters that exist only in movies and shows magically come to life when a makeup artist transforms a clean face and human body into a never-before-seen living, breathing creature . . . so real that you might forget you’re watching a work of fiction and become swept into an alternate reality. The uncertain line between fantasy and reality is precisely what convinced makeup artist, Rose Kaiser, to commit to doing the makeup for the characters in “Harken – A Game of Phones” Riddlesbrood Touring Theater Company’s innovative, new stage show that blurs the lines between imagination and real life.
“When I read the words, ‘you will be immersed in a fantastic universe that will leave you wondering what is real and what is not,’ I was hooked,” Rose explained. She was referring to marketing copy that was written to describe this original new musical. “There’s so much room for imagination in ‘Harken’ that I couldn’t wait to get started on the characters.”
“Harken” is the name of the medieval, 'Lord of the Rings-like' world where most of the show takes place. It’s like no show you’ve ever seen before, as it combines live action and 3-D computer-game-like scenery with innovative smart phone technology.
“It’s a unique marriage of real life action and virtual reality with actors performing in front of full screen video projected sets using the latest digital technology.” said Ryan Long, co-writer and director of the show and creative director of Riddlesbrood. “It’s a more immersive theatrical experience because of the game play elements the audience will be enjoying using an Android and IOS app that allows for them to influence the play while earning points for themselves.”
Rose, along with her team of professional cosmetologists at Dimensional Designs Salon and Spa in Lakehurst, New Jersey, have all been consulting with Long, and “Harken’s” costume designers, Geryl and Thomi Hickey, for the past several months to bring each character to life.
“My team has been visualizing and sketching how all the characters should look based on input we’ve received about the mystical Dungeons and Dragons-like world in which they exist, their genetic makeup and personality, and the costumes they’ll be wearing.” Rose said. “Each makeup design and hair style will communicate that character’s nature. We’ve discussed them so many times now . . . every character is a living being at this point.”
Rose’s team from Dimensional Designs will be applying makeup to about 25 actors for “Harken." Like a wizard's enchanted wand, a makeup artist uses brushes and other tools to magically transform actors into believable characters using a variety of fantasy and special effects makeup techniques. For a live stage show, makeup is often used to highlight the “human” actors' faces in order make expressions visible to the audience from moderate distances. This often includes defining the eyes and lips as well as the highlights and lowlights of the facial bones. With fantasy or character makeup, each character has to represent a world of non-humans. Fantasy makeup styles range from dramatic makeup around the eyes to completely painted bodies. There’s a thin line between fantasy and special effects makeup when an artist with knowledge of art or sculpture combines makeup techniques with technologies of mold-making and synthetic skin materials (such as foam latex, gelatine and silicone) to create realistic looking burns, wounds, and scars for war or horror shows – to bizarre attributes, such as horns, additional appendages, and textured or hairy skin often found in science fiction characters. The right makeup and hair (or lack thereof) defines a character’s personality and summons a desired emotional response from the audience. After all, what would a Hobbit be without his large pointy ears and big hairy feet? Would the Borg Queen be as intimidating without her tight, vein-streaked waxy white skin and bald head? Would Star War’s Darth Maul terrify you as much without his devil-like red and black patterned face and sharp horns? Would Narnia’s Mr. Tumnus be as likeable and unassuming without his dainty goatee and cute, perky, goat-like ears?
Although this is the first time Rose and Dimensional Designs have collaborated with the Riddlesbrood Touring Theater Company, this isn’t the first time they’ve done hair and makeup for theatrical shows. In the past, they’ve worked on several productions throughout Ocean County. Dimensional Designs is a very popular full-service salon with an excellent reputation that’s been in business for 26 years. Rose mentioned that they’re well-known for both traditional makeup and hairstyles for bridal parties, as well as for unique weddings such as Gothic, Renaissance or other themes. She also mentioned that her salon is very active at Halloween because of the expertise of her team members such as Kimberlee Metha, who has a degree in beauty and character makeup from Makeup Designory in New York City. Kim, who is also Rose’s niece, will use her expertise in making prosthetics to make horns, fake noses and other body features for some of the characters in “Harken.” Rose’s niece, Jennifer Degrigoli, also works at Dimensional Designs as do stylists Jamie Lyn Caianiello and Natalia Kelemen who have been with the salon for many years.
“We’re a family in many ways,” Rose said, “and we also practice on family! Kim has painted her husband several times to rehearse a makeup application for the show, and I’ve been perfecting the makeup and hairstyle for the ‘fairies’ on my daughter.”
Rose’s 10-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, was cast as one of the dancing fairies in “Harken.” Rose explained that the fairies are whimsical and will appear with glitter, sparkles and gems, as you’d expect a fairy to be, but that they’ll also have a gothic twist to them. She mentioned that the actors playing fairies aren’t portraying other characters, so their hair and makeup can be more elaborate, as it will stay the same throughout the show . . . and that when an actor is required to change quickly into different characters, his makeup and hair must be amenable to a fast change, or it must be versatile enough to represent multiple characters with only minor adjustments.
“One of the characters in “Harken” is made out of wood, “ Rose said. “The actor who is playing this role must also be able to quickly transform into two other characters.” Rose didn’t want to reveal how she and her team of makeup experts were going to accomplish this . . . so you’ll have to come see the show to find out!
See the world of “Harken” and its characters come to life with action-packed adventure, thrilling stage combat scenes, stunning costumes, lively, original music, and amazing fantasy and character makeup and professional effects. There are only three performances on the main stage at The Strand located at 400 Clifton Avenue, Lakewood, New Jersey: Friday, March 27th at 8pm, and Saturday, March 28th at 2pm and 8pm. There’s also a single performance at the Landis Theater in Vineland, NJ, on Saturday evening, March 21st at 7pm and also a show at the Society Hill Playhouse in Philadelphia on Friday April 3rd. Because the game is interactive and changes every time it’s played, no two shows are alike, so plan to “play” the show more than once!
Riddlesbrood Touring Theater Company has fifteen years of experience performing murder mysteries, musicals and other original shows such as, “Harken – A Game of Phones.” They’re considered the top touring theater group in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware region. For more information on shows visit their calendar.