LJWorld.com weblogs In the Dark
So there I was, willingly craning my neck at an angle that my chiropractor would cluck her tongue at and allowing Hannah to apply hot wax onto my bare skin. I braced myself and raised my eyebrows as she pressed strips of paper into the wax, then pulled. Ouch! With a few sure rips, my landing strip eyebrows were tamed into a graceful 1930s arch. “Oh,” I joked, “ the sacrifices we make for art.” But it wasn’t much of a sacrifice. After all, no one told me to get my eyebrows waxed into shape to play the teacher, Miss Shields, in the LCT production of A Christmas Story. It just seemed somehow…necessary. I’d done everything else I could think of to prepare to play this character – I did my character background and objective work, I developed movement based on an animal and a couple of teachers I knew (wonder if my high school Latin teacher ever thought she’d be the inspiration for character development?), and researched hair and makeup styles of the time period. I even watched The Wizard of Oz so I could emulate Margaret Hamilton in one of the fantasy scenes. Something seemed to be missing, though.My students frequently comment on my repertoire of amusing facial expressions, most of which involve some comical contortion of my eyebrows. I perfected the looks that garnered the most response from my students, and incorporated them into my character. The final touch! There was only one thing that would make my eyebrow work really stand out.And that’s what put me in the salon chair a day before our tech rehearsal, in search of cosmetic perfection that I hadn’t even pursued for my wedding day. I’ve only had my eyebrows waxed one other time in my life, and that was 1984 when I was a contestant in the Miss Kansas National Teen pageant in Wichita. Groomed eyebrows weren’t enough to distract everyone from the fact that I was the only contestant in braces. But that’s another story.I thought about the sacrifices I ask my students to make in their appearances for our productions. Most are minor, like asking that they don’t cut their hair without consulting me. Moms hate me for that, especially around family portrait time. Sometimes I’ll ask someone to get a haircut to fit a certain character, or sometimes students will have to wear layers of uncomfortable special effects makeup. Sometimes I have to ask students to sacrifice by holding off on radical hair color changes. “I’m fairly sure there were no blue mohawks in Dickens’ London,” I explain. Several years ago I knew I’d never last as a high school director when I had to add a “No new facial piercings or visible tattoos” clause to my production contract. Whenever any high school tackles a production of The King and I, the ceremonial shaving of the lead actor’s head always seems to make the hometown newspaper. My eyebrows are not nearly so newsworthy, but no less important in my own process of fully realizing my character. And an indulgence that made me feel – for a little while – like a pampered actor.