Behind the scenes with a rising costume design major
By Kiki Wagner
“Wigs flying in the air,”, “sweaty seven-second costume changes,” and “backstage adrenaline rushes” are only some of the thrills of being a wig and makeup design major, according to Raegan Calvert.
Behind the curtains, Calvert and her wig designer run around backstage with the “actors’ sweaty shirts and jackets like mad men.”
“As dorky as it sounds, I get such an adrenaline rush from working backstage,” Calvert said. “It’s not as glamorous as being in front of the curtains, but it’s equally as important.”
Calvert is a freshman at Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis, Missouri. The conservatory is a very selective program, and she is “one of about 10 people” who are working towards a major in wig and makeup design, according to Calvert. On top of that, she also has an emphasis in costume construction.
Calvert goes into school every morning at 8 a.m., and some days doesn’t leave her conservatory until 11 p.m. Her day is filled with the normal common core classes, but after 1 p.m. things begin to get “hairy.”
Calvert takes classes in makeup, drafting, scenography and more, so that one day she can pursue costuming as her career.
“I’d love to work on costumes for film. It’s a lot different than theater, but I think I’d enjoy it the most,” Calvert said. “Either way as long as I get to create costumes for some form of entertainment, I think I’ll be happy.”
Her love for turning people into different characters began when she started playing around with wigs and makeup with cosplay. Cosplay is creating a costume of a fictional character and dressing up as said character, according to Calvert. It has given her a “baseline understanding” of how to sew and style wigs. These skills really have helped form her passion for costumes.
“I love how you can completely transform someone, sometimes so much that they become unrecognizable, simply by adding a wig and some contour,” Calvert said.
Calvert has been involved in theater since sixth grade, but she didn’t “initially considered doing costumes” until her sophomore year of high school.
“It was kind of a no-brainer then because it was a way where I could make costumes and create all these wonderful characters,” Calvert said.
The conservatory pust on multiple shows throughout the year that Calvert is able to work on. The most interesting one she has ever done was a “high energy show” called Bomb-Itty of Errors, with dozens of wigs and “costume changes that had to happen within seconds.”
Calvert specifically remembered the chase scene that was less than five minutes long and she alone had six costume changes for one actor.
“One night during one of our last runs I, being the newest member of the wig crew, accidentally backhanded one of our actors, a senior who also happened to be a fan favorite, when he ran past to get his wig taken off,” Calvert said. “He laughed as he sprinted back on stage while I stood backstage to dress another actor and almost cried because I felt so bad.”
The final three shows that the conservatory has been working on have been cancelled due to Covid-19. Calvert’s schedule has changed due to the fact that they cannot put on a show during quarantine.
“It’s definitely upsetting that we can’t do the thing that brought us all to Webster,” Calvert said. “I feel even worse for all the actors who already had a lot of their lines down … We’re all just trying to stay positive in light of this poor situation.”
Calvert still has three years left where she will be continuing to pursue her passion and develop her skills with productions to come.
“I’m really excited to actually get to design a show and work more closely with the actors,” Calvert said. “I look forward to learning new techniques that she can put to use in future shows.”