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Tim Santry, Makeup Artist
by Mike Harvey

The first makeup-and-dress call routine is familiar to every Super: Sign in, put on a tattered pink T-shirt (men), apply base with a damp sponge, then trudge down to the makeup room to see what delights are in store. If you're lucky, you'll sit in Tim Santry's chair by the door -- because at the very minimum you'll get expert eye treatment and a little cheekbone enhancement, along with his friendly greeting and maybe even a joke or two. If you're lucky and, depending on the needs of the production, you'll get the full character treatment and be transformed for a few hours into someone else's vision of who you are. In any case, Tim will put you at ease and will quickly begin the almost magical process of turning you into a soldier, nun, lackey, priest, or serving wench. After all, TIm Santry is an artist -- a makeup artist.

Tim is a fifth-generation Californian, who successfully managed 480 acres of corn and wheat as a young man. His ambition at that time was "to be somewhere else," but to somehow be as good a person as his great grandfather, Melvin Santry, an early Californian who was very highly respected and sure of himself. Leaving behind the life of a rancher, and after a stint at Porterville Junior College, Tim transfered to the Theater Arts Department at San Francisco State, where he found himself in SF Opera makeup artist Bill Jones' "Advanced Theater Makeup" course. After observing Tim's work during the course, Bill said, "I don't know what you want to do, but you should be doing this for a living." Tim decided to become a professional makeup artist.

His first experience with San Francisco Opera was an audition for makeup artist for the 1991 mega-production of War and Peace. The audition was extremely thorough and involved a detailed look at Tim's makeup tools and his ability to create makeups for a principal singer, an ethnic look (Turandot), and an old-age makeup. He passed, and joined the SF Opera team.

It was necessary to work 30 calls in that first year to earn his stripes as an Associate Makeup Artist. The next step was to pass the Journeyman's Exam in order to become a Regional Journeyman Makeup Artist. Further experience led to the levels of Principal Makeup Artist, and Foreman. Tim has since worked countless theater and opera productions as well as industrial shows and films.

Tim explained that the "look" of any production involves a lot more than slapping on a little base and some eyeliner. It's a collaboration between the production Costume and Lighting Designers and Wig-and-Makeup Designer Gerd Mairandres to produce a look that advances and enhances the vision for the production. That's why you'll see Gerd and Tim and others from Wigs and Makeup in the house during dress rehearsals. They're evaluating every tiny detail of their work, and will soon be backstage adjusting and tweaking makeup design until just the right effect has been achieved.

There is a lot of pressure to get things just right and there's always that lingering dread that something might go wrong in a complex production. Tim says the biggest fear is that an adhesive might fail and something crucial -- like a nose -- will fall off onstage. So you have to be constantly ready to make repairs. Another occasional problem can be shaky hands caused by too much coffee and too little food. During one embarrasing moment before a performance of Arshak a few years ago, Tim's hands were shaking so much that René Pape started laughing and Tim jokingly offered the brush to René to complete the job.

Tim has a lot of fun with this job. He says that he tends to laugh a lot, and if he can put a performer at ease during the long process of applying a complex and uncomfortable makeup and make them laugh, he knows he's doing his job. The way that he deals with performers can set the mood for an entire show, and he knows the importance of being able to relate effectively to people on both a personal and professional level.

Tim is nowhere near retirement but he already has plans to do some traveling. One of his great interests is archeology, and he hopes one day to spend some time in Egypt and Greece studying those two ancient cultures. For the present however, Tim's ambition is to keep doing the work that he loves.

Although Tim is seemingly reluctant to take himself too seriously, he believes that for the makeup artist, the face is a blank canvas waiting to be painted - and sometimes he wishes he could sign some of his paintings.