Dark Harbor - What’s behind the makeup?
“Monster!” An arm covered in dried paint shot up in the air.
“Monster!” Fingers holding a fine paint brush like a pencil motioned to a chair.
“Monster!” A hand holding an air brush signaled a young man to a stool.
These are the words we heard echoing above the laughter and excitement that filled a small room on the lower deck of the Queen Mary. There were a dozen tables covered with jars of paint brushes, air brush machines and paint palettes. Men and women lined up just outside the room, patiently waiting to be transformed into something gruesome all the while swapping stories of scares they committed and the lack of sleep creeping up on them. There was a perfect balance of exhaustion and excitement. At this, we found ourselves behind the scenes of the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, on Thursday October 11th, 2018.
We met up with the wonderful Ariyana Johnson of the ACE Agency around 5pm and were escorted onto the Queen. Once on the ship we made our way down to the makeup area. There, we were introduced to David Wally who is the talent director for Dark Harbor. He was incredibly gracious and pleased to welcome us aboard.
It was a tight space, holding about 15-20 makeup artist stations all busy at work simultaneously. There was a sense of urgency to make certain characters were quickly painted, yet great attention to detail was given to every individual in the makeup chair. This is were the experience, talent and dedication from each makeup artist shined. It was like a well oiled machine. When called over, monsters would sit in the makeup chair, show the makeup artist their makeup card (which tells the artist which character they need to create) and the makeup process begins.
Since the monsters aren’t assigned a specific makeup artist, each individual artist in the makeup crew can masterfully transform any monster into the character they need to become for the evening. They look at the character card, immediately begin painting and 10-15 minutes later…..a character is born. Then the process begins all over again, in rotations of less than 15 minutes.
Every station is filled with smiles, laughter, inside jokes but each makeup artist takes their work very seriously. When that air brush is waving back and forth on that flesh of a canvas, it’s game on. Some characters, specifically The Captain, require not only paint but prosthetics as well. This takes a bit more time but it’s welcomed. Artists such as Rene Guizar (who creates The Captain’s makeup, portrayed by Brad Hills) takes about 30-40 minutes applying The Captain’s face. Sunken eyes, tiny barnacles and pieces of sea life bring out this character’s personality. Rene says they are able to get a good 2-3 uses (nights) from one prosthetic, so imagine how many they go through in a months time.
With so many characters in the room all one had to do was look at each station and they would see a different being come to life. Graceful Gale was having her shoulders painted, Scary Mary had veins drawn on her cheeks, The Ringmaster was having the eyes blackened while The Voodoo Priestess gritted her teeth as they were brushed with a blackish hue. Each detail came with a steady hand and specific insight into the character. Every drawn line had a purpose. Every character’s face told a story.
We did ask the question to some of the artists and yes, only a couple makeup artists willingly admitted that the characters they helped create DID in fact scare them. One artist in particular had the (mis)fortune of walking through a maze her character inhabited and was terrorized and scared by them. But it’s all in good fun. She said there is no better reward than being able to see one’s creation in it’s element doing what they do best….scaring people! And knowing that they helped create this atmosphere is completely rewarding. It’s what folks come to the Queen in October for. The screams, the atmosphere and most of all the characters.
Along with the incredible talent among these artists, there was a sense of appreciation and support for one another. Time and again we saw artists offer their assistance to another if they themselves finished early or simply admired another’s work. There was a great sense of family among them. It becomes family when you’re working late hours and putting in so much blood and sweat to help create this type of event. The people next to you are the only ones who know exactly what you’re going through. The late hours, the sleep deprivation, the exhaustion. You become family. A haunt family.
Eventually the paint brushes get cleaned, sponges are tossed out and the makeup is put away. Stories are compared, exhausted legs are promised massage sessions and tearful hugs are shared with good byes. But it isn’t good bye forever. It’s almost like summer camp, were you mark your calendar and count the days until it’s time to come back. To see familiar faces again. New faces to welcome along with those faces who swore they were too exhausted to return. It’s family, that will always be there. So mark your calendars, because it’s 365 days until Halloween, and we get to do this all over again.
Special Thanks to Casting Director David Wally and PR & Marketing Assistant with the ACE Agency Ariyana Johnson for allowing us to spend some time behind the scenes at Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor.
Also major thank you to all of the makeup artists who bring Dark Harbor to life on a nightly basis during the Halloween season. This group includes Jessica Dominguez, Jada Mouton, Jeri Jones, Megan Singer, Alex Pahl Skinner, Mary M., Jay Quintana, Angela Davis, Jeff Alexander, Teresa Aguilar, Dayna Shandera, Adrianne Alusha, Gee Hogan, Brandon Aries, Rene Guizar, Tara Edwards, Romie Macedo, Sean Kleven, Donna DeLia and Ericka Acosta.
We’d also like to give one final shoutout to the cast of characters that roam the mazes and the grounds of Dark Harbor. It takes a team to make something like this go and without all of you, there would be no Dark Harbor.
If you have enjoyed this piece, please feel free to comment, share with friends and family. We hope to get the chance to do this again next year so your feedback is greatly appreciated. What would you like to see more of, what changes would you like to see? We would love to hear from you. Until next time, have a creepy Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2019 Dark Harbor.