Spent the afternoon with Frank Ippolito, who’s designing our special makeup effects.
I showed him around the house, which he seemed to get a bang out of (even though the talking bear mistakenly
called him “Kate” once, and he doesn’t look at all like a Kate.) Then we settled in my Houdini alcove
for some thinking.
We’re going to let Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking nightmare (where she sees blood on her hands) be
shared by the audience. Which means we need a trick for making that blood appear – and eventually
vanish, when the dream is over. Frank had brought along some samples of stage blood in which two
clear components mix to create a bloody color. But since these chemicals require at least one
liquid component, we ended up thinking we’d be just as well off using regular stage blood
(and Frank has turned my crew on to an excellent non-staining formula) and making it appear
as Penn and I did with our Bleeding finale.
Frank had an inspiration for making this blood have a more unnerving character. If we added
a black-light-reactive component to the blood and to our lighting, maybe we could get
the blood to GLOW, which would be a perfect way to convey hallucination. Frank will find
out if this is possible, and get back to us.
Frank’s a cinema artist, used to camera close-ups, so he’s just getting used to the idea that we may
want broader suggestions and fewer details for stage. In some cases it may be much better to
leave details out and let the light and costume reveal only what we think will suggest horrors
for the audience to imagine.
The Weird Sisters are a real challenge. Shakespeare tells us mostly what they’re not. He says
they’re not women, though he refers to them with feminine pronouns. He says they’re withered.
He says their clothing is “wild.” He says they do not look like they’re inhabitants of the earth.
He says we can’t tell whether they are dead or alive. I noticed that in our latest cut, we’ve omitted
…You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.
I wonder what Banquo was seeing that he thought was beard? Real beard? Or moss or fur growing
on a hollow cheek…?
Frank asked me what directon to explore. I suggested that the Weird Sisters – note,
they’re really never called witches – need to embody the quality of equivocation that pervades the play.
They need to make us profoundly uneasy because we can’t quite place what they are. I said that though
they’re “sisters,” I felt no need to have them too similar to one another; it might be nice if they had
different textures (maybe one animalistic and furry, one pallid and skull-like, one alien-like etc.).
I thought it might even be interesting if an individual looked different depending on the side of the
face you were looking at.
Frank mentioned the kinds of monsters described (or hinted-at) in Lovecraft. I pulled out my trusty
DEVILS, MONSTERS, AND NIGHTMARES art book, along with a collection of Peter Breugel’s drawings and
etchings, and a paperback called IMAGES OF HORROR AND FANTASY. I was particularly taken by one smirking
animal-like face in Fuseli’s painting of a nightmare.
Frank responded by pointing me to the kinds of images in Zdzislaw Beksinski (http://www.beksinski.pl/).
If the only thing that came out of today’s meeting had been Frank’s introducing me to Beksinski, the
session would have been worthwhile. The images themselves aren’t practical for makeup, but it sure
makes one want to move radically outside the traditional theatrical styles.
Frank had noted the names of some of the books I’d shown him. I told him not to bother, found them online
at abebooks.com and ordered them for him as a commencement gift. This venture may not be the most lucrative
Frank’s ever had, but at least he will have practical souvenirs.
One thing we realized as we looked at all these images: The witches may be ghastly and sinister and awful,
but they are not sad or grim. They’re full of joy at their unspeakable mission. So we don’t want them
to have sad or miserable faces, but faces that hint at unearthly glee.
We also discussed their first appearance, and Frank nailed me down a little: “What,” he said, “would we
actually see on the stage?”
I said I thought it would be covered with real and fake human corpses. I thought, perhaps, that the Weird
Sisters would initially appear to be lumps of earth, rocks, bushes, maybe even parts of dead bodies, and
that when they arose, the bush or mutilated corpse would be now seen as part of a cloak or dress.
Frank asked if we might use a ground fog, from which they might emerge and into which they might eventually
descend (or let the fog grow, then dissipate and they’re gone – “and what seemed corporal melted
as breath into the wind…”)
As Frank thought, he doodled a pencil drawing reminiscent of those famous grotesque heads DaVinci sketched.
But, he mused, “I need to start messing with some clay. You can draw anything, but what works on
paper and what works in three dimensions on the human face is entirely different.”
“You know,” said Frank, as he was packing up to go. It might be nice to have something really wrong with a
hand or two. Perhaps a tentacle. Or way too many bony fingers. Something the audience would think
it was inadvertently noticing, when we see a Weird Sister’s ‘hand’ as she tosses something awful into
We sure have the right man for the job. We sure do.