She is the woman behind the scenes sculpting a vision. When actors in a play, television or film come into focus, her work has helped to create their image.
Debra Faye of Cherry Hill is a freelance make up artist and the make up designer and coordinator for Mainstage Center for the Arts.
During summer stage productions, which are held at Camden County College’s Blackwood campus, Faye begins working at 8:15 a.m. and does not have a second without an important task on her hands until 11:30 p.m.
Upon arriving home, she attends to her pile of laundry, she laughs.
“I’ve been doing make up since college,” said Faye. “I’m a theatre generalist so I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
She has a master’s degree in theatre.
“I do it all. I act, I direct, I design, I build, I light,” she said.
Make up is her passion.
A typical day in summer stage through the theatre center includes preparation, lectures, one-on-one coaching and clean ups.
By noon, she begins readying for a show.
Actors are constantly at her doorstep.
“Can you fix my blush?”
“Can you fix my hair?”
“Do you have a bobby pin?”
Faye laughs, explaining that between all of her regular duties, she has to drive to Philadelphia for supplies and attend staff meetings.
“It’s constant. It doesn’t stop.”
Theatre, she said, is very intense. After summer camp, a new show begins each week.
When a cast is created, it’s colorblind.
It’s up to Faye to create the flavor.
For characters, she draws prototypes and discusses them with the director.
Once the drawing is complete, she details which products affect each part of the actor in case someone else needs to replicate the idea.
She can make girls look like boys just by touching up an eyebrow or changing the line of blush.
She can create a look that can scare away those with a sick stomach.
There are three types of blood, she explained, oxidized old blood, minty stage blood and thick blood to build up burnt or scabbed areas.
“One minute I’m doing Winnie the Pooh and Roo and the next I’m ripping someone’s face off,” she laughed. “There’s never a dull moment.”
Special effects, she said, are the most challenging aspect of her job.
Making students look age appropriate in particular is a timely process.
“Unless you’re doing hairspray, there’s not a lot of plays that only have high school students or only have college students,” she said.
Burns, welts and scars are also intricate creations.
It depends on the character for how long it takes her to complete her piece of the puzzle, but if a school hires her, it is usually for a special role.
Cherry Hill East High School hired her last year to create Scrooge and Charles Dickens for “A Christmas Carol.”
While there were 80 kids in the play, it took her two and a half hours to do the make up for those two individuals.
Most of the work she acquires is through word of mouth.
When she was single, she would frequently make trips to gigs. Now, as a family leader, she generally stays in the area.
“I have to be mom first,” she said.
Faye, originally from Northern Maine, has been an area resident for 18 years.
She is able to handle the demands of her job by carefully organizing her time.
When looking for inspiration, she checks her make up morgue.
“A make up morgue is full of pictures of work you’ve already done or work you think you want to do at some point,” she explained.
While Faye does tackle work outside of stage production, theatre is her true love, she said.
“The chemistry’s more immediate,” she added.
The theatre bug bit her in college and has yet to let go, and she doubts it ever will leave her.
“Where else can you go to make people look beautiful or have fun making them look weird and bizarre?” she asked.
Mainstage Center of the Arts is located in Lincoln Hall at Camden County College in Blackwood. Visit their website at http://mainstage.org for further details or call (856) 232–1012. Tickets can be purchased by calling (856) 227–3091. Disney Heroes will be playing on Aug. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 2 at 10:30 a.m., and Aug. 3 at 10:30 a.m.