Artist’s make-up makes stage come alive

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Artist’s make-up makes stage come alive


Chai Song-wha, 35, stands in front of an enormous poster of the musical “Cats” at the offices of CREA, a make-up art company she established in 1989.

Since starting out as a struggling make-up artist, she resolved to one day work on the world-famous musical and ten years later, her dream came true when she was invited to work on the musical’s Korean production.

“Every make-up artist dreams of working in the musical Cats. The process of changing humans into cats through make-up is fantastic. When I got the call, it felt like a dream,” Chai said.

Chai is a noted make-up artist in the local theatrical and musical world. After studying at the renowned Christian Chauveau’s Technical School of Artistic Make-up in Paris, France, she has displayed her unconventional make-up skills through productions like “Hamlet Cantabile,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the dance performance “Chunhyang.” The first musical she worked on was “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

“Since I was a fan of the original film, I actively participated in the process of converting it into a musical version. I really enjoyed changing famous male stars like Cho Seung-woo and Oh Man-seok into beautiful women,” said Chai. In the musical “Evil Dead,” her realistic fake blood concoction thrilled theatergoers.

The musical Cats, however, proved more of a challenge to her creativity, as she had to conform to strict protocol that ensures the cats appear the same in any production around the world.

“It was a bit frustrating that they didn’t allow make-up artists to be creative. I had to follow the original team’s guidelines thoroughly to such an extent that even a small hairpin should be a particular brand, even if what suited Western actors wasn’t appropriate for Korean actors,” Chai said.

So she came up with an exclusive make-up manual for the Korean version of Cats through consultations with artists from the original team.

Chai is also a well known body painter in Korea.

“As a make-up artist, you can create a work by teaming up with many staff members, while as a body painter, you can display your imagination freely,” notes Chai.

Her interest in the human body is not unrelated to the fact that her late father, Chai Kyu-cheol, who received burns all over his body and lost an eye in a car accident, established and fostered a nature-friendly alternative school in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi.

“In retrospect, my father was the biggest inspiration and the greatest teacher in my life. He always supported me and what I do,” she said.

Chai’s next challenge is to transform a fat lady into a slim beauty on stage for the musical “200 Pounds Beauty,” which kicks off next month.

“The more challenging the work, the more rewarding it is,” she said.




By Lee Young-hee JoongAng Ilbo [spark0320@joongang.co.kr]


Chai Song-wha with a “Cats” actor she made up. By Kwon Hyuk-jae

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