King Charles III: Costume and makeup

Eliza Poster, Staff Writer

Moments after an ensemble member strides off the Gross Theatre stage, they are engulfed in the backstage ambiance which play director Benjamin Posner described as “controlled chaos.” Actors rush to designated changing areas, swiftly swapping garments, pulling off wigs, smearing a new shade of lipstick across their lips, and re-emerging to the audience seconds later as entirely different characters.

The school’s production of ‘King Charles III’ features one of the most abundant collections of costumes shown in years, with cast members donning up to eight different outfits throughout the play.

Costumer Wendy Kahn said the cast members act in multiple roles throughout the play. “Most of the people in the cast are representing [many different characters], and they change from commoners, to parliament members, to servants,” Kahn said. “So we have to think about how the costumes can telegraph who they are quickly.”

Sifting through the school’s vast accumulation of garments in the costume shop, Kahn and fellow costumer Vera Zamdmer amassed a collection of clothing, which mirrors the true appearances of contemporary British monarchs and commoners, while also conveying the sentiment of the play.

Posner said a character’s clothes are extensions of their personalities, and that elements like color scheme evoke emotion and contribute to the play’s tone.

It’s about matching the outward appearance of the character with the way the actor is characterizing them, and the way the playwright has created them,” he said.

Yana Gitelman (10), who plays the ghost of Princess Diana. believes that her costume embodies her role. “I have a long, flowy skirt, and I have to walk really slow, and I feel awkward doing that in sweatpants and sneakers,” she said. “Even things like different shoes helps you stand a certain way and feel a certain way.”

Head of makeup design Tiger Lily Moreno (11) worked with Posner to develop stage makeup that amplifies the presence of every character and makes the royal family members easily recognizable, she said.

“I’ve been doing research on what British people look like and what their beauty standards are,” Moreno said.

A month before the play, she started designing looks, browsing YouTube tutorials, and researching special effects makeup techniques to age and alter appearances, she said.

Unlike in productions Posner previously directed, makeup design plays a crucial role in this play, as the royal family is very conscious of how they are perceived, and there are references to the characters’ distinct physical traits throughout the dialogue, such as the size of Prince Charles’ ears, he said.

After experimenting, Moreno developed a technique where she contours the ears of Andrew Caosun (12), who plays King Charles, adding tissue paper, makeup adhesive, and foundation in order to heighten them, she said.

Moreno also consulted dramaturg Isaac Brooks about the British royal family’s natural makeup tendency, while lower class women often wear heavy eye makeup, a trend which Brooks called “a rite of passage,” he said.

Moreno applies striking, smoky eye makeup to Charlotte Pinney (12), who play’s Jess, Prince Harry’s non-royal love interest. She said this enriches the character’s personality, an art student who doesn’t have a lot of money, she said.

After discovering that Queen Elizabeth II does her own makeup, Moreno had the actresses who portray British royalty do the same in order to create an authentic appearance and help them get into character, she said.

“They’re supposed to emulate something very natural, so I took that and said, ‘They should do their own [makeup],’” she said. “I give them detailed instructions and come to them right before they go on and see what I need to touch up or blend out or add.”

Posner encourages actors to think about their transformations before they go on stage. “It helps you be a little mindful of the transformation you’re about to go through,” Posner said. “Sitting in front of the mirror, applying the makeup, having a moment when you’re thinking about your character, if nothing else gives you a moment by yourself, is a helpful meditation.”