Rapunzel is coming to the museum! In this post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield describes the unique problem they solved to make sure Rapunzel's extraordinary hair was in top shape for the performance.
For our summer production of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale we were presented with a very fun challenge regarding Rapunzel’s hair. In the story, her hair is very long—so long, in fact, that her wicked stepmother and the prince both climb it to visit her in a tower. In the theater we wouldn’t be able to cast an actress and have other people climb up her hair. I'm sure that would hurt a lot! So the production team discussed several options for creating a special wig for Rapunzel's hair—one suitable for climbing!
We discussed the length, color, style, material, and of course how the actors would actually use it to “climb” into the tower. Some of the ideas included a rope ladder with hair braided onto it or a real ladder with hair braided onto the sides. We even consider an aircraft cable with hair attached to it that would be rigged to the I-beam structures in the ceiling and climbed on.
For safety and practical reasons, however, we settled on having two separate wigs: One that the Rapunzel actress, Jenny Reber, could wear, and a second long braided wig that the actors playing the wicked step mother, Kelsee Hankins, and the prince, Ben Schuetz, use to “climb” into the tower. The wearable Rapunzel wig is about 6 feet long and will not be fully seen by the audience. The climbable wig is about 12–15 feet long, and will use a bit of theater magic in the staging and set design to disguise the actors physically climbing the hair. Rapunzel will throw the hair out the balcony window upstage of the tower and then the actors will climb an escape ladder onto it, while pretending to hold onto the “hair.”
Although there are several wonderful theatrical wig companies out there with lots of long wigs available, we decided that our Rapunzel’s wig should be handmade specifically for our show. Our fabulous costume designer and our wig designer will be working together to hand-dye and braid a total of four wigs together to get the look and the length that we need. This process will ensure that the wig looks as real as possible with our actress’ own hair and facial coloring. I don’t want to give too much away, but we're also planning on styling a total of eight other wigs for the rest of the characters in the show. For this production of Rapunzel–it's definitely all about the hair!
Now YOU can play a part in creating the museum's Lilly Theater productions! Donate to our latest Power2Give project and help provide costumes—including Rapunzel's wig!—for the summer production of "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale!"