Halloween monster lovers: Please DO try this at home.
To create the ultimate Frankenstein’s Monster face, devotees of the frightful and macabre can benefit from this makeup lesson from costume designer Jasen Smith at Weathervane Playhouse, who’s creating the Monster’s grotesque look for each performance of the upcoming production of Young Frankenstein.
Actor Mason Shuman of Brimfield Township, a self-professed Halloween junkie and theater enthusiast, plays the freakishly green Monster who’s reanimated from the dead by scientist Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of the mad scientist Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. In the Mel Brooks musical comedy, he gets to come to life, run away, go on two rampages, put on a song-and-dance show and fall in love with a beautiful woman.
When you’re playing Frankenstein’s Monster, the whole look starts with that famously big forehead. Smith began with a prosthetic forehead — a precast latex foam mask onto which he stitched two elastic bands to help secure it to Shuman’s face. To get through the 12-show run, the designer bought two of these prosthetics for $37 each at www.mostlydead.com. (Another option is www.morphstore.com.)
The packaging for this “frighteningly soft” prosthetic even names it “Abbey Normal” in a nod to a joke about the Monster’s brain in Brooks’ 1974 Young Frankenstein film, upon which the musical is based.
In a Monster-making demonstration last week, Smith started by pre-painting the prosthetic forehead with green, water-based cream makeup from Akron Design and Costume. Then it was time to move Shuman’s hair out of the way in preparation for his Monster prosthetic, makeup and wig. Smith twisted Shuman’s hair back in five different areas of his head (center, near each temple and at either side of the nape of his neck) and secured each by making an “X” with two bobby pins.
That got the hair off Shuman’s face for the wig cap that came next, set one inch back from the hairline and pinned in the same five spots: “It’s a panty hose that’s shaped for your head,’’ said Smith, who buys them at Essence Beauty Mart.
Then it was time for Shuman to prep his face and neck for the latex mask and makeup by wiping them with sterile alcohol wipes, purchased from CVS. Next, Smith applied Graftobian prosthetic adhesive (mostlydead.com) to both Shuman’s skin and the outer edges of the prosthetic, “applying it at the two temples and slightly over the brow ridge.”
“You want it to be tacky so it’ll adhere to the skin. It works like rubber cement,’’ Smith said of the product, a spirit gum adhesive that sets within two to three minutes.
The forehead prosthetic was one-size-fits-all, but Smith ensured that the Monster’s wig, a longish black affair sold as a Beatles wig, would cover “a lot of sins” where the prosthetic meets Shuman’s head.
Next, it was time to apply the same green makeup used on the prosthetic to Shuman’s face, using a wedge-shaped makeup sponge. Shuman, a Spanish professor at Kent State University, is no stranger to frightful makeup designs: He used to be a roller derby referee who painted his face like a skull.
As Smith filled in around the actor’s ears with green, he explained that warm soapy water would take the makeup off. He also uses Dawn to get inevitable makeup stains out of costumes when he washes them.
Next, the designer added more green to Shuman’s prosthetic forehead next to match his skin: “The appliance may take several coats of color.”
But Shuman’s face couldn’t be left a flat green. Smith worked to give him contour and depth through highlights and shadows.
“Basically, what I’m doing now is doing a beauty makeup,’’ Smith said as he applied black cream makeup to the actor’s eyelids and along the upper lash ridge. “I’m doing that to bring out the dimension of his skin so he doesn’t look flat.”
Next, Smith painted the wrinkle ridges across Shuman’s prosthetic forehead black, and added a bit of black to the actor’s under-eye bags and blended. Next came black for the laugh lines around the eyes and mouth, and an L-shaped black jaw line to square the Monster’s jaw off, blotted a bit to make it look more natural.
To create depth, Smith took a Monster Wheel of makeup colors and chose a yellowish-green “baby puke” color to add highlights above each of the black shadow lines he had created.
Then he shadowed and shaped Shuman’s nose with black, using a flat brush from the inner corner of each eye and following the line of the nose down to where it ended on each side and blending. Next, he added “baby puke” highlights to the nose lines and blended with a wedge.
To add even more depth, he shadowed the nasal fold on each side with maroon makeup. Then Shuman sucked his cheeks in, and Smith used black as a rouge, stippling Shuman’s cheeks with a sponge in an upside down “L” shape to make his face look gaunter and hollowed-out. He created a similar black stippled effect on the prosthetic forehead to break up the green, and then feathered the actor’s jaw with a bit of black to pull his jaw line down visually and make it look more prominent.
Topping it off
Now it was time to comb and secure the Monster wig — which Smith straightened with a clothes steamer — using pins in the same five spots where his wig cap had been anchored.
Final steps included brushing on a translucent powder and adding a second zombie green from Halloween USA around the eyes to make them pop more.
“The final step really is looking at what you’ve done and fixing any mistakes, adding a little more color,’’ Smith said.
The initial Monster makeup run-through in the theater’s men’s dressing room took nearly 50 minutes. The goal was to get it down to about 30 for the show.
Adding to the monstrosity, Shuman will wear six-inch platform shoes and special T-shirts padded with upholstery foam under his Monster shirt and jacket, to create bulky shoulders and a thicker waist.
Shuman said he welcomed the challenging role of playing a Monster who comes to life, almost like a baby.
“It’s really a silent performance for most of the show. It’s a lot of moaning and groaning,’’ Shuman said.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ.
Learn monster makeup tricks from Young Frankenstein’ artist
Halloween monster lovers: Please DO try this at home.