John Hanna holds up a reptilian face mask in front of his make up Theater Art 10A class as he poses in room C-172 on Tuesday January 27, 2015. (Daniel Valencia/Courier)
John Hanna holds up a reptilian face mask in front of his make up Theater Art 10A class as he poses in room C-172 on Tuesday January 27, 2015. (Daniel Valencia/Courier)

It was 10 minutes ‘til 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening when John Hanna gathered his theater arts makeup students for a run through the night’s project. In preparation for the school’s rendition of Young Frankenstein, the crew was creating the prosthetic piece for the actor playing the legendary monster. To do this, a life cast of the actor’s face would need to be produced, which just so happened to fall on a night that all the theater arts makeup students had a day off.

“The key to the musical is Frankenstein so we want to make this a school project from beginning to end,” Hanna said.

Hanna emphasized safety: if the model snaps his fingers once, he’s fine. If he snaps twice, something’s bothering him. If he starts snapping wildly, it’s time to kick it into high alert and tear an airway for the model to breathe.

On the receiving end, Richard Seymour, the actor, is a delightfully bubbly man. He towered over many of the students in the class, which makes him perfect for the role of Frankenstein’s monster. How does this all tie in with the safety finger snapping rule? Well, for a monstrous man, Seymour’s terribly claustrophobic.

For a whole hour, the life casting, which involves spreading alginate, an all-natural gum-like substance that hardens, all over his head seemed to be a horror story come to life. Seymour gasped and screamed through the process. His fingers interlaced tightly, and when they weren’t together, he’d often dig his nails into his arms. This is happening all the while Hanna calmly talks to him about “I Love Lucy” and having MRI’s.

It’s a comedic, yet worrisome scene, but Seymour admitted during the process that Hanna communicating with him helped keep his mind off of the life casting.

Apparently this makeup class is much more than just contours and shadowing. Hanna teaches Makeup for Stage and Screen, a class designed to help students apply makeup. It’s a grueling course, and Hanna is very particular, particularly demanding that his students show up on time for class.

“You’re never late to my call, or my class,” he said. “I lock the door.”

But on a Wednesday night, when they could be at home on the couch, students were actually eager to work on the project. Among them was Crystal Torres, an 18-year-old theater art major who got her kicks from a show on SyFy.

“I watched this show called Face Off and thought it was so interesting,” said Torres. “I saw that PCC had a theater makeup class and I enrolled in it.”

The result? Her creative juices are flowing more than ever. For Halloween, she said she had done her own makeup so she could resemble a demented Alice in Wonderland character from a video game.

“I was nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect when I took the class,” Torres said. “I used to do my own makeup and it would be alright. But now I’m doing way better at doing my own, and other people’s makeup.”

The class touches upon several different aspects of makeup, beginning with anatomy. On the second week of school, beginning students had a test on bone structure. From there, they move on to more detailed projects including aging, hair, and even injuries, which is especially what interests cosmetology major Cheyenne Osti, who wants to get into cuts and bullet holes.

“I’m taking this class because I wanted a better foundation for when I do work on set,” Osti said. “This doesn’t feel like an average class. It’s actually fun.”

As far as the advanced students go, they revisit trademark looks of classic characters to get the cogwheels in their brains going. Their project last week was to apply makeup on a model to simulate a television or movie character. The endgame for their class, however, is the prosthetic piece, which all students will get to make with their own models.

“The funny thing about my advanced students is that they use more tools from a hardware store than makeup,” said Hanna.

And he was right. Once a prop drawer opens at the back of C172, there’s mallets, scalpels, chisels, and tons of cement. They were all laid out on Wednesday night like a madman’s tools in a torture movie.

Other than appearance, there are technical aspects that Hanna covers, including creating a look designed for certain stages, depths of vision, and lighting. He recalled an incident when the team made a less than impressionable makeup job when the team recreated the ghost of Jacob Marley for Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“We did his colors in grays and pale blue because that takes all the red tones in his face so he looks dead,” said Hanna. “However, when he got on stage, he was standing underneath a basstard amber gel light which made him look healthy.”

The class has given way for many alumni who are now currently working in the field. Some were present to help out with the production of the prosthetic. Francie Hart, who boasts an extensive résumé dating back to 1996, has worked in the industry for years, but hadn’t worked much on prosthetics.

“I took the course to rehash my knowledge [on theatrical makeup],” Hart said. “I loved all of it, especially doing castings and sculpting.”

Also present was Robert Giddens, who took the course about 14 years ago. Hanna, who’s taught the class for 34 years, has seen his share of technological and technical changes in the makeup industry. It is through Giddens that he learns the new techniques.

“I’ve always love creating,” Giddens said. “This class opened up a lot of doors for me.”

Giddens currently works for SOTA FX, a company that specializes in special effects for commercials, movies, and shows. Giddens had just recently worked with pop singer Ariana Grande in her music video “Break Free.”

Outside the special effects field are alumni in the cosmetology field like Melinda Douglas, a salon owner, who describes her experience as “one of the best classes I ever took.”

“I learned so much about theatrical makeup and lighting … and most of all how to be organized,” Douglas said. “I still to this date use what John Hanna taught me 20 years ago.”

In the midst of the chitter chatter and the ongoing sculpting that students were doing against the lit vanity mirrors of C172, Hanna took the opportunity to reach into a drawer and pull out a pack of gum. He looked around and offered some to his students.The

“And if there’s one thing he definitely teaches,” said Gloria Wong as she watched Hanna, “it’s how to be professional on set.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.