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Theater artist shares secrets to macabre makeup

Erin King, Bradford Jackson and Aaron Bell work with makeup.Erin King, Bradford Jackson and Aaron Bell work with makeup.Danielle Rabinovitch sits for Elle Janecek who demonstrates working with prosthetics.Danielle Rabinovitch sits for Elle Janecek who demonstrates working with prosthetics.If someone were to thumb through the photographs on Elle Janecek's phone, they might get the wrong idea. Her collection is filled with images of cuts, bruises and stitches. The faces are distorted with blood and gore.

As a makeup artist for various local theater companies, it's all in the name of performing arts.

On Saturday, Janecek shared what she has learned about the darker side of theatrical production. In the back room of Anchorage Community Theater's home on 70th Avenue, beneath stacks and stacks of props, Janecek taught 15 community theater actors to get comfortable with the tools of the trade. Students learned about the colors of bruises, dabbed their fingers in sticky-sweet fake blood and smoothed out the rough edges of fake noses and chins.

Though she started out painting scenic background for plays while in college in Washington state, she was soon tapped to make characters look like they've been injured in fights. She consulted the pictures in EMT training books.

Now, Elle works with TBA Theater, Anchorage Community Theater, the Anchorage Opera, Cyrano's Off-Center Playhouse and others. She includes her current day-job at Darae's Salon and Spa in her 20 years of makeup background, where presumably clients want fewer imperfections, not more. She's hoping to pass along some of her skills to Anchorage community theater actors who often do their own makeup.

"Makeup is really about learning from your mistakes. It's not about doing it right. It's about 'how can I make this look OK for now?'" Janecek said.

Saturday's class coincided nicely for ACT. The company will be performing "At Home With The Clarks" in March. Its second act is full of zombie activity and a few of its actors took the lesson.

Saturday's class was low-stress, an atmosphere that stands in contrast to work she has done backstage. At those time she can be called on to work by headlamp to transform a character to bruised and bloody while the play is ongoing.

"It's a good kind of stress. It's exciting," she said.

The students at ACT started with the basics of stage makeup, but by the end of the second week the students left battered, bruised and smiling. The group is tossing around the idea starting a club to work on interesting makeup challenges.

Janecek took a few pictures with her phone before students went home. Her phone pictures might be unusual, but unpleasant details can be important to a storyline.

She regularly references her pictures as she works, and her collection includes injuries fake and real. "If it's somebody that I know even a little, I'm very likely to say, 'Oh my gosh, you have stitches. Can I take a picture of that?' "

That's not so unusual, she says. "Hairstylists do it for hairstyles," she said. "Mine just happen to be more disgusting."
Elle Janecek teaches the theatrical makeup class.Elle Janecek teaches the theatrical makeup class.Tricia Grenier is reflected in a makeup mirror.Tricia Grenier is reflected in a makeup mirror.The back room at Anchorage Community Theatre.The back room at Anchorage Community Theatre.Mark Hall's makeup toolbox.Mark Hall's makeup toolbox.Christina Baker is reflected at bottom right.Christina Baker is reflected at bottom right.Erin King wipes off the false blood and bruises.Erin King wipes off the false blood and bruises.

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