Hair and makeup are essential components for a colorful theater production. Terre Steed is the mastermind behind a slew of hair and makeup creations for Phoenix Theatre, most recently for the musical “The Rocky Horror Show.” He also plays the keys for the show as well.
“Our director, Robbie Harper, the story that he wanted to tell with this production especially given the climate that we have politically regarding gender and what that means, we wanted to show that these aliens, the characters of Frank N. Furter, Magenta and Riff Raff, gender is a construct — they don’t have gender,” Steed says about the show that plays until December 5.
“Brad and Janet are coming into this story with their 1950s gender norms and then have all of those preconceived ideas of what gender is blown apart in a very aggressive way of course. For ‘Rocky,’ it’s all about makeup, wigs and rock ‘n’ roll and I feel like it is such unlike a lot of other shows because a lot of the story depends on strong hair and makeup concepts to pull that whole nongender thing across.”
Steed has been a hair and makeup designer for Phoenix Theatre for more than 15 years. He started as an apprentice that required a kick line of chorus girls to have the exact same wig.
“They hired me to come in and style 14 identical wigs,” Steed explains. “After that show closed, I get a call like three days later and they’re like ‘We want you to design our production of “Picnic”’ and so I think I did two or three shows that season and then it just kept going.”
He is involved in six to nine shows per season.
“Usually they have me do, like I don’t get to do the 30-person cast shows because I’m just me,” Steed says. “Anything usually that has drag I get to do because I was a female impersonator when I was in college. Anything with drag or anything with fun or glitter.”
Steed says he also works on “based on a true story” productions that call for him to recreate an actor as a real-life person. For most productions, he and the director have creative control over the hair and makeup looks.
“Other shows where the director, or the costume designer because technically in theater hair and makeup fall under the umbrella of costumes, that they have a very specific idea about things and it has to look a certain way and sometimes my artistic input has to go in the backseat,” Steed says.
“I’m just there to give them on paper what they are seeing in their head. That is very rare that that happens because usually when people hire me for a show, they know what they are getting — I’m fairly opinionated.”
Outside of Phoenix Theatre, Steed has worked for the former Nearly Naked Theatre, as well as other theaters across the Valley. Steed also owns a hair salon called Fairest of All at Bethany Home on Seventh Street because he is “obsessed with Disney and the Evil Queen is my hero.”
While Steed is aware that Frank N. Furter as one of the main characters requires a well thought out hair and makeup design, Frank was not his top favorite character to design.
“I think for this show, personally, Frank is a great character because he is the lead but I think my favorite character makeup-wise for this show is Magenta,” Steed says.
“My dear friend Lynzee Foreman is playing the role of Magenta and my inspiration, the costume designer, her name is Maci (Hosler), they based a lot of the costumes on post-pop-punk Britain. It’s very much in line with ‘Cruella’ with the plaids, stripes and leather.”
Steed says that the costumes are reminiscent of the ’80s “London post-punk fashion.”
“When I was designing the characters the image that came to mind immediately when I thought of Magenta and thought of that era in mind was Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees,” Steed says.
“She is very much getting to make one of my friends look like Siouxsie Sioux, who is a personal hero of mine from the ’80s. As a progressive female rocker, she is a badass. I loved doing her design.”
The first look
Steed grew up as a teen in the ’80s idolizing people such as Boy George and Duran Duran.
“All the boys who wore lots of makeup,” says Steed, who attended Trevor G. Brown High School in Tolleson.
“I was always super obsessed with such things and then I started getting into theater in early high school and they were always needing someone to do the makeup.”
His first role was for a church production where he played an 80-year-old woman and used his “mom’s eyebrow pencils and all that stuff” to create the illusion of being that character.
With an art background, Steed had plans to follow a career in theater going to Phoenix and Glendale Community colleges to major in the field. Ultimately, he decided that “the only thing that you can do with a degree in theater is teach it” and that he wanted to do something else.
“(I got) my cosmetology license because it pays better, way more work and less extra time,” Steed says. “My idea was never to work in a salon.”
He planned to stay in theater as an actor and musician as well. Years later he still enjoys what he does.
Steed says he enjoys “just the transformative power of makeup in particular, I consider myself a makeup artist first and a hairdresser second.
“But just when you can see someone and watch the change in their face, they can see someone that they didn’t think that they could be. The person that they always thought that they were inside they get to see on the outside whether because they don’t have the skill or the time or they have just been afraid.”
“The Rocky Horror Show”
When: Various times, until Sunday, December 5
Where: Phoenix Theatre, 1825 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix