José Nuño is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing a double major in Theater & Performance Studies and Dance & Performance Studies. He created and teaches ‘Stage Makeup Basics,’ a course that introduces students to theatrical makeup design. After he graduates, José plans to become a professional makeup artist.
It isn’t often that you walk into a class on the UC Berkeley campus and face a room full of zombies staring at you. Except, of course, if you are walking into ‘Stage Makeup Basics,’ an experiential, student-led DeCal course that introduces students to the dramatic world of theatrical makeup design.
Senior José Nuño, a double major in Theater & Performance Studies and Dance & Performance Studies, proposed, created and facilitates the course. He taught the class for the first time in Fall 2014, but his interest in makeup began at age 5. Growing up in Los Angeles, he recalls hours spent secretly experimenting with makeup design: “I don’t even think my dad and step-mother realized I owned more makeup than all five of their daughters combined!” He adds, “Now all three of my parents are proud of me and what I am doing at UC Berkeley with this longstanding passion.”
‘Stage Makeup Basics’ begins with an introduction to the color wheel, followed by instruction in highlighting and contouring. Weekly lessons cover the application of beauty, gender, old age and sickness makeup, fantasy makeup and the ever-popular zombie makeup unit. On a typical day, José demonstrates various techniques to students, then they practice achieving that particular look on themselves. Students also create makeup design concepts for a variety of imagined productions and characters.
José is thankful for the support he has received from the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies throughout his time at UC Berkeley. “I have wonderful mentorship here,” he says. “Since TDPS is one of the smaller departments on campus, it is relatively easy to get to know many of the students, staff and professors that help make the department so amazing.”
These relationships proved especially beneficial as José created his DeCal class. DeCal is a student-run democratic education program at the UC Berkeley where students create and facilitate their own classes on a topic of interest. A faculty member sponsors the course; in this case, the sponsor is Production Manager Wil Leggett. In addition, José received extensive guidance from TDPS Costume Curator Beckie Pelkey, who is also a hair and makeup designer. Says José gratefully, “I couldn’t have done this DeCal without Wil and his unwavering support, and I don’t know if I would have been ready to face the students without the guidance of Beckie.”
Last semester’s inaugural class had an enrollment of four, making it easy for José to offer individual guidance to each student. This spring, after word spread, the class is at its maximum capacity of 16 students, with an additional 16 on a waitlist. José is thrilled to offer instruction to a larger number of students, but acknowledges that the growth comes with certain instructional challenges. “Applying makeup and explaining makeup are two completely different things, especially when the students are at different levels of experience and aptitude with makeup,” he explains. “As an instructor, I aim to make sure everyone feels comfortable and to be patient with each student.”
On one level, ‘Stage Makeup Basics’ serves as professional preparation for José, who plans to become a professional makeup artist and dreams of designing makeup for Broadway productions, film and/or Fashion Week. However, of equal importance is the valuable teaching practice he is receiving. Teaching is both inspiring and humbling, José has found. “One of the most rewarding moments was when one of my students who said she does not apply, or even own, beauty makeup stated that she felt pretty during our beauty makeup segment,” he recalls. “I still smile when I think about it.”