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Zoo program manager prepares a beastly facade

By Carolina Astrain
July 24, 2014 at 2:24 a.m.

Nathan Palmer attaches the second tooth to Brett Jones' Beast face  as he prepares for the opening performance of Theatre Victoria's production of "Beauty and the Beast" on Wednesday at the Victoria Fine Arts Center. Jones said  he doesn't notice the tusks because the eyes of the mask extend too far for him to see them.

Before Nathan Palmer began brushing shades of beige onto the faces of cast members of Theatre Victoria, his passion for stage makeup was ignited by what he believed was a complete flop.

It was his first time dressing up for a screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" four years ago.

"It was terrible," the 26-year-old said. "I don't even know what I was dressed up as. I don't think anybody did."

From then on, Palmer said, he's strived for perfection and took to the Internet to learn more about special effects makeup for the stage.

Several Theatre Victoria productions later, Palmer has found himself charged with the crown jewel of the company's latest production - the face of Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."

Palmer, who has no formal training, is also the program manager for The Texas Zoo.

"Beauty and the Beast" opened for a second time in Victoria on Wednesday evening at the VISD Fine Arts Center, where three hours before curtain call, Palmer, armed with a liquid latex mask and stage foundation, was already hard at work making the Beast come to life.

Brett Jones, reprising his role as the Beast from last year's performance, sipped carefully from a straw from his dressing room chair as Palmer prepped the powder.

The story of "Beauty and the Beast" is a classic story about transformation of the underdog, Jones said.

"The guy who would normally play the villain is the hero, and the guy who would normally play the hero is the villain," Jones, 40, said. "And Belle and the Beast both go through a transformation in the play. Beast goes from being a monster to a gentleman, and Belle learns that what she wanted at the beginning of the play completely changes toward the end."

An hour deep into the process, Palmer began to apply highlights and white makeup around Jones' eyes and the latex mask - making his eyes pop.

Jones was starting to look more like an animal than human at this point.

"We're going with some lighter shades of makeup this year because we're working with different lights than we did last year at the Welder (Center)," Palmer said.

Jones shifted his jaw, testing out the Beast's molded, jutted-out lower lip.

"Can we clip it a little here?" he asked Palmer. "This is going to drive me nuts."

The stylist shook his head.

Thirty minutes later, the Beast was ready for the opening-night show.

"I'm feeling a little anxious," Jones said. "I always do."

After Jones left the dressing room, Palmer prepped himself for the role of the young Beast by placing a brown, ponytail wig on his head.

"No need for makeup," Palmer said. "My role is portrayed through silhouette."



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