There’s not a hair out of place when a performer for the State Theatre Company steps out on stage. Not if Jana DeBiasi has anything to do with it. The wig and make-up specialist has been in the industry for more than 40 years, and for much of that time she’s been crafting wigs by hand for the company’s various productions. It’s painstaking work.
“Every hair in there is woven one at a time, on a net, using a special hook,” says DeBiasi, as she shows Broadsheet her handiwork. “Much like how in wardrobe you’d make a dress from a pattern … that’s pretty well what you have to do with a wig. You measure a person’s head, make a pattern, put it together, and then weave the hair into it.”
We meet DeBiasi in the State Theatre Company warehouse, currently in the old Wigg & Son building in Thebarton. The wigs are some of the most valuable items in the entire building; worth more than most of the costumes. For instance, the wig actor Helen Dallimore wears in the company’s new production End of the Rainbow – about the days leading up to star Judy Garland’s death – is worth a cool $2000. DeBiasi says it took a solid two weeks to make.
“The designers gave me designs and we had tryouts to see how close we could get her looking like Judy,” she says. “By the sounds of it we did pretty good, because everybody has been saying how close she looks.”
DeBiasi’s love of the arts might be traced back to her father, who was an actor. She trained as a hairdresser before moving into the world of theatre. Right now she’s got her hands full with End of the Rainbow and Aladdin. Next up is The Book of Mormon.
As well as making the wigs, DeBiasi “dresses” on many productions, meaning she prepares performers’ costumes and puts on their make-up. She forms special relationships with some of the performers she works with, leaving her privy to more than a handful of their secrets.
“Some people, you could work with them for 10 weeks and never really get close,” she says. It’s totally up to them – up to the performer – whether they want to let their guard down. Some are really private, and they just don’t want to. But some, you become so close – you end up great mates. And you know what? Quite often you tell them things, too ... but what stays indoors, stays indoors … I’ll do my memoirs when they pass away!”
End of the Rainbow runs until June 22 at the Royalty Theatre. Tickets are available online.