Halloween on a professional scale

by Lenise Willis

On A Professional Scale

Halloween has a way of bringing out people’s inner creativity””their craving to be a kid, play dress up and let their hidden artist out. Office managers, fire fighters, bartenders, sales clerks and professionals of all types take to the Halloween stores and Pinterest to add a touch of flare for a party or night of trick-or-treating. But what about our local theatre professionals””those charged with sweeping us into another world for a night? How do they celebrate, and do they do it big?

Justin Hall, the costume designer at Twin City Stage, is one such artist who unleashes himself and his professional skills for the holiday.

“Halloween is a costume designer’s Christmas,” Hall said. “As a costume designer, my involvement with Halloween starts much earlier than that of the average person. As soon as the month of October arrives, people start to contact me with their Halloween costume needs and ideas. Sometimes they want me to help create their one-of-a-kind costume, while others just want to pick my brain for inspiration.”

One would think that going all out for Halloween for a professional creative would be like taking work home. But for a select few, it simply allows them to take their passion to the next level and they take great pleasure in it.

“When your livelihood hinges on your creativity, sometimes it can be a little exhausting to muster up inspiration for personal projects,” Hall continued. “It’s almost like being a Fairy Godmother. By the time I, ‘Bibbidi, Bobbidi Boo,’ my clients, friends and loved ones into their Halloween personas, I rarely have the energy or desire to create anything for myself. But watching someone transform into another character by simply changing their clothing is amazing. I enjoy it every single time. It’s truly like magic.”

Every year Hall and his partner throw a costume party, and it’s one that is quite fitting for such a magician of fabric. “The past four years of costume parties have really given our friends an opportunity to showcase their creativity,” he said. “Once the theme of the party is revealed””because, yes, there has been a different theme for each year””our guests immediately start plotting, planning and crafting.”

Over the years Hall has been Mr. T, Mickey Mouse, Prince Charming, a Voodoo Priest and a Steampunk Mad Hatter.

“My friends most definitely go all out for our Halloween parties,” Hall said. “I think the pressure to have an impressive costume is a bit heightened among my circle of friends. When you invite a group of talented and creative people to a costume party””never mind that the event is being hosted by a costume designer”” there suddenly is an attitude of ‘Oh, this is a theatre person’s costume party…something purchased off the rack just won’t do!'” “It gives people an opportunity to stretch their creative muscles, and it heightens the whole feel of the party. Everyone is dressed to impress. As far as tapping me as a designer, at first, I would dress quite a few of the guests, but once they got accustomed to the routine and the themes of the party became more creative the guests really like to surprise me and the rest of the guests with what costume they were able to come up with.”

This year, Hall actually hasn’t planned out his costume yet since he’s currently costuming two shows. “I

usually give most of my creativity to the guests that visit the Twin City Stage Costume shop,” Hall said. “I don’t come up with my personal costume until a week before Halloween night.”

Besides designing costumes for local productions, Hall also manages the Twin City Stage costume shop and rentals for Halloween. The shop rents everything in the wardrobe to the general public during the Halloween season. “When guests to the costume shop arrive, if they have a picture of a particular character, I personally work with them to replicate the costume as closely as possible,” Hall said. “Just this year I’ve pieced together a Jack Sparrow costume, a Marilyn Monroe costume and set of Gilligan’s Island costumes.”

Of course, Hall allows himself some downtime too.

Besides crafting costumes, he has a full list of Halloween traditions. “I must watch Hocus Pocus and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown””at least twice. I always make a cauldron full of pumpkin soup, and my partner and I spend hours decorating our house, both inside and outside, with all kinds of spooky décor.”

On the other hand, Victoria Ball, administrative assistant at Community Theatre of Greensboro, channels her creative theatrical energy into covering her home in fun fall decorations. She’s what one might call a Pinterest queen.

“I’ve been involved in theatre as long as I can remember,” Ball said. “What I love most about Halloween are the stories and the costumes. You get to dress up as anything you want. People tell ghost stories. It’s the same allure that brings people to the theatre””just an escape from the boring day to day.”

In honor of the holiday, Ball takes more of an interior designer’s approach, displaying pumpkins and sophisticated arrangements and centerpieces. To her, it’s not only a fun and creative expression, but also a tribute to her childhood.

“I decorate for Halloween because it’s a big holiday for my family,” she said. “My very creative and kind mother would sew up elaborate costumes for my siblings and me, we would all help my dad build coffins and paint woodwork he did of Dracula and witches and pumpkins.

“It really was a family affair. A lot of my decorations have been passed on to me, like a giant spider web my mom crocheted, the scarecrow hanging on my front door that was also crocheted by my mom, and the sewed up scare crow at the base of my door. Halloween makes me think of my family and all the fun we had. It was incredibly special this year to have my mom come up from Charleston to help me decorate my house here in Greensboro.”

Caitlin Molloy, a wig and make-up artist, and UNCSA student, doesn’t go all out for the holiday for herself, but she certainly is a wonderful friend to have.

“I love hair styling so I’ve helped friends with many a wigs for Halloween, such as an Ursula, a Rapunzel, and a bride of Frankenstein. I’ve also helped friends with zombie makeup and face skulls, and all that blood and guts which allows me to freak others out.”

As for herself, she usually goes as something simple like a flapper girl or hippy. “Halloween for a hair and makeup artist is just another day in the work place unfortunately,” she said. “I do celebrate with friends but I don’t usually go all out with my costume ideas because I have helped so many other people get ready that there is no time for me.

“It’s like taking work home with you, but it’s worth it because it’s so fun to see their reaction to what you did, and they know that they couldn’t have done that bloody zombie gore without you.”

Molloy said she typically gets roped into doing a lot of makeup and “artsy stuff” for friends and family, for Halloween, weddings, proms and even headshots and photo-shoots. “I’m always willing to work,” she said. “It’s what I love doing. The benefit in having a friend like me is that your options are endless.

“Everyone should have a hair-and-makeup artist friend.”

And isn’t that the truth? If you aren’t lucky enough to have such a talented pal, check out these artists’ tips for Halloween decorations, costumes, make-up tricks and last-minute throw-togethers.



For first-time seamstresses, stick with cotton.

“Stretchy, slinky or shiny fabrics, and fabrics with beads and sequins will only cause frustration your first time out,” says Justin Hall, Twin City Stage costume designer. “Can’t sew? No problem. Hot glue guns are your friend.”

For last-minute throw-togethers, go with a classic.

“I always say that you can never go wrong with classic Halloween characters,” Hall says. “Pirates, witches, ghouls, vampires, gangsters and flappers are all great last-minute costumes that can easily be created with clothing you probably already have at home. And if all else fails, you can always cut a pair of eye holes into an old bed sheet and say that you’re a ghost!”

Find your inspiration.

Hall says, “The best place to look for inspiration can be your own DVD or book collection. Find characters that you love. Is there a time period that has a style that you love? Create a costume based on that time period. Was there a movie that you saw that had a character with a really neat costume? Is there a character from a book or television series that you like? Halloween is the night where you are allowed to dress up like anyone you can imagine””take advantage.”


Costume shops like Brenda’s Costume, Magic and Novelty Shop, or At the Ritz Costumes aren’t the only places you can borrow inspiration from. You can also rent costumes from Triad Stage, as well as Twin City Stage, which rents full costumes, including accessories, for a mere $40, or individual accessories for as low as $5.

Prepare in advance for next year.


Purchase dry ice at Harris Teeter (Go figure!)

“Fog Machines are usually better than dry ice because it can last longer, but the dry-ice effect is cooler looking in general, especially if someone uses it in a drink,” says Liz Stewart, Triad Stage master electrician.

Don’t be afraid to DIY.

“You can make a ghost garland out of coffee filters, a funky spider web out of Washi tape, or build your own graveyard out of scrap pieces of plywood””a personal family favorite,” says Victoria Ball, CTG Administrative Assistant.

Lighten your load.

“Get your friends and family involved and make a night of it,” Ball says.

Let it go.

Ball says, “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Halloween is all about cracks, imperfections, imagination and creativity.”

Take to the Internet.

“I’m a big fan of Apartment Therapy and Design Sponge and I read their blogs all the time,” Ball says. “They have tons of fun seasonal craft inspirations. I like to look at things and think up ways I can make it myself.”


1. Decompose yourself.

For a zombie costume, “take liquid latex and toilet paper and (create layers), drying each layer with a blow dryer,” says Caitlin Molloy, a local wig and make-up artist. “You can create some really interesting decaying skin.”

2. Hack yourself on the back.

To become a bloody victim, “Use clear gelatin to make wounds and burns,” Molloy says. “After mixing the gelatin according to the package, allow it to cool down a little while so you won’t burn your skin. But if you let it cool down all the way it won’t work either so keep a close eye on it.”

3. Let your inner suck out.

Going as a vampire this year? “The paler, the better,” Molloy says. “Everyone has seen Twilight so you know how pale to go! Also, adding some redness around the eyes makes it especially scary. Don’t forget the blood and the fake teeth.”

4. Go gentle into the night.

After your evening of partying, you probably won’t have enough energy to wash your face. But it’s important. “I’m no doctor, but all that makeup and candy in one night can’t be good for the face,” Molloy says. In fact, wearing certain types of makeup, especially Halloween makeup, overnight can cause skin irritations. If you have sensitive skin, take the time to splash. !

“When you have an idea of what you want to be for Halloween, do your research,” Hall says. “Find online images of the character or person. Save them to your phone, and then start hunting for your costume pieces. The easiest thing to do is to shop thrift stores or other discount clothing retail stores for the costume pieces you need.”