Skip to main content

Our ticketing and donation systems are temporarily unavailable due to a global IT outage. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Blog Post: June 12, 2023

Get to Know Our 2023 Festival Season Wig & Makeup Designers: Krystal Balleza & Will Vicari

Have you ever been curious as to what goes into the designs and creations of wigs and makeup? All of the time and preparation that it takes — you would never guess because of the uniquely talented Krystal & Will that make it look timeless. Here’s the chance learn more about them while also getting exclusive content by our designers to find out how long it takes to build a wig from scratch, the process of figuring out how each characters makeup will be done, and much more! 

Krystal, how did you get into this field of work?

I got into it because of my high school theatre directors. They recommended trying the hair and makeup category for the Texas Theatrical Design Competition — that’s for high school students. It’s real life industry work. That year was The Hobbit. I’m not really sure why they recommended that department, maybe because they just needed someone, but that’s how it started for me. It was prosthetics that I got to work on that year. The following year was period hairstyling & makeup. The year after that was the show Cats— that was also prosthetics and also where we got to have fun with it.


How long have you been in the industry & what is it like being a wig designer for four different shows?

I have been working professionally since my freshman year of college, in 2015. Since OTSL’s Festival Season is 8 weeks, we have about a week and a half of build time for each show. By the time we get to the second orchestra dress rehearsal, we’re already fully onto the next show. The thing about us is that we run a full theatrical wig rental business on the side, so we aren’t often doing four productions like this on site. Often times we are working on several show packages at one time. We might have a main design where we’re on site but we also might have 2 or 3 other shows that we’re going to box up and ship out to somewhere that we don’t run the show. 

Krystal Balleza, Wig Designer

How long does it take you to create each wig?

It varies depending on the project. A fully hand tied wig would take about 40 hours a week, if you’re fast, but can also depend on the hair type. For example, curly hair can take longer to tie because you just hit more tangles and there’s more shedding. Besides the tangling, it’s also how much hair you lose. For example, if we’re doing an afro wig we buy hair that you have to set aside to wet & put leave-in conditioner on because its hair that started out as straight. It almost gets permed around a toothpick to make it tight enough to do an afro coil, then we’ll have to stretch it all out to make an afro.

As far as frontals, we did 11 new fronts in Treemonisha because we needed textured hair long enough to do updos and other varieties. It was important for us to show Black American hair but with a lot of range in textures. We have several wigs in that show that were less expensive Amazon lace fronts that we then put a small new front with nicer theatre lace on it — that can be done in about 6 hours. Sometimes in a given opera season Will and/or I will be on one side of the room building custom caps and full wigs from scratch while the rest of the people in the room are working on the small 6 hour fronts so that way we can get everyone in the show a nice customized wig even though it’s not built from scratch. Our first week here we met with all the cast for a consultation.


What made you want to be a designer & what do you love most about what you do?

It’s my passion and I love what I do. Having left college and now designing for a living, I do have a profound appreciation for theatre. Personally, theatre was my escape from reality. We have such a passion for making wigs look natural and our work is predominantly for people of color hair type. Wigs are a part of the story telling and it’s so important now more than ever that we are helping tell these stories.


What’s something you’d like our audience to know about the work you do?

The amount of work and thought that goes into creating the wigs. Makeup, along with wigs are often overlooked and under costumes. Audiences don’t know that there are hair & makeup designers helping with the story telling as well. It’s important to know that it’s a department and should be recognized.

Will Vicari, Makeup Designer

Will, how did you get into this field of work?

I got into opera through performing opera and went into hair & makeup through the shows. From being a kid in the kids chorus, then in La Bohème in 2004, I found my way into the hair and makeup room and was like — this is definitely what I want to do. I started working in hair & makeup professionally in 2009.


What’s the process like of figuring out how you’ll be doing a character’s makeup?

In the Festival Season it’s almost like going on a first brief meeting with the team looking at the headshots, seeing what the actor is already bringing to the table, what’s already working for the character, and what are we trying to push for the character. A lot of the time the choices are made from what’s most important to the character and in the production. In Tosca, we do a lot of injuries and distressing to the face & that begins with talking to the costume designer and asking where the costumes are going to have tears, blood, or dirt at & how much time does that actor have off stage. That will often determine what we use and how many people will help to get him bloody, dirty, or sweaty in the amount of time he has.

How long does it take for you to do a whole cast makeup before a show?

Oftentimes the chorus members will help us by doing a portion of their own makeup or we’ll say — come in with your everyday street makeup. If we notice they have false eyelashes on and they’re fitting for their character, we’ll tell them to wear those same lashes. Typically, we start makeup calls in the chair 2 – 2 1/2 hours before curtain time. When the audience is taking their seats in the first 20 minutes, we’ve already been here for 2 hours. The principals like to get in our chairs early so they’re ready and can go do their full warmup in their dressing rooms. We actually base the entire makeup call off of their first entrances. For example, if they’re in the opera 40 minutes in, they’ll be called at the top of the show to get in the chairs versus if they’re on stage at the top of the show, they’ll be called 2 hours in advance so they can be free afterwards. It can also be the actor’s preference too.


What made you want to be a makeup artist & what do you love most about what you do?

I love the transformation of it. On dress rehearsal day when they turn into totally different characters it’s almost unrecognizable. When the actor sees their transformation in the mirror, it’s the moment they realize that wig was made for them from scratch. You get to watch the actor see themselves in the mirror in their character for the first time as it’s going to look and it’s just a very cool moment. If we do what we’re supposed to do really well, then people don’t notice it. That’s sort of the weird thing, if we’re doing the best we can then people won’t notice and that’s actually what we want.


What’s something you’d like our audience to know about the work you do?

If you’re watching any opera, that wig and makeup — but I’m going to say wig because that’s what we do the most of — has been most likely fully redressed for that specific performance that you’re at. So many things in theatre, like when they build the set, that’s pretty much what it is and will just get wheeled off and be carted to the back. Since our element is on the body and so changing, every time we take a hot & sweaty wig off every performance, that wig is going to get wiped of alcohol inside the cap so it doesn’t start to get smelly and it’ll get fully blocked down so the lace doesn’t get pulled or teared. If it’s textured hair, it’s going to get fully wet out, maybe add some product, and most likely some rollers in it. Then 3 hours before you see it on the stage, it will get freshly combed out.

Fun facts about Krystal & Will:

  • They met when Krystal was a freshman and Will was a junior here at Webster University.
  • They have been working together since 2015.
  • They have their own studio in Manhattan, NY.


Click here to check out their website!

Hair & Makeup from our 2023 Festival Season