Brian Strumwasser talks makeup design, Broadway shows and using his art to raise money for BCEFA
Brian Strumwasser is one of the unsung heroes of Broadway. Not only is he the makeup designer behind the Tony Award winning Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder, but he’s also raised thousands of dollars for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.
How did you end up being so busy working on Broadway?
I have worked on 13 Broadway shows. The first show I worked on was End of the Rainbow. I was called for a photoshoot to do makeup and that changed my career. The same producers offered for me to redesign the makeup for the Broadway production and I’ve been working since.
After working at The Lion King for years, I began swinging in to other shows. At the peak of my swinging, I was doing eight different shows and within those, doing 17 different tracks. In the time since, I did Gentleman’s Guide, designed Fish in the Dark, just did Ever After at Papermill.
With so many shows on your resume now, what’s been the most challenging show you’ve been on?
Mamma Mia was challenging because it’d had been open for so long. There’s only one wig in the show but everyone else’s hair has to be maintained, colored and cut. The challenging part was finding the time to maintain 35 actors’ hair every month. Because it was such a well-oiled machine, it’s a consistency that never stops.
When Gentleman’s Guide was coming to Broadway, the biggest concern was making sure Jefferson Mays was taken care of, that he looked right and that his skin was cared for. With all the mustaches and wigs being pulled off of him, in previous runs, there were times he would bleed from his lip because of the glue being pulled off so much. When we came to Broadway, we figured out what works so that wouldn’t happen.
Why do you love what you do?
We work at the top of our game and even being on so many projects at once, this is what I get to do for a living? It’s not the norm. I wake up and work at a Broadway show every day. It’s astonishing.
When did you start using your passion for art as a way to raise money for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS?
I started painting a style of painting which is a high contrast, pop art painting in college. When I was working for MAC, I would do makeup at Broadway Bares and that was great. After I moved on from MAC, I wanted to do something that would let me continue to give back to BCEFA. Selling prints of the paintings has done that.
The paintings are of the character, not necessarily the person playing the character. My first painting was Tony Sheldon as “Bernadette” in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I’ve now done 31 paintings and cumulatively raised just around $200,000 dollars by selling the copies at all sorts of BCEFA events.
To stay up to date on the shows Brian is working on, check out http://www.brianstrumwasser.com
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