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Photo: Patrick Frenette.
Wig and Makeup Supervisor Rena Most and Principal Dancer Devon Teuscher. Photo: Susie Morgan Taylor.
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September 29, 2020
How did you become a wig and makeup artist for ABT?

"I have always been drawn to the intensity and excitement of the show being live. Even though shows are very well rehearsed, mishaps can happen at any moment, so being alert and a quick thinker is essential."

By Rena Most

At the very young age of two, as my parents recall, I was interested in and loved lipstick, the only makeup my mother used. I regularly wanted to wear it and quickly learned how to apply it. My parents supported this strange fascination and my practice grew.

From painting my sisters’ faces and studying different looks in magazines to getting friends ready for events and eventually getting involved with community theater, I knew I wanted to pursue the makeup industry in my early teens.

Von Rothbart Lakeside’s prosthetic headpiece.<br>A disposable baldcap (right) fits over the interior headpiece (left) and is then painted and glued to the dancer. <br>Photos: Rena Most and Jill Haley Gugliuzza.
Von Rothbart Lakeside’s prosthetic headpiece.
A disposable baldcap (right) fits over the interior headpiece (left) and is then painted and glued to the dancer.
Photos: Rena Most and Jill Haley Gugliuzza.

My sister’s high school art teacher recommended I take an art class when I got to high school. Reluctantly, I did. At the age of 16, I discovered a new passion and talent. I continued to take various art classes and went on to study Fine Arts in undergrad. After exploring different avenues of the makeup industry, I had decided I wanted to pursue the theatrical realm.

Working with wigs and hair came later, once I was already pursuing professional theater. I had to learn and practice a lot to catch up to my peers who had been doing hair and wigs for years. I am still learning new tricks and techniques!

Working in theater was appealing to me for several reasons. I have always been drawn to the intensity and excitement of the show being live. Even though shows are very well rehearsed, mishaps can happen at any moment, so being alert and a quick thinker is essential.

The maidens in Alexei Ratmansky's <i>Firebird</i> wear whimsical wigs. Photo: Marty Sohl.
The maidens in Alexei Ratmansky's Firebird wear whimsical wigs. Photo: Marty Sohl.

Theater often happens at a very quick pace, which adds excitement and sometimes chaos! We often have to get talent ready in 10 – 30 minutes, while someone doing the same thing for print or TV may easily have an hour to prep their subject. This forces us to know our craft inside and out, to be able to move quickly without stopping to think and still produce high-quality results.

Working live also pushes you to work with many different teams in a unique way that is not always required in other types of productions. Theater is known for its magic-like quick changes, the “How did they do that?” moments – the answer is, with a lot of practiced hard work and a whole team of people! It is the quickness and talent of the backstage crew that makes it happen.

Working for ABT has included all of those exciting characteristics plus so much more. Working with ABT is unique because of its repertoire and touring itinerary. We are constantly performing different ballets in different cities. Immaculate organization has been crucial for me to be able to efficiently set up our room and get my team ready, no matter where we are and what ballet we are performing.

We often have a day or two to unpack our giant road boxes and set everything up (including translating our notes for our local team of hair and makeup artists, depending on where we are) before our first performance, so efficiency is key. We perform so many ballets with an endless amount of characters to create – some ballets are harder than others.

Whether it is creating a villain, aging 20-year old dancers to look 80, managing 200 wigs or 50 mustaches, the hair and makeup room is never boring! Bringing these characters to life each night is always fun, but working and forming bonds with the talented, hilarious, kind, intelligent dancers of ABT each day is what truly makes this job so special.

Rena Most is ABT’s Wig and Makeup Supervisor.

Check out Rena's feature in Dance Magazine!See more of Rena's work on her ABT OffStage profile!