Berkeley Rep Blog

Previous entry: Taking the spotlight ONSTAGE
Next entry: Candle, candle, burning bright

An actor prepares: Firefighter makeup

posted by Amy Bobeda on Thu, Apr 28, 2011
in Costume shop , Our shows

Bookmark and Share

In the fire, Fedotik loses everything. In reality, after they apply their firefighter makeup for the disastrous Act III of Three Sisters, actors David Abrams (Fedotik), Bruce McKenzie (Vershinin), Sam Breslin Wright (Solyony), and James Carpenter (Chebutykin) lose only the ability to perform simple tasks like opening pickle jars and answering text messages without a helping hand. So, for the folks back home, David and I have prepared a little behind-the-scenes, how-to Chekhovian firefighter makeup tutorial. 

David prepares. The process is neither fast nor simple, so David downs a quick cup of water before we begin.
The secret to quick removal: stage soot can be a beast to wash off, especially in the short amount of time between exits in Act III and entrances in Act IV, so the men slather themselves in cocoa butter gel (found at your local CVS) that smells delightfully of German chocolate cake.


Sooting up. The soot is mixed from a top-secret formulation of powdered charcoal makeup and cocoa butter lotion, for easy, lung-friendly application. The actor strategically dabs it on and smears. David begins with his calves and works up.


The face, obviously, is the most important. A balance between too little and the inevitable Uncle Tom’s Cabin jokes is achieved through a gradient scale of light and dark smudges, and lots of room around the eyes for maximum expression.


Blood is key. Each man has a signature wound. Bruce loves his bleeding ear. Sam is committed to his forehead gash that resulted from Solyony saving a baby in the fire. Jim focuses on hands and knuckles, while David’s focus is on his calf gash and bloody nose. His theory is that when close to a fire for a prolonged period of time, one’s nose would most certainly dry up. Attention to detail is paid as they all trail fake blood from their wounds onto their clothing.


Sweat. While most would do anything they can to hide embarrassing pit stains, we enhance them for the audience’s viewing pleasure. A spray bottle full of water hits the pits, chest, and back, followed by a second coat of cocoa butter oil to the face for a sexy, glossy sheen, and a dousing and tousle of the hair to complete the look.

The finale. Smelling of cake, these hot messes of men are armed and ready to break hearts and (spoiler alert) clocks, just in time to ship off to Poland.

The new version of Three Sisters by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Les Waters, continues through May 22. Reserve your seats now.


Solyony saves a baby in the fire! I love it!

Marc Vincenti | Tue, May 10, 2011

Helpful post.. this type of make up is not easy to put and prepare, but you guys managed to put in on very nice... Thanks for sharing this post, Janet.

Janet Dawson | Mon, Jul 4, 2011

The comments to this entry are closed.