Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Inside Look with SCR’s Wig Master Laura Caponera

A green wig and facial hair wait to be styled.
Wig Master Laura Caponera styles a wig.
What’s your professional title?

Wig Master is what I do, but my official title is hair and makeup supervisor.

How long?

I have been making wigs since my internship at the Actors Conservatory Theatre in 1997, so over 15 years.

What are wigs made from?

Most wigs are human hair or synthetic hair.  Some are made of yak hair. Wigs can be made of almost anything; I just made two wigs for Eurydice of wool yarn!

How much hair to make a wig?

A human head has an average of 100,000 hairs. A wig has something like 30- to 50-thousand. The more expensive wigs are hand-knotted one or two hairs at a time.

How long does it take to make a wig?

A fully hand-tied wig should take about 40 hours, but can take longer based on how difficult the hair is to work with, or if the color pattern and direction is very intricate.

Wigs in the wig dryer.
How many steps are there to prepare a wig for a production?

First, there is the build process. Once the wigs are made, then they are styled. Usually, they are wet-set and dried in a special cabinet called a wig dryer. For longer wigs, we set them in a roller set that has been photographed for reference so it may be duplicated for each performance. The wigs also may have been cut and colored. And we do use hair product in them so they are routinely washed and conditioned to be there best.

What is the cost of the wigs we make?

Theatrical wigs can range from under $100 for a factory-made wig, to several thousand dollars for a fully hand-made wig.  Even an inexpensive hand-made wig may cost $200 in labor to create a hand-made hairline. Supplies are costly and becoming rare. Long fine hair is becoming more and more scarce, and expensive.

What’s your favorite piece, and for what show?

There have been so many things it is hard to remember them all, but I think my favorite things have been for print publication work, and Halloween costumes.  For my good friend last year, I made a 1970s, bright yellow wig that was double-decker with a bird cage full of blue birds inside.

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