Photos: Behind the scenes with Utah Opera’s wigmaker

First Published      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.

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.



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