10 Halloween Tips…Scare, or Be Scared!

10 Best Halloween Costume Tips, Hacks, Tricks & Treats

from Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Costumers and Designers

cleaverLOWRESforweb1The costumes will be over-the-top fabulous when the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents ShakesFEAR, a Halloween Costume Party and Contest on October 23, to celebrate the Opening Night of Shakespeare’s horror play, Titus Andronicus. Professional theater artists and designers are coming to the party. (That’s so unfair!) To even the playing field, we asked Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s costumers, wig designers, special effects designers, and prop masters to share their best Halloween tricks of the trade. Get ready to scare …or be scared!

10 Best Halloween Costume Tips, Hacks, Tricks & Treats

DEATH is DELICIOUS  Here is an easy recipe for stage blood to make at home using store-bought ingredients: Mix equal parts Karo syrup and chocolate syrup. Add 1 tablespoon of flour for each cup of the combined liquids.  Add red food coloring (make it as red as you like.)  “I prefer less red and more brownish from the chocolate,” says Mindy Braden, Props Designer for Titus Andronicus, and Resident Technical and Design Company Member at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. If you want to get really gross (like someone’s cut your tongue out), she says, add a couple of tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter. It looks really nasty and tastes like peanut butter cups.

KITCHEN WIZARDRY Take a look at everyday objects from another perspective, says Kristina Lambdin, Resident Costume Designer at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.  Plastic spoons can become scale armor.  Cut off the handles, paint the spoon tops silver, and hot glue them to a T-shirt. Not battle-worthy, but trick-or-treat worthy!  Last year, Kristina sewed glittering beetle wings on a jacket for the fairy king Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  (Hint: Painted press-on nails can achieve a similar effect.


I VANT TO BITE YOU  It’s just not sexy or scary if your fangs keep falling out. When Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performed Dracula, Mindy’s best source for fangs was Vampfangs.com.


 LIGHT UP THE NIGHT Incorporate glow sticks or battery-powered lights in your costume to turn it up a notch, Kristina says. In Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of A Christmas Carol (Dec. 4 – Dec. 23), the Ghost of Christmas Past wears a white gown that glows with tiny battery-powered lights sewn into the skirts.

The Ghost of Christmas Past_LOWres

BEHIND THE MASK Consider the scale and proportions of your costume, says Chester Stacy, of Chester Creates LLC, who has created set and special effects for Titus Andronicus and A Christmas Carol. He created the head of Jack Skellington by covering a beach ball with papier mache. “By using a construction helmet mounted low inside the papier mache ball, I look through the mouth — and ‘grow’ 10 inches taller,” Chester says. He bolted shoes to 7-inch wooden blocks to grow taller still, and added a thrift-shop tuxedo. “Interpreting a familiar character accurately means getting proportion right and then adding details where they will make the most impact,” he says.


 BEST FOOT FORWARD Don’t forget the importance of accessories, Kristina says. Shoes can make a big impact, so try painting a pair to coordinate with your costume. She uses Angelus brand acrylic shoe paints.

SCARY HAIRY  For Titus Andronicus, our scariest actors shaved their heads.  There’s another way you can save money on Halloween hair: Refresh last year’s costume wig instead of buying a new one. Comb out the wig, and separate the hairs into sections. Braid, tie, or sew in ribbons, or fake ivy, or toy snakes to achieve a new look. Want to add color? Haley Raines Young, Wig and Makeup Designer, says many polyester costume wigs can be enhanced with floral spray paint (a specialty aerosol spray paint used on silk flowers and available at craft and fabric stores). Style or shape the wig first, then spray paint as a final step to add color and help hold the style. Remember to follow manufacturers’ instructions, give the wig time to dry, and avoid open flames such as cigarettes and candles — spray paints are flammable. Haley created the amazing wigs used in Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s production of The Comedy of Errors this past summer. 


BEST DRESSED ZOMBIE For quick-and-dirty zombie costumes, here are tips from Kristina and Haley:  Take an old shirt and pants and rough them up using sandpaper and a cheese grater (fashion clothiers call this look “distressed”). Then give the clothes a patina of blood, mold, and dirt using a spray bottle filled with food coloring.  Smear on your fake blood.

ADD SOUND EFFECTS  Empty a small plastic bottle of drinking water. (Deer Park is preferred. Yes, several brands were tested for this, very scientifically.) Place the empty bottle under your armpit. You can hide it with a shirt, cloak, or shawl. Now, as you pretend to break your neck (or someone else’s), crush the bottle between your arm and your side to achieve the sound of bone and cartilage snapping. For this gem, we thank Chris Niebling, the Violence Choreographer for Titus Andronicus and Co-Artistic Director of Live Action Theater.

SPLAT! Why stop at zombie blood? Here’s a recipe for Zombie Brains, from Jacy Barber, who is the Costume Designer for Titus Andronicus and a theatrical artist specializing in costume, puppet, and object design.  In a small bowl, gently blend a mashed ripe banana, a packet of instant oatmeal, and a little bit of water, just enough to give the oatmeal lumpy but not liquid texture. Pour stage blood over this, and fold it together lightly — don’t stir too much. Now you can spill your brains on the table, or let it ooze from fake gunshot wounds or head injuries. Jacy says that she has used a slingshot to hurl brain-splatter against a wall or tree, but let’s leave that to the professionals.

Happy Halloween!

ShakesFEAR is Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Halloween Costume Party celebrating the Opening Night for Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare’s horror play for the Halloween season, October 23 – November 15, 2015.

Tickets to the Opening Night performance at 8pm on October 23 include free admission to the costume party, which follows immediately after the show. Ticket holders are invited to wear their costumes to the Opening Night. (Please check your headgear at the cloak room so you don’t obstruct other patrons’ view of the stage.)

Adults: $19-$49. Students: $15-$25. Mature content: Not recommended for children.

Get details and tickets here or call 410-244-8570. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Jean Thompson, Communications Manager, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, click here to contact by email.

PHOTOS:   Jack Skellington photo courtesy of Chester Stacy; all other photos by Teresa Castracane.