Women & Shakespeare Spotlight: Mary Capers, Wig & Makeup Designer

Women & Shakespeare Spotlight: Mary Capers, Wig & Makeup Designer

As part of our “Women and Shakespeare” series for Women’s History Month, we reached out to some of the women in the company who are not usually on stage. We’ll be posting more of these profiles throughout the coming weeks as part of our Women’s History Month series.

Mary Capers, GRSF’s Hair/Wig & Makeup Designer

The spotlight for this piece is Mary Capers, who has been the Festival’s wig & makeup designer for the past several years. Wigs and makeup are integral design pieces that help the artistic team tell the story of individual characters in vibrant, visual ways. The pieces Mary creates can vary from a mustache that must be added and removed as an actor changes characters, to an elaborate wig that must look realistic and stay on an actor throughout a three-hour production.

Mary first came to GRSF through our costume designer, Rebecca Bernstein. Rebecca was Mary’s costume construction professor in grad school. “She told me about the opportunity to work in a small town in Minnesota and I guess the rest is history!” Mary said.

The wig Mary designed for Melissa Maxwell’s “Queen” in the 2019 production of Cymbeline had to sit snugly on Melissa’s head throughout the production and match her natural hair.

While she can most often be found in the basement of the Performing Arts Center before the shows open, meticulously threading individual hairs into wigs, dying hair samples, or constructing elaborate braids that blend seamlessly with an actors real hair, Mary said she did not set out to be a hair and wig expert. She began her theater career as “an actress who knew a lot about hair”, and eventually made the transition to craftsperson.

“I’ve had so many [mentors]. Daniel Koye gave me my first job and really helped me to understand what kind of work ethics are required in this field and how to take pride in my work. Amy Morrison was one of my first theatre teachers and she taught me the importance of being a person first – that the lives we live outside of theatre inform the work we do – so it’s important to still have a life outside of this hectic industry.”

Mary has loved working in theater, but there are some parts that frustrate her: “I dislike that we talk so much of changing the world that sometimes we convince ourselves that the talking is enough. Getting to produce the work we do while people spend money to sit in our theaters is an act of privilege. We exclude people without access to that privilege far too often, while simultaneously calling ourselves inclusive.” However, there is a lot of good, still. “I like being in service to a story that someone thinks is going to change the world,” Mary said. “Somebody felt so strongly about a person, or idea, or piece of history that they just had to get it out there to people, and I get to play a part in that act of revolution.”

The hair pieces Mary created for Stephanie Lambourn and Caroline Amos in Richard III (GRSF 2017) had to clip on underneath their real hair and quickly detach when they changed characters and became soldies.

To play that part in “an act of revolution,” Mary has spent years refining her craft. Her artistic process has two facets: “I get the designs from the designers and then I start doing more specific research and sourcing materials. That’s my professional response – in reality the first thing I do is find a good playlist that matches the energy of the project.”

If you ever visit Mary while she’s working (which we highly recommend – she’ll give you a fascinating tutorial about her work and have some great music to listen to), she’ll be happy to see you. She said one of the things she wishes people knew about her work is that she loves to share it with people. “I hope we are still doing [backstage] tours this year!”

Finally, we asked Mary if she had a favorite memory of working with GRSF: “I have a fond memory of teaching Andrew Carlson how to flip his hair…”

Andrew Carlson as Florindo sporting one of Mary’s extravagant wigs in The Servant of Two Masters in 2019. The wig was essential to Andrew’s interpretation of this ridiculous, swashbuckling character.