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Photos: Behind the scenes with Utah Opera’s wigmaker
First Published May 10 2014 12:44 pm • Last Updated May 12 2014 07:30 am

When constructing a hairpiece for a Utah Opera production, wig and makeup designer Yancey Quick usually starts with a commercially manufactured wig. "I was taught to build from scratch, but you don’t have time with a show like this," he said. He uses either human or yak hair (which is coarser than human hair and, because of its white color, is especially handy for old-age wigs); synthetic hair "reads like plastic" onstage.

In this series of photos, Quick deconstructs the base wig. "It’s machine-made and wouldn’t look good onstage," he explained. "I go in and make it look like real hair." He removes the hair, a lock at a time, then pins it to a cast of the singer’s head. He takes measurements the old-fashioned way, with a sewing tape measure; uses batting to duplicate contours of the singer’s head; and covers the cast with plastic wrap, marked to indicate the wearer’s hairline.

At a glance

Let down your hair

You can see Yancey Quick’s handiwork in action as Utah Opera’s production of “The Abduction From the Seraglio” continues.

When » Monday, Wednesday and Friday, May 12, 14 and 16, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 18, 2 p.m.

Where » Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $18 to $95 ($5 more on performance day) at www.utahopera.org; $15 rush tickets available for anyone 30 and younger on performance day

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After pinning wig lace to the head, he pins down the locks of hair to be hand-stitched into place. It’s important for the front of the wig to look lifelike, so he ventilates it — the industry term for attaching hairs, two or three at a time, to the lace with a tiny hook and invisible thread. He usually listens to a book on tape while ventilating. "It’s nice to have something to occupy the other side of my brain while my hands are working."

Last, he styles and hand-colors the wig. Because he wants this one to be as lightweight as possible, it gets its shape from a cage made of millinery wire. "You can only back-comb the hair so much," he noted.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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