by Gabriela Llarena
Makeup has always been a tool for self-expression and identity. In modern days, makeup is
often viewed in an artistic sense and a skilled artist can entirely transform their face. Within
the theater, makeup is used to enhance the storytelling for two very important reasons:
characterization and clarity over distance. In layman’s terms: the audience needs to know who
you are and what you are expressing from a distance.
Theater is the reason I began doing my own makeup and the lockdown of 2020 gave me plenty
of free time to explore. When I got cast as Witch 1 for the show, my mind immediately got
excited at the opportunity to have a creative makeup look! As our show is set during the time
period at the end of the Vikings’ reign in Scotland, makeup is a fundamental support to help drop
the audience into the moment we are playing in. After speaking with our directors, Christine
Nicholson and Lori-Ann Delappe-Grodin, and conferring with our costume designer Nicole
Sivell, I had my parameters within which I could come up with a witch makeup look.
The assignment was this: eyeshadow of earth tones (greens/browns), white lines, and minimal
makeup around the mouth. I asked if I could include runes in the look and was given the green
To be accurate to the time period, the look would need to be colors and styles that would have
been prominent near the 1300s. Traditionally makeup has been used as a form of protection
against sunlight. This plays a part in the longstanding popularity of kohl, a dark mineral that lines
the eyes. Along with the practicality makeup provided, it was often used to identify the
individual’s power or strengths as well as to evoke the gods. The three main witches in Macbeth
are magical and powerful in their own right. The three of us cast in these roles (Gabriela
Llarena, McKenna Sennett, Shelby Saumier) dived deep into the mythology surrounding our
characters and brainstormed how the makeup could enhance the storytelling.
When I finally sat in front of the mirror, I let the makeup tell me where it wanted to go. I started
with brown eye shadow in the inner eye area because I wanted to emphasize a deep-set stare
that would contrast nicely against the brightness of my eye. I blended that out to a deep shade
of green. As the witches were not following the standard kohl look, I wanted to still incorporate
the practical usage of makeup at that time. By having a dark green shadow, it mimics the effect
of providing sunlight protection. Underneath the eye, I went in with a brown shadow that would
blend out into the skin. The witches live in the dirt and the forest, constantly getting into
mischief, so this is to further showcase the difference between the witches versus the rest of the
humans in the play. It felt wrong to have the right side disconnected from the left side so I used
a simple line over the nose to bring the look into unity.
I ended the look by combining the directors’ desire for white lines with the usage of runes. With
white eyeliner, I drew on 3 runes: gateway, breakthrough, and disruption. Gateway and breakthrough
went on my forehead. I’ve been playing my witch as someone who loves mind games so a large
source of my power comes from my ability to break into other’s minds. The rune for disruption
went below my mouth because it is through the prophecies and spells spoken that the witches
create major disruptions and shifts in the play. When I finished the last rune and looked at the
overall effect, I felt confident and powerful – ready to cause havoc. Each witch will have their
own runes that are unique to their character, so if you want to learn more come out to our show!