With the decisive angled movements of her brush, Kathryn Wilson applied the shadow onto the student’s face to create wrinkles. Constantly dipping into the makeup kit, her hands moved in a motion that mimicked an artist painting a portrait. Within minutes, the young student transformed into a middle-aged woman.
Wilson, a new assistant professor of theater and dance at Cal State Fullerton, has always had an eye for art. As an undergraduate art student at Loyola Marymount University, she began to explore different art forms, beginning with costume design.
In an unexpected way, theater changed Wilson’s life when she and a visiting friend toured the LMU campus.
“As a part of the tour, we went into this costume shop. When we walked in, I saw this amazing red-beaded dress with a long train and from that moment on, I knew,” Wilson said. “I changed everything that I was planning on doing.”
With the support of her parents, who were also involved in the theater community, Wilson changed her major to theater arts and adopted a life in costume design.
“It was a career that made sense for me to do my art, and I could get a job in,” Wilson said.
Despite her achievements in costume design, like LA Weekly’s Award for her designs for the 2006 Hayworth Theater rendition of Machiavelli, makeup application brings out another side of Wilson. The intricate practices of her work allow her to create new character looks.
“Painting a face and creating a character was always really exciting to me,” Wilson said.
Most recently, she created the makeup look for the ghost of Hamlet’s father, a ghoulish man with half his face burnt by acid, for the New Swan Shakespeare Festival. Makeup appearances like these thrill Wilson, as she enjoys designing complex and fun injury makeup.
At CSUF, Wilson is teaching beginning and advanced theatrical makeup, hoping to strengthen her students’ skills.
“She’s extremely talented. Constantly in class, we’re baffled over what she can do on our faces,” said theater education major Amber Hill.
So far, students have been learning how to perfect their application of beauty makeup and character shadows and how to apply different types of makeup properly.
After teaching the students how to apply the makeup through a demonstration, students have a weekend to practice and come into the next class meeting ready to show Wilson what they created. Wilson then takes pictures of the students and gives them a critique so they can fine-tune their looks before they are graded.
“I will definitely come out of this class with a far better knowledge (of makeup),” Hill said.
Christine Wille has learned a great deal as Wilson’s assistant and former student, after working with Wilson on over 50 shows.
“She’s always willing to go above and beyond as a professor,” Wille said. “She continued to make sure to make time for the students outside of class.”
As an artistic individual, Wilson is able to use her skills from painting and pottery to create three-dimensional makeup looks that excite audiences, which is something that Wille admires.
“She’s an inspiration to those around her … She always shares her creative knowledge,” Wille said.
Those who have worked with Wilson glean insight from sharing projects with her, even if that project is a daunting theater production with 120 students.
“She’s great at working under time constraints … She’s very personable and just very easy to work with,” Wille said.
Wilson has traveled as far as Prague for a show, but she usually stays in Orange County. Wilson heard about the job opening at CSUF and was excited to join staff.
During her class, students are transfixed by what she can create and are eager to learn it.
“I’m really excited about what I do… I want (the students) to be really excited,” Wilson said. “I want them to realize that they can be creative and that they can enjoy what they do.”