Friday, September 9, 2011

Congrats, You Got the Part: Now Cut Your Hair

In SCR’s version of Pride and Prejudice, actress Claire Kaplan plays “The Girl,” a modern-day character who is reading the novel for the first time.  Though she never speaks, she is the observer through whose eyes we view the story.  And taking on the role meant making a major change to her appearance.  We asked her to write about the experience of chopping off her long hair for her art:

My character in this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is a punky teen we call “The Girl” who uses her appearance as a sort of identity-establishing rebellion against her mom.

Pretty typical fare, but I never went through that phase.  I’ve always had long hair, and I’ve never permanently dyed it. The only time I’ve changed it is for shows. I cut it into a bob for one, and I dyed it a very non-permanent raspberry for another. But I knew at the audition for P&P that this would be a bigger kind of commitment. The casting director and director Kyle Donnelly made sure I realized that the role would require a major make-over. I agreed at once. South Coast Repertory is a major theatre, after all, and an aspiring actor does what she must, within the bounds of propriety.

I knew it would be challenging, but I started to panic when I saw the design for The Girl’s hair, which was much shorter than I expected—basically a pixie cut. I realized that my personal idea of femininity was pretty tied up in my hair. Part of me knew this was silly. But I had been going through some major life changes (graduating and moving home to be in this show, among others), and I didn’t feel like I could deal with my identity being shaken, too.

Before, during and after Claire's transformation.

After a few pep talks from our wonderful costume designer, Paloma Young, and asking myself “What Would Lizzy Bennet Do,” I figured that if I was prepared to chop off my locks I might as well commit to it and take the plunge. They put my hair in two ponytails (there was too much of it for the conventional one) and—snip!—it was gone. I would like it noted for posterity that I did not cry. I think I went into a sort of Zen state.

The fantastic Neve at Crew Salon did the cut entirely by instinct! She shaped it to my head, and I will happily admit it looks great. I love how easy it is to take care of, and it’s surprisingly versatile. The color is a bit extreme for my taste; I tend toward a more natural look. But this is fun! I get to try on a whole different person for a month and a half. And I certainly feel more in character for the show.

In the end, I’m glad I sacrificed some vanity for a job that I readily sacrifice much more important things for all the time. My personal ideas about what is feminine and sexy are starting to change, and I look more like a young Liza Minelli, which has always been a life goal.

One of the best parts is that I get to donate my almost two feet of hair to Locks of Love, an organization that collects hair from the recently shorn and makes it into wigs for those who have lost their hair to illness. The power of the arts!
Claire Kaplan


  1. you did a great thing! not just simply the locks of love, but you allowed yourself to really get into character :)

    can't wait to see the show!

  2. Love the new cut claire, reminds me of a certain adventure to paul mitchell salon in downtown san diego! break a leg in the show!!!!!!