Daniel Klinger is on a mission to ensure that the neck up on an actor performing on stage is not just an afterthought for local community theaters. “My goal here in Indianapolis is to get people to look at hair and makeup differently,” says the owner of Neck Up Design, LLC Studio, who specializes in theatrical wigs and makeup.
Klinger, who moved to Indianapolis two years ago from Milwaukee with his life partner Jay Langhurst, an Exact Target senior manager, said that once he got in involved in community theater he realized that hair and make-up was an afterthought. “Seeing cheap wigs on stage took me out of the process. It was supposed to look real on stage but didn’t. Every time I saw a show where I thought the wig and makeup did not look good or real — it really bothered me,” said Klinger, who is a trained cosmetologist with a background in high end salon/spa service.
After Klinger’s first local show, styling wigs and doing makeup for “Drowsy Chaperone” in 2012 at Buck Creek Players, he began offering his services to other community theaters in the area. Since then the Ball State graduate, who holds a B.A. degree in musical theater and vocal performance, has worked magic with minimal budgets on shows that have included Footlite Musicals’ “Rocky Horror,” “Follies,” and “Young Frankenstein.” Most recently he worked on “Anything Goes,” for the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre and No Exit Performance’s “The Beast, The Lady and the Sanguine Man,” which was an IndyFringe 13 hit.
In the beginning Klinger said that establishing the importance of quality wigs and makeup was a process of education requiring a paradigm shift for the creative teams he worked with. “I noticed when we sat around the production table planning the calendar in terms of choreography and staging — there was not a place for me or someone like me to have a conversation about hair and makeup. Now when I am asked to design a show, I always ask for that time.”
Klinger said that now his work with local companies has created an expectation and that he is gratified that “whenever I walk in now, people come up to me and say ‘Oh, we are so excited you’re doing the project.’ I always spend time with the cast. I educate them. I always use a model. I teach them about the period we’re in — whether it’s the ‘40s or ‘60s. We talk about colors and how to do eye lash applications.”
When asked who his role models in wig and make-up design are, Klinger mentioned Howard Leonard, co-owner of Wigboys, who designed the original Broadway productions of “City of Angels,” “Will Rogers Follies,” and “White Christmas.” He says that he realized that he and others working in the field locally were learning technique on their own and that there was no source for training. Consequently, he reached out to Leonard, after which he was invited to the artist’s Napa Valley, Calif. studio where spent a week learning from the esteemed practitioner in April. “Howard said that he had received requests for training opportunities for over 50 years and that I was the first person who ever took up on the offer.”
The results of this valuable time spent with his respected mentor can be seen in Footlite’s “Sunset Boulevard,” which opens Friday and runs through Oct. 6, and for which Klinger has designed 30 wigs. “The period is around the 1940s and is one I am comfortable with. I don’t buy costume wigs. I prefer to buy a wig from a beauty store, cut it and reset it myself because the quality of hair is better under the light.”
“I talked to a costumer who saw “City of Angels” (Buck Creek Players) and he said to me ‘I sat there through the entire show, questioning whether that was real hair or not.’ I felt like that was the biggest compliment. That was the pinnacle compliment for me because that’s the whole goal — theatre is an illusion,” Klinger said.
Klinger, who also holds a Masters of Student Affairs in Higher Education from BSU, said that he would like to someday marry his interest in education with that of wig and makeup design. “I want to educate people about theater hair and make-up by writing a book and producing tutorial videos. I really love education so I could see myself mentoring young people who want to get into this industry.”
A member of IATSE Local 30, a labor union representing technicians and artisans, Klinger has also worked on a professional level. His credits include “Hairspray in Concert,” featuring John Waters, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and national tours of “Wicked,” “Shrek,” “The Book of Mormon,” and others. He has also provided hair and makeup services for Lea Solanga who performed in concert at the Palladium in April and Ana Gasteyer who appeared in June at the Cabaret at The Columbia Club.
Klinger’s who hopes to work Broadway some day, says that he may consider teaching on a college level. “If I really looked way down the line, that would be an appropriate place for me in the future because of my education, but I think what I really want to do is learn as much as I can. I also want to do as much professional work as I can so that when I stand in front of students I can say, I lived this, and I did this. I have always said that in the recipe for success you should always have a dash of humility. I will never say in a million years that I know everything.”
Formerly a performer who spent time doing summer stock as a youth, Klinger said, “I would never have imagined being behind the scenes. I performed so much that I couldn’t imagine myself sitting in a basement putting wigs together when all the applause was on stage. I feel part of it comes from maturity, learning now to be more introspective, and growing my self-esteem.”
As far as working with actors, Klinger said, “I love giving to other people to make them feel special. There is something really amazing for me sit in the back of the auditorium and allow the actors to get praise for something that I helped with. It makes me feel giddy. I love the process. I love putting the actor together and seeing their face and hearing them say ‘Oh, that’s my character! I am so excited!’ after putting an amazing wig, false eyelashes and great makeup on them. I also love being in the audience when people ask me ‘Was she wearing a wig?’ That is so flattering to me.”
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