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Makeup experience
By Janet Seitz Carlson

The human head is both her canvas and sculpting base. She's been known to plant branches in kids' faces, create noses and sew ears in hair. Activities like that make her happy.

It's an interesting perspective from a woman who analyzes blood for a living.

Annie Germann is "Makeup Mama," one of the area's theatrical makeup artists. By profession, she's a medical technologist with Springfield Clinic.

Her husband, known as "Prop Daddy" in theater circles, advises, "Be sure to ask her about when she talks about having an elf over to the house to cast their face. Nobody in the family even blinks anymore."

In community theater, volunteer jobs can develop expertise. Germann recalls taking her oldest son to see "The Nutcracker" at age 6; he then became interested in performing in it. As with many productions involving youth, parental help is needed. Makeup seemed a good choice.

"I had elaborate makeup because the kids always enjoyed being made up at Halloween," Germann says.

The younger son soon followed suit, and for the next five years, Germann had a regular makeup volunteer post. Her first "official" show as makeup artist was "Spitfire Grill" for Theatre in the Park in 2004. One thing led to another, says Germann, counting some 50 productions she's been involved with in just the past five years. "Few people do props or makeup. There's just a core group. You're inundated."

Germann says she learned a lot on the way. "I found a wonderful source for theatrical makeup. Lincoln Library had some good books. I used the kids as guinea pigs.

"I went to wig shops," Germann says. "Theater can't afford the $60-70 wigs. I'd buy the $10 ones. I learned by trial and error how to change. I use synthetic wigs because they're cheaper and once styled stay that way, even in a driving rain.

"I recycle all my wigs and restyle. (The Muni) 'Oliver's' Mrs. Sowerberry was also Mary Todd Lincoln and Ozzy Osborne."

Germann enjoys the creative opportunities, a contrast to her day job, which is "very technical with exact procedures, guidelines. This is the exact opposite. Creativity is the main thing and then the organizational skills come in."

Germann says she likes the challenging shows, such as Springfield Theatre Centre's spring "Snow White," done in the 1912 version.

The dwarfs, for example, were Earth-themed characters such as grass, mushroom and fall leaves.

"I made noses for some of the kids," she says. "Each one was distinctive." A branch in a face and plants coming out of beards made for distinction, too.

"A lot of people were wearing prosthetics," Germann explains. "And lots of wigs. We didn't do it Disney style, but since it was wide open I had to come up with a design."  

That's where developing a vulture look for the witch and a little "plaster" surgery to cast faces comes in. She uses various substances to create a mold of the actor's face, then sculpts the features, recasts and creates prosthetics such as noses and chins.

One of most fun productions, recalls Germann, was "A Tuna Christmas," in which two actors played 22 characters.

"Some changes were very fast," she says. "Like 30 seconds out of costume and makeup from a little old lady to a 20-year-old guy."

"Annie is great to work with," Gus Gordon of Gordon Productions says. "She is amazingly reliable and equally talented. When she commits to a project, she commits wholeheartedly. You can give her a basic idea, and she will run with it and come back with something that exceeds your expectations."

"I need a creative outlet. And this is a pleasant side line," Germann says. "Community theater is like a big family... and a lot of nice people. They're there because they want to be there giving of their time.

"They're happy. They want others to be happy."


Story published Friday, September 4, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 5 )

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